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Jones v. Louisiana State Bar Association

September 16, 2010

DONALD G. JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LOUISIANA STATE BAR ASSOCIATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, brings this action seeking recovery of $50 billion for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, $22 million in personal damages, and extensive injunctive relief against attorneys at the law firm of Jones & Walker and other persons involved in hurricane relief efforts and actions affecting plaintiff's Louisiana properties. In total, plaintiff has named over 120 defendants, most of whom reside in Louisiana. On April 21, 2009, the Court issued an order observing that venue was likely improper in this district because only seven defendants are alleged to reside in the District of Columbia, with the rest of the 100-plus defendants located primarily in Louisiana, where most of the property is located and the relevant events took place. See Order at 1-2 & n.2 , ECF #5. The Court further determined that threshold defenses under Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure should be considered with respect to the seven District of Columbia defendants, for if they were dismissed, it would likely be appropriate to transfer venue to an appropriate judicial district lying within Louisiana pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404. Id. Those motions have now been filed and fully briefed.*fn1

The D.C. Bar moves to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Jones Walker defendants in the District of Columbia -- R. Christian Johnsen, Bill Cody, W. Russell King, Nancy Peele, Paul Cambon and Norma Jane Sabiston ("Jones Walker DC Defendants") -- have separately moved to dismiss on those same grounds.*fn2 Plaintiff has responded to both motions and the matter is ripe for resolution. For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant the motions to dismiss, and then transfer the case to the Eastern District of Louisiana as to the remaining defendants.

BACKGROUND

The essence of plaintiff's prolix 143-page amended complaint with respect to the defendants in the District of Columbia is that the Jones Walker attorneys misused their legal licenses and violated numerous civil rights laws and the Constitution when they lobbied Congress and other governmental agencies to secure various types of relief for their clients in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in 2005. See Am. Compl. at 79-92. As plaintiff puts it:

[the Jones Walker Defendants] misused their licenses when they lobbied Congress to pass legislation . . . which sent over $200 billion dollars of US HUD, DOC, CORPS OF ENGINEERS, FEMA, and such other well intended federal assistance, which has not restored plaintiff et al Communities . . . , but which in fact has created industry . . . in areas which were not the true Congressional intended recipients of these billions of dollars of federal funds and programs. . . . . . . The [Jones Walker] Defendants misused their licenses when they built an interlocking fabric of experience, relationships, and expertise in getting Congress, and other State legislatures to approve legislation to appropriate funds under the disguise that it is in the "General Welfare of the Public," but in fact it has been designed to end up in the hands of those whom the Federal Law did not prescribe it for.

See Am. Compl. at 83, 87 (emphasis in original). Plaintiff recasts this allegation in numerous ways throughout the Amended Complaint (id. at 79-92), but overall to the same effect -- that the Jones Walker DC Defendants have served only the interests of their private business clients and failed to serve the public welfare, in particular, the "true" victims of the hurricanes, i.e., "the Low Income, the Handicapped, the less fortunate American people, whom were portrayed in their dire plights at the Superdome, and the Convention Center, in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita." See Am. Compl. at 86.

Because the Jones Walker DC Defendants are allegedly attorneys licensed to practice law in the District, plaintiff also has sued the District of Columbia Bar ("D.C. Bar") based on his belief that the D.C. Bar is responsible for licensing and disciplining attorneys and his belief that the D.C. Bar has failed to fulfill its duties with respect to the Jones Walker attorneys. See Am. Compl. at 12, 52. It bears noting at the outset that the D.C. Bar is not the entity that "licenses" attorneys -- that duty falls to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. D.C. Code § 11-2501. Rather, the D.C. Bar is the "official arm" of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals that manages those attorneys who have been admitted by the Court of Appeals to the practice of law -- a matter of which this Court takes judicial notice. See Rules Governing the District of Columbia Bar, Preamble & Rule 1.

In any event, plaintiff alleges that the D.C. Bar has "fail[ed] to address numerous complaints of fraud, unethical behavior, obvious conflicts of interest, falsifying of court documents, and . . . continu[ed] to renew the licenses of these attorneys, in spite of obvious evidence that they warrant disbarrment, and/or suspension . . . ." Am. Compl. at 12. Plaintiff thus seeks a judicial order requiring the D.C. Bar (and all other state licensing boards) to "review[] and investigat[e]" the Jones Walker attorneys "to determine if suspension and/or disbarrment is warranted for these heinous violations." Id. at 92.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

"[I]n passing on a motion to dismiss, whether on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter or for failure to state a cause of action, the allegations of the complaint should be construed favorably to the pleader." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); see Leatherman v. Tarrant Cty. Narcotics and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993); Phillips v. Bureau of Prisons, 591 F.2d 966, 968 (D.C. Cir. 1979). Therefore, the factual allegations must be presumed true, and plaintiff must be given every favorable inference that may be drawn from the allegations of fact. Scheuer, 416 U.S. at 236; Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000). However, the Court need not accept as true "a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation," nor inferences that are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint. Trudeau v. Federal Trade Comm'n, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

Under Rule 12(b)(1), the party seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court --plaintiff here -- bears the burden of establishing that the court has jurisdiction. See US Ecology, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, 231 F.3d 20, 24 (D.C. Cir. 2000); see also Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F. Supp. 2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001) (a court has an "affirmative obligation to ensure that it is acting within the scope of its jurisdictional authority."); Pitney Bowes, Inc. v. United States Postal Serv., 27 F. Supp. 2d 15, 19 (D.D.C. 1998). "'[P]laintiff's factual allegations in the complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion' than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim." Grand Lodge, 185 F. Supp. 2d at 13-14 (quoting 5A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1350 (2d ed. 1987)). Additionally, a court may consider material other than the allegations of the complaint in determining whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case, as long as it still accepts the factual allegations in the complaint as true. See Jerome Stevens Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253-54 (D.C. Cir. 2005); EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624-25 n.3 (D.C. Cir. 1997); Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Scis., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir.1992).

In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court is mindful that all that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require of a complaint is that it contain "'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam). Although "detailed factual allegations" are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, to provide the "grounds" of "entitle[ment] to relief," a plaintiff must furnish "more than labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56; see also Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); Atherton v. District of Columbia Office of the Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2009). A complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

DISCUSSION

I. ...


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