United States District Court, District of Columbia
D. BATES United States District Judge
plaintiff Albert Lynn Barcroft has brought this action
against defendants Kenneth Vern Gibbs and Candace Gibbs
Walton for breach of contract arising out of a series of
events in Texas. In short, Barcroft alleges that defendants
promised to sell a valuable piece of property in exchange for
his efforts to help them recover their interests in a family
estate, but that they later refused to make the sale. Am.
Compl. [ECF No. 7] ¶¶ 14, 17, 28-29. Barcroft
claims that under the terms of the contract he is entitled to
at least five million dollars in damages. Id. ¶
52. Defendants have moved to dismiss for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, failure
to state a claim, and improper venue.
initial matter, it is doubtful the Court has subject matter
jurisdiction over this case. Barcroft claims that there is
diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(4) because he is a “foreign state” under
28 U.S.C. § 1603. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 11.
Barcroft asserts he is “the direct posterity of the
sovereign American people who organized, implemented, and
created the [sic] ‘The United states of America,
’” and that as an “organ of the Union of
the several states” he is therefore a “foreign
state.” Id. ¶ 8 (footnote omitted). But
Barcroft’s argument is neither novel nor meritorious.
See Utah Dep’t of Workforce Servs. v. Geddes,
No. 2:13-CV-24 TS, 2013 WL 1367025, at *2 (D. Utah Apr. 4,
2013) (rejecting claim that self-styled “sovereign
American” was a foreign state); see also United
States v. Biggs, 273 F. App’x 88, 89 (2d Cir.
2008) (summary order); United States v. Boyce, 38
F.Supp.3d 1135, 1147 (C.D. Cal. 2014). In fact, Barcroft
himself has already lost this argument (at least) once
before. See United States v. Barcroft, No.
4:07CV100, 2008 WL 4412242, at *1-2 (E.D. Tex. Sept. 23,
2008). Given that the Supreme Court has held that even an
individual acting in his official capacity for a foreign
government cannot qualify as a “foreign state”
under § 1603, Samantar v. Yousuf, 560 U.S. 305,
313-19 (2010), it is quite clear that Barcroft’s
fanciful “sovereign American” argument must fail.
And it is uncertain whether diversity jurisdiction exists
once Barcroft is properly reduced to the status of mere
mortal, because the Court is uncertain where Barcroft was
domiciled when he commenced this action. Thankfully, the
Court need not definitively decide whether subject matter
jurisdiction exists because it can easily dismiss the claims
against Gibbs and Walton for lack of personal jurisdiction.
See Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574,
578 (1999) (holding that the question of personal
jurisdiction may be decided before subject matter
plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the Court has
personal jurisdiction over each defendant who moves to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(2). FC Inv. Grp. LC v. IFX
Mkts., Ltd., 529 F.3d 1087, 1091 (D.C. Cir. 2008). To
establish jurisdiction, a plaintiff cannot rest on conclusory
statements but “must allege specific acts connecting
the defendant with the forum.” Second Amendment
Found. v. U.S. Conference of Mayors, 274 F.3d 521, 524
(D.C. Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks and alteration
omitted). A federal court has personal jurisdiction over a
defendant “who is subject to the jurisdiction of a
court of general jurisdiction in the state where the district
court is located.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(1)(A).
This Court therefore has personal jurisdiction over Gibbs and
Walton only if authorized by either D.C. Code § 13-422,
governing general personal jurisdiction, or D.C. Code §
13-423, governing specific personal jurisdiction. See,
e.g., Associated Producers, LTD v. Vanderbilt
Univ., 76 F.Supp.3d 154, 162 (D.D.C. 2014).
Court may exercise general personal jurisdiction over a party
“domiciled in, organized under the laws of, or
maintaining [a] principal place of business in, the District
of Columbia.” D.C. Code § 13-422. But Gibbs and
Walton are not domiciled in the District of Columbia. They
aver that they are residents of Texas-and Barcroft in fact
said the same in his original complaint, see Compl.
[ECF No. 1] ¶¶ 2-3. Barcroft amended his complaint
to allege that defendants are “legal resident[s] of the
District of Columbia” because they are
“citizen[s] of the United States as created and defined
by the Fourteenth Amendment and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
332 (c) & (e)” and thus “subject to the
jurisdiction and venue of the primary court for the District
of Columbia.” Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3-4 (emphases
omitted). But this is nonsense. Gibbs and Walton are not D.C.
residents merely because they are U.S. citizens; otherwise,
virtually all Americans would be. Because Barcroft has pled
no facts to show that Gibbs and Walton are domiciled (or
maintain a principal place of business) in D.C., the Court
may not exercise general personal jurisdiction over them
pursuant to § 13-422.
the relevant portion of the D.C. long-arm statute authorizes
“personal jurisdiction over a person, who acts directly
or by an agent, as to a claim for relief arising from the
person’s . . . transacting any business in the District
of Columbia.” D.C. Code § 13-423(a)(1). Barcroft
argues that the long-arm statute applies because the
defendants “transact business in the District of
Columbia every time they use their social security
number.” Pl.’s Resp. to Defs.’ Mot. to
Dismiss [ECF No. 5] ¶ 11. But that theory is doubly
flawed. First, the mere possession and use of a social
security number is not enough to demonstrate that a defendant
has transacted business in D.C. See Pease v. Burke,
535 F.Supp.2d 150, 153 (D.D.C. 2008) (rejecting the argument
that “defendants are subject to the Court’s
jurisdiction merely because they obtained a federal
identification number”). Otherwise, here too virtually
every American could be subject to jurisdiction in D.C.
Second, Barcroft has not pled a claim “arising
from” defendants’ use of their social security
numbers. D.C. Code § 13-423(b). Rather, his claim arises
from an alleged breach of contract having nothing to do with
defendants’ social security numbers. Because Barcroft
does not allege, nor does the Court find, that any other
provision of the long-arm statute is applicable in this case,
the Court has no basis to exercise specific jurisdiction over
defendants under § 13-423.
this Court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction over
Gibbs and Walton would violate the constitutional requirement
of due process. To satisfy due process a defendant must have
such “minimum contacts” with the forum that
“the maintenance of the suit does not offend
traditional notions of fair play and substantial
justice.” Int’l Shoe Co. v. Washington,
326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Additionally, “the defendant’s conduct and
connection with the forum State” must be “such
that he should reasonably anticipate being haled into court
there.” World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v.
Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980). Other than
Gibbs’s and Walton’s status as U.S. citizens and
their use of social security numbers (which is irrelevant),
Barcroft has failed to plead that defendants maintain
any contacts or ties with the District of Columbia.
Indeed, there is nothing to indicate that they could
reasonably have anticipated being sued here. Accordingly, the
Court may not exercise personal jurisdiction over Gibbs and
Walton without violating due process.
resolved this case with regard to the claims against Gibbs
and Walton, the Court will now address Barcroft’s
attempt to join additional defendants Christy L. Lee and
Patrick W. Ferchill. Eight days after filing his First
Amended Complaint (which named only Gibbs and Walton as
defendants), Barcroft filed what he dubbed
“Plaintiff’s Permissive Joinder of Additional
Parties, ” which he described as a “supplement
and/or addition to the First Amended Complaint, ”
Pl.’s Notice [ECF No. 12] ¶ 2. But a party may
only “amend its pleading once as a matter of
course, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1) (emphasis added), so
Barcroft needs the Court’s permission to amend his
pleading a second time to add Lee and Ferchill as defendants,
requires the Court to “freely give leave [to amend]
when justice so requires, ” but leave is properly
denied where there is “undue delay, bad faith or
dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure
to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue
prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the
amendment, [or] futility of amendment, ” Foman v.
Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Here, Barcroft has not
asked the Court’s permission to amend his complaint.
Further, the Court doubts whether it has personal
jurisdiction over the new defendants or subject matter
jurisdiction over the proposed claims against them.
Accordingly, if Barcroft wishes to add Lee and Ferchill as
defendants, he must file a motion for leave to ...