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Cuneo Law Group, P.C. v. Joseph

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 1, 2013

The CUNEO LAW GROUP, P.C., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Joel D. JOSEPH, Defendant.

Page 146

David Wallace Stanley, Jonathan Watson Cuneo, William H. Anderson, Cuneo Gilbert & Laduca, LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Joel David Joseph, Law Offices of Joel D. Joseph, Santa Monica, CA, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

REGGIE B. WALTON, District Judge.

The plaintiffs, The Cuneo Law Group, P.C. and Jonathan W. Cuneo, seek a declaratory judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 (2006) regarding the parties' respective rights under a settlement agreement resolving previous litigation between the parties and injunctive relief prohibiting future breaches of the agreement. First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (" Am. Compl." ) ¶¶ 55-60. This matter is before the Court on the defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint or in the Alternative, Transfer the Case to the Central District of California (" Def.'s Dismissal Mot." ), and the plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and Permanent Injunction (" Pls.' Summ. J. Mot." ). Upon consideration of the parties' submissions,[1] the Court concludes that it must grant in part and deny in part the defendant's motion to dismiss, deny the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, and dismiss this case for lack of jurisdiction.

I. BACKGROUND

The long-running dispute between the parties originated with the defendant's employment by The Cuneo Law Group (" Cuneo" ) as a staff attorney and then as an independent contractor. See Cuneo Law Grp., P.C. v. Joseph, 669 F.Supp.2d 99, 102-03 (D.D.C.2009) (Walton, J.), aff'd, 428 Fed.Appx. 6 (D.C.Cir.2011). A complete recounting of the history of the parties' discord is provided in the Court's opinion in the earlier case just cited and which involved the same settlement agreement that is the subject of the current litigation. See Cuneo Law Grp., 669 F.Supp.2d at 102-05. The following facts are taken from the plaintiffs' statement of material facts as to which there is no genuine issue, none of which are disputed by the defendant in his opposition. See generally Def.'s Summ. J. Opp'n.

In 2002, the parties entered into a settlement agreement (" Settlement Agreement" )

Page 147

resolving prior litigation related to the defendant's employment with Cuneo. See Pls.' Summ. J. Mem. at 9. In pertinent part, the Settlement Agreement provided that the defendant was to receive twenty percent of the attorneys' fees awarded in three then-pending cases, referred to as the " Gold Train, Leatherman, and Kwikset cases," Pls.' Summ. J. Mem. Exhibit (" Ex." ) B at 4,[2] and in exchange, the defendant " shall make no attempt to interfere with the pending cases or cases that follow, nor shall he attempt to file liens or notices of claim, or correspond with the litigants. If he does he has breached the agreement and waives his percentages," id. at 2. The Settlement Agreement further provided that " [t]he parties release each other of any and all claims of any type whatsoever...." Id.

In 2008, the plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment from this Court that the defendant had materially breached the Settlement Agreement and was therefore not entitled to twenty percent of any attorneys' fees awarded to Cuneo in the Leatherman and Kwikset cases. Pls.' Summ. J. Mem. at 10. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant had contacted and then sued Cuneo's co-counsel in the Gold Train case seeking additional payment from the attorneys' fees awarded in that case. Id. Due to these breaches of the Settlement Agreement, the plaintiffs refused to pay the defendant any percentage of the attorneys' fees he otherwise would have received in the Leatherman case. See id. On March 27, 2009, this Court issued an order granting the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment based upon the finding that the defendant materially breached the Settlement Agreement. Id. The Court set forth its reasoning in the memorandum opinion referenced above.

On June 9, 2009, the defendant sued Cuneo's co-counsel in the Leatherman case in California state court, seeking additional payment from the attorneys' fees awarded in that case. Id. at 11. The defendant subsequently contacted one of the plaintiffs in the Kwikset case and attempted to persuade him " to obstruct any settlement of that case unless [the defendant] received payment" and also filed an attorney's lien. Id. Once the Kwikset case settled, the defendant contacted and threatened to sue defense counsel in that case, and ultimately filed suit against a variety of individuals and entities associated with the case seeking a portion of the settlement funds. Id. at 12.

The plaintiffs instituted the current suit on May 11, 2012, seeking a declaratory judgment finding (1) that the defendant has " committed continued material breaches" of the Settlement Agreement and that " because of the material breaches," the defendant is no longer entitled to any of the monies paid to Cuneo in connection to the Kwikset settlement; (2) that the defendant " gave up his rights, if any, to seek payment for the Kwikset [c]ase under quantum meruit and/or unjust enrichment from Cuneo, Cuneo's co-counsel or the Kwikset [d]efendants; " and (3) that the defendant " pay [the plaintiffs'] fees and costs" arising from the current litigation. Am. Compl. at 10. The plaintiffs also requested a permanent injunction enjoining the defendant from further breaching his obligations under the Settlement Agreement. Id. at 10-11.

The defendant subsequently filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiffs' claims are ...


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