United States District Court, District of Columbia
AMOS N. JONES, Plaintiff,
CAMPBELL UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Amos Jones is a former professor at Campbell University's
Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law in Raleigh, North
Carolina. In December 2017, Jones-now a citizen of the
District of Columbia-filed suit in D.C. Superior Court
against Campbell and five of its employees-all citizens of
North Carolina-alleging violations of federal
antidiscrimination statutes and raising tort claims under
state law. He also brought two common-law tort claims against
the Catholic University of America, located in Washington,
crux of Jones's complaint is that Campbell University
twice denied him tenure and ultimately fired him in 2017
because he is African-American and as retaliation for
exercising his rights under the antidiscrimination laws. He
also alleges that the university and its employees breached
his employment contract by not properly handling his tenure
application and that they defamed him by publishing false
accounts of the controversy in emails, on social media, and
in the press. As to Catholic University, Jones claims that
the school intentionally interfered with his employment
contract with Campbell by disclosing to Campbell that he had
applied for a professorship.
University and three of the individual defendants-John
Bradley Creed, Robert C. Cogswell, and Timothy
Zinnecker-removed the case to federal court on the ground
that it involved federal claims. These defendants then moved
to dismiss Jones's claims against them for lack of
personal jurisdiction. In their motion, they stated that none of
the defendants had contacts with the District of Columbia and
that all of the allegedly wrongful acts occurred in North
responded with an amended complaint with a new jurisdictional
allegation. As he explains in that complaint and in
subsequent briefing, defendant J. Richard Leonard-Campbell
Law School's dean-was a federal magistrate and bankruptcy
judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of
North Carolina for 32 years. And, according to Jones, Leonard
“regularly recruits and/or offers North Carolina's
federal judges paid teaching jobs at the Law School,
frequently fraternizes with these co-workers and colleagues,
and is otherwise deeply and personally interested in and
cooperative with the jurists serving in the federal
courthouses throughout North Carolina.” Am. Compl.
¶ 24. Thus, in Jones's view, all federal district
judges in the Eastern District of North Carolina-where venue
would otherwise be proper-are biased against or financially
interested in his claims against the Campbell defendants,
such that they cannot adjudicate those claims. See
28 U.S.C. § 455(a)-(b) (specifying circumstances under
which a judge must disqualify himself); Caperton v. A.T.
Massey Coal Co., Inc., 556 U.S. 868, 876-77 (2009)
(explaining that due process requires recusal when the judge
“has a direct, personal, substantial, pecuniary
interest in a case” or in other circumstances where as
an objective matter “the probability of actual bias on
the part of the judge or decision maker is too high to be
constitutionally tolerable” (internal quotations
Campbell defendants have again moved to dismiss on the ground
that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them. The
Court will grant their motion. Neither the defendants
themselves nor their allegedly wrongful actions have any
meaningful connection to the District of Columbia.
See D.C. Code §§ 13-422, -423(a)(3)-(4).
Jones concedes as much. Pl.'s Opp'n at 16
(“Defendants are correct that this Court may lack
personal jurisdiction over the Campbell [U]niversity
defendants . . . .”). That concession is a death knell
because-without personal jurisdiction or waiver of that
requirement-due process prevents this Court from exerting
authority over these defendants. See Burger King Corp. v.
Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 471-72 (1985).
alternative theory-that bias in another federal district
court supports jurisdiction in this one-is completely
unfounded. Even if all judges in the Eastern District of
North Carolina were subject to mandatory disqualification
under 28 U.S.C. § 455 or the Due Process Clause (a
dubious proposition), and even if it were proper for this
Court to make that determination as to judges on another
district court (let alone as to that judicial district as a
whole), there is no authority whatsoever suggesting that
their disqualification would somehow give this Court the
power to hear claims against defendants over which it lacks
Court could “in the interest of justice” transfer
Jones's claims against them to a forum that does have
jurisdiction and where venue is proper. 28 U.S.C. §
1406(a); see Katopothis v. Windsor-Mount Joy Mut. Ins.
Co., 211 F.Supp.3d 1, 26-27 (D.D.C. 2016). Jones
nominally requests that the Court do so here and suggests the
Western District of North Carolina as a possibility.
Pl.'s Opp'n Campbell Defs.' Mot. Dismiss at 4-5.
(Which raises the question: why not bring the claims there in
the first place?) But Jones makes no meaningful argument for
why transfer to that district, as opposed to outright
dismissal, would be appropriate. Even if he did, the Court
would be reluctant to transfer his claims because they so
obviously did not belong here in the first
place. Rather, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(2), the Court will dismiss Counts One through
Ten of Jones's amended complaint.
leaves Count Eleven: a common-law tort claim for contractual
interference against Catholic University, which it has moved
to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). The Court declines to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over this claim because it
has dismissed all of the claims over which it has original
jurisdiction-i.e., Jones's federal statutory
claims against the Campbell defendants. See 28
U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3); Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v.
Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350 n.7 (1988) (“[I]n the
usual case in which all federal-law claims are eliminated
before trial, the balance of factors to be considered under
the pendent jurisdiction doctrine-judicial economy,
convenience, fairness, and comity-will point toward declining
to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining state-law
claims.”); United Mine Workers of Am. v.
Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966) (“Needless
decisions of state law should be avoided both as a matter of
comity and to promote justice between the parties, by
procuring for them a surer-footed reading of the applicable
Court will instead remand Count Eleven of Jones's amended
complaint to D.C. Superior Court. See
Carnegie-Mellon, 484 U.S. at 353 (giving “federal
courts wide discretion to remand cases involving pendent
claims when the exercise of pendent jurisdiction over such
cases would be inappropriate” and noting a general
preference for remand over dismissal). The Court does so
reluctantly because, in light of Catholic's arguments in
its motion to dismiss, it doubts the viability of Jones's
contractual-interference claim on the merits.
separate order accompanies this memorandum opinion.
 Jones's amended complaint also
raises a tort claim against Catholic University for public
disclosure of private facts. In opposing Catholic
University's motion to dismiss, however, Jones abandons
that claim. ...