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Lemon v. Kramer

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 11, 2017

ARRON FREDERICK LEMON, Plaintiff,
v.
MARY MORTON KRAMER, et al., Defendants. Re Document Nos. 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 20

         Granting State of Maryland Defendants' Motions to Dismiss; Granting Defendant Wallace's Motion to Dismiss; Granting Defendant Wylie's Motion to Dismiss; Granting Defendant Mosley's Motion to Dismiss; Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Entry of Default; Denying Plaintiff's Motions for Various Relief; Denying Plaintiff's Motions to Seal; Denying as Moot Plaintiff's Motion for Mediation

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Arron Frederick Lemon, [1] representing himself, alleges that various Defendants caused him harm in connection with a custody dispute in Maryland state court. See generally Verified Compl. (“Compl.”), ECF No. 1. In total, Mr. Lemon names nine Defendants, all allegedly associated with the custody dispute involving Mr. Lemon's minor child. Specifically, Mr. Lemon brings suit against the following Maryland public officials: Judge Mary Morton Kramer, Judge Timothy John McCrone, Judge Lenore Rosalie Gelfman, Maryland Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, and Maryland Secretary of Human Resources Sam Malhorta (collectively “State Defendants”). Mr. Lemon's Complaint also names three other Defendants: his ex-wife, Theresa Jayoung Mosley; Ms. Mosley's attorney, Beverly Amy Wallace; and Mr. Lemon's former attorney, Bonnie Wylie.

         In a series of separate motions, all Defendants have now moved to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety on a variety of grounds. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the motions and dismiss the Complaint. The Court finds that it lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendants and that the District of Columbia is not the proper venue for Mr. Lemon's claims. Instead of transferring the case to the District of Maryland, however, the Court finds that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss because of substantive problems with Mr. Lemon's Complaint. Specifically, the Court finds that Mr. Lemon has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[2] Finally, the Court finds that each of Mr. Lemon's motions should be denied for the reasons stated below.

         II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Court will begin with a description of the factual background found in Mr. Lemon's Complaint before turning to the motions pending before the Court.

         A. Factual and Procedural Background[3]

         Mr. Lemon's allegations arise from a divorce proceeding and custody dispute between Mr. Lemon and his ex-wife, Ms. Mosley, in Maryland state court. See Compl. ¶¶ 21, 30-32, 39- 41; see also Compl., Attach. at 1-22, ECF No. 1-1 (docket of state court proceeding).[4] Mr. Lemon filed for divorce from Ms. Mosley on May 5, 2009, in the Circuit Court for Howard County, Maryland. See Compl., Attach. at 6. During the state court proceeding, Ms. Wallace entered an appearance on behalf of Ms. Mosley on July 10, 2009. See Compl., Attach. at 2; see also Compl. ¶ 62 (alleging that Ms. Mosley hired Ms. Wallace). A judgment of divorce was entered on April 28, 2010. See Compl., Attach. at 9.

         On August 3, 2010, Mr. Lemon filed a pro se petition to modify the terms of custody and visitation. See Compl., Attach. at 10. A custody hearing was held on January 25, 2011. See Compl., Attach. at 3. Ms. Wiley states that she entered an appearance with the court and represented Mr. Lemon at that hearing. See Def. Wylie Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss Verified Compl. (“Wylie Mem.”) at 2, ECF No. 9-1. The docket indicates that Ms. Wiley's appearance was formally entered on February 2, 2011. See Compl., Attach. at 1, 12. The day of the custody hearing, Judge Kramer-who was a Master at the time-issued factual findings and recommended that custody of the minor child be granted to Ms. Mosley. See generally Wiley Mot. Dismiss, Ex. 1, ECF No. 9-1; see also Compl. ¶ 39-40; Compl., Attach. at 12. On February 17, 2011, Judge McCrone issued an order for modification of custody, incorporating then-Master Kramer's report and granting custody of the child to Ms. Mosley. See generally Wiley Mot. Dismiss, Ex. 2; see also Compl. ¶ 41; Compl., Attach. at 12.[5]

         On March 19, 2012, Mr. Lemon was found in contempt for failure to pay child support and was ordered to report to the Howard County Detention Center on April 23, 2012. See Compl., Attach. at 15. Mr. Lemon paid the purge amount before April 23, 2012, and the commitment order was withdrawn. See Compl., Attach. at 15. Mr. Lemon then proceeded to file a range of motions with the court. See Compl., Attach. at 15-19. On August 19, 2013, the court issued an order enjoining Mr. Lemon from further filing, unless he requested leave. See Compl., Attach. at 19. In 2015, Mr. Lemon sought leave to file a motion voiding Judge Kramer's custody order and challenging the Court's jurisdiction to issue that order. See Wallace Mot. Dismiss, Ex. 3. In an order dated December 7, 2015, and entered on December 22, 2015, Judge Gelfman denied Mr. Lemon's request for leave. See Wallace Mot. Dismiss, Ex. 3. Thereafter, The Maryland Court of Appeals denied Mr. Lemon's petition for a writ of certiorari on March 28, 2016. See Compl., Attach. at 44. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals also denied as moot Mr. Lemon's appeal on September 26, 2016. See Compl., Attach. at 42-43.[6]

         B. Mr. Lemon's Claims

         From the outset, the Court notes that a pro se complaint will be construed liberally and is held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Mr. Lemon's Complaint is occasionally difficult to follow. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Maryland court's decision to award primary custody of Mr. Lemon and Ms. Mosley's child to its mother is at the root of Mr. Lemon's claims. Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1327 (4th ed. 2014)).

         Mr. Lemon's lengthy Complaint includes two Counts. In brief, Count I alleges that State Defendants conspired to harm Mr. Lemon and deprive him of his constitutional rights. See Compl. ¶¶ 8-17. More specifically, Mr. Lemon alleges that State Defendants conspired to interfere with his civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). This claim is related to the legal proceedings that Mr. Lemon alleges improperly denied him of custody of his child. See Compl. ¶¶ 25-29, 31-32. Mr. Lemon contends that State Defendants willfully neglected and ignored the law in connection with that proceeding. See Compl. ¶¶ 25-30, 47.

         Count II alleges that Ms. Mosley, Ms. Wallace, and Ms. Wylie abused legal process to harm Mr. Lemon. See Compl. ¶ 61. Mr. Lemon alleges that Ms. Mosley “employed [Ms.] Wallace to use a legal process to persuade [Judge] Kramer to violate the [U]nited States Constitution, Federal and State Laws by depriving [Mr. Lemon] of parental rights.” See Compl. ¶ 62. Among other harms, Mr. Lemon alleges that Defendants' “extreme and outrageous conduct” has caused him emotional distress and a loss of consortium. See Compl. ¶ 70.

         Finally, Mr. Lemon's Complaint makes repeated reference to fraud. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that “[p]rocedurally speaking, it is fraud . . . for [Maryland law, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Constitution] to be ignored by [Defendants]” and “for a [p]arent to go from being the primary caregiver . . . to being forced to only see their [c]hild four [] days per month and having no say in the [c]hild's life.” Compl. ¶ 47-48; see also Compl. ¶ 50 (“Fraud is upon the Circuit Court for Howard County.”).

         C. Defendants' Motions to Dismiss

         In a series of separate motions, all Defendants move to dismiss. First, State Defendants, who include Judge Kramer, Judge McCrone, Judge Gelfman, Governor Hogan, Attorney General Frosh, and Secretary Malhotra, move to dismiss. See generally State Md. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Compl. Or Summ. J. (“State Defs.' Mot. Dismiss”), ECF No. 7. State Defendants argue that Mr. Lemon's Complaint should be dismissed because this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over State Defendants, because the Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives this Court of subject matter jurisdiction, because the Eleventh Amendment bars Mr. Lemon's claims, because judicial immunity bars claims against the judicial defendants, and because the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See generally Mem. Supp. State Md. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Compl. Or Summ. J. (“State Defs.' Mem.”), ECF No. 7-1.

         Ms. Wallace, an attorney, filed a pro se motion to dismiss. See generally Def. Wallace Mot. Dismiss Verified Compl. (“Wallace Mot. Dismiss”), ECF No. 8. Ms. Wallace argues that Mr. Lemon's Complaint should be dismissed because this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Ms. Wallace, because the Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives this Court of subject matter jurisdiction, because the District of Columbia is not the proper venue, because Ms. Wallace has not been properly served, and because the Complaint fails to state a claim for relief. See generally Def. Wallace Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss Verified Compl. (“Wallace Mem.”), ECF No. 8-1.

         Ms. Wylie, an attorney, filed a pro se motion to dismiss. See generally Def. Wylie Mot. Dismiss Verified Compl. (“Wallace Mot. Dismiss”), ECF No. 9. Ms. Wylie argues that Mr. Lemon's Complaint should be dismissed because this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Ms. Wylie, because the Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives this Court of subject matter jurisdiction, because the District of Columbia is not the proper venue, and because Ms. Wylie has not been properly served. See generally Wylie Mem. Mr. Lemon concedes that dismissal of Ms. Wylie is appropriate.[7]

         Ms. Mosley, who is not an attorney, filed a pro se motion to dismiss. See generally Def. Mosley Mot. Dismiss Verified Compl. (“Mosley Mot. Dismiss”), ECF No. 14. Ms. Mosley's motion is not supported by any memorandum or brief. Id. Instead, Ms. Mosley states that she “incorporates . . . any and all arguments made on behalf of her co-defendants.”[8] Id. ¶ 5. Specifically, Ms. Mosley briefly states that Mr. Lemon's Complaint should be dismissed because this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Ms. Mosley, because the Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives this Court of subject matter jurisdiction, because the District of Columbia is not the proper venue, and because Ms. Mosley has not been properly served. Id. ¶ 1-4.

         D. Mr. Lemon's Pending Motions

         Mr. Lemon has filed several motions that are currently pending before the Court. First, Mr. Lemon has filed two motions requesting to file “Settlement Statement[s]” under seal. See generally Pl.'s Mot. Seal (Oct. 31, 2017), ECF No. 15; Pl.'s Mot. Seal (Sept. 5, 2017), ECF No. 20. Second, Mr. Lemon filed an omnibus motion seeking a range of relief. See generally Pl.'s Mot. Entry Default; Mot. Summ. J.; Mot. Decl. J.; Mot. Three-Judge Court; & Mot. Prospective Injunctive Relief (“Pl.'s Omnibus Mot.”), ECF No. 11. That motion seeks an entry of default against Ms. Mosely for failing to respond to the Complaint, as well as orders from this Court granting summary judgment in favor of Mr. Lemon, granting a declaratory judgment in favor of Mr. Lemon, granting an injunction, and placing this matter before a three-judge Court. Id. ¶¶ 3, 8, 11-13. Third, Mr. Lemon's responses to both State Defendants' and Ms. Wallace's motions to dismiss are also styled as motions. See generally Pl.'s Resp. State Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 12 (including a motion to strike, motion for service of summons, motion to admit supplemental affidavit and exhibits, motion for default, motion for summary judgment, motion for declaratory judgment, motion for appointment three-judge court, and motion for an injunction); Pl.'s Resp. Wallace Mot., ECF No. 13 (including a range of similar motions). Finally, Mr. Lemon filed a motion seeking to compel mediation. See generally Pl.'s Mot. Mediation, ECF No. 18. None of the Defendants have responded to these motions.[9]

         III. DISCUSSION

         For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant Defendants' motions to dismiss on a number of grounds. First, the Court does not have personal jurisdiction over Defendants and the District of Columbia is not the proper venue for Mr. Lemon's claims. Instead of attempting to remedy those issues by transferring the case to the District of Maryland, the Court finds that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the Complaint because the Court finds that, in any event, Mr. Lemon has failed to state a claim. Finally, the Court denies Mr. Lemon's pending motions.

         A. Personal Jurisdiction

         Each of the Defendants moves to dismiss Mr. Lemon's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction. See State Defs.' Mem. at 5-8; Wallace Mem. at 6; Mosley Mot. Dismiss ¶ 2. The Court finds that Mr. Lemon has not met his burden of establishing the Court's jurisdiction over any Defendant. Accordingly, this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over all Defendants.

         1. Applicable Legal Standard

         The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that a court has personal jurisdiction over the defendants. See FC Inv. Grp. LC v. IFX Mkts., Ltd., 529 F.3d 1087, 1091 (D.C. Cir. 2008). Although factual discrepancies in the record must be resolved in favor of the plaintiff, a court need not accept the plaintiff's “conclusory statements” or “bare allegations” regarding the defendant's actions in a selected forum. GTE New Media Servs. Inc. v. BellSouth Corp., 199 F.3d 1343, 1349 (D.C. Cir. 2000).

         There are two types of personal jurisdiction: “general or all-purpose jurisdiction, and specific or case-linked jurisdiction.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011). General jurisdiction applies regardless of the nature of the claim, but it is only available based on “a limited set of affiliations with a forum.” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 760 (2014). “For an individual, the paradigm forum for the exercise of general jurisdiction is the individual's domicile . . . .” Id. at 760 (quoting Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 924). Under D.C. law, there is general jurisdiction over a ...


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