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Embassy of Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Ugwuonye

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 5, 2012

EMBASSY OF the FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, Plaintiff,
v.
Ephraim Emeka UGWUONYE, et al., Defendants.

Page 137

Thomas Michael Guiffre, Patton Boggs LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Ephraim Chukwuemeka Ugwuonye, ECU Associates, P.C., Silver Spring, MD, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO DISMISS COUNTERCLAIM

BARBARA J. ROTHSTEIN, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a motion to dismiss by Plaintiff, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (" the Embassy" ). See Dkt. # 43. The Embassy asks the Court to dismiss the Counterclaim filed by Defendants Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye and ECU Associates, P.C.

Page 138

(" Defendants" ). [1] The Counterclaim alleges a breach of contract by the Embassy for nonpayment of past legal services. See generally Counterclaim (Dkt. # 44) at ¶ ¶ 1-79.[2] The Embassy argues that the Counterclaim must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In the alternative, the Embassy argues that the Counterclaim be dismissed as time-barred by the relevant statute of limitations. The Embassy's motion is denied as to Defendant Ugwuonye, and granted as to Defendant ECU Associates, P.C.[3]

I. BACKGROUND

In is uncontested that Ugwuonye acted as legal counsel for the Embassy in several real estate transactions and that, in November 2007, he obtained a refund of property taxes from the Internal Revenue Service (" IRS" ) for the Embassy in the amount of $1.55 million. The Embassy alleges that Ugwuonye never delivered these funds. Am. Compl. (Dkt. # 33) ¶ 1.

On August 25, 2011, Defendants filed their Answer and Counterclaim to the Embassy's Amended Complaint.[4] Defendants' Counterclaim alleges that Ugwuonye acted as counsel to the Government of Nigeria and the Embassy from 2001 until the filing of this action by the Embassy. Counterclaim ¶ 19. Defendants contend that Ugwuonye was encouraged by the Government of Nigeria to build his practice in a way that would best suit the needs of the Embassy and the Government of Nigeria. Defendants allege that the Government of Nigeria and the Embassy promised to pay Defendants for any owed legal services, but have repeatedly failed to pay the fees in full, often falling over a year behind. Id. ¶ 26-27. Defendants relate a series of conversations between October 2006 and January 2008 with the Attorney General of Nigeria and other officials wherein Defendants were promised that payments were forthcoming. Id. ¶¶ 28-34, ¶ 44. Defendants also set out a number of specific instances where the Embassy failed to pay Defendants for specific assignments. Id. ¶¶ 34-42.

On September 28, 2011, the Embassy filed the instant motion to dismiss. On April 3, 2012, this case was reassigned to the undersigned judge. On April 19, 2012, the Court granted the Embassy's motion to dismiss the Counterclaim as conceded. Minute Order # 3 of April 19, 2012. On May 17, 2012, Defendant Ugwuonye filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's dismissal of Defendants' Counterclaim. See Dkt. # 60. On June 25, 2012, the parties appeared before this Court. Following that status conference, the Court

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granted Ugwuonye's motion for reconsideration and allowed him to file an opposition to the Embassy's motion to dismiss the Counterclaim. Order of June 26, 2012 (Dkt. # 70).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Rule 12(b)(1)

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) is to test whether the court has jurisdiction to properly hear the case before it. Because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, the court must have a statutory basis to exercise its jurisdiction. Nat'l Ass'n of Home Builders v. EPA,731 F.Supp.2d 50, 53 (D.D.C.2010). To this end, statutes conferring subject-matter jurisdiction on federal courts are to be strictly construed. In re Any & all funds or other assets in Brown Bros. Harriman & Co. Account No. 8870792, 601 F.Supp.2d 252, 256 (D.D.C.2009). Moreover, the burden of establishing subject-matter ...


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