United States District Court, District of Columbia
A. Howell Chief Judge.
plaintiffs, a married couple, Cheryl and Mark Tracy
(“the Tracys”), and LCS Outreach Ministries, Inc.
(“LCS”), bring this action against their former
attorney, the defendant James T. Kratovil, Esq.
(“Kratovil” or “the defendant”).
Kratovil moves to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction, under Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(2),
respectively. For the reasons discussed below, the
defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction is GRANTED.
Tracys, both citizens of the District of Columbia,
see Compl., Sec. II.B., retained Kratovil, an
attorney in Charles Town, West Virginia, see id.,
Sec. I.B., to represent them before a West Virginia state
court, see generally id., Sec. III. According to the
Tracys, “Kratovil was negligent when he failed to file
a timely motion for summary judgment.” Id.,
Sec. III ¶ 1. In addition, Kratovil “was late
filing [their] Dissolution case” promptly after he was
contracted to do so on September 16, 2016. Id., Sec.
III ¶ 2. As compensation for Kratovil's
“neglect, blunders, breach of contract, added property
damages and violation of [their] rights, ”
id., Sec. IV, the Tracys demand damages totaling
$400, 000, id., Sec. II ¶ 3; see id.,
ground put forward for dismissal of this action is addressed,
beginning with the defendant's argument that this Court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, ”
and “it is to be presumed that a cause lies outside
this limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian
Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)
(citations omitted). The plaintiff bears the initial burden
of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the
Court has subject matter jurisdiction over her claim.
Id.; see Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics
in Wash. v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., 527
F.Supp.2d 101, 104 (D.D.C. 2007). In deciding a motion
brought under Rule 12(b)(1), the Court “may consider
materials outside the pleadings” and it must
“accept all of the factual allegations in the complaint
as true.” Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. Food
& Drug Admin., 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
district courts “have original jurisdiction of all
civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum
or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is
between . . . citizens of different States[.]” 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). The Tracys attempt to demonstrate
diversity jurisdiction based on their residence in the
District of Columbia and Kratovil's residence in West
Virginia, plus a demand for damages exceeding $75, 000.
Kratovil argues that LCS “is registered as a 501(c)(3)
a non-profit corporation in the state of West Virginia”
with “corporate headquarters . . . in Martinsburg,
WV[.]” Mem. in Support of Def. James T. Kratovil's
Mot. to Dismiss (“Def.'s Mem.”) at 6. Because
“LCS . . . has West Virginia citizenship for diversity
purposes, ” id., Kratovil argues that
“there is not complete diversity of the parties,
” id., which deprives this Court of
“LCS . . . is a legally certified business operating in
the District of Columbia, ” Mem. to Oppose Def.'s
Mot. to Dismiss at 1, it is a corporate entity, the legal
interests of which the Tracys cannot represent because they
are not attorneys. For this reason, the Court issued an Order
on February 11, 2019 (ECF No. 8) that counsel enter an
appearance on its behalf by March 1, 2019. Counsel has not
entered an appearance, and, as the Court warned the Tracys,
LCS Outreach Ministries, Inc. will be dismissed as a party in
this action. Complete diversity exists between the remaining
parties, the Tracys and Kratovil, and, therefore, the Court
denies Kratovil's motion to dismiss for lack of subject
personal jurisdiction is challenged under Rule 12(b)(2), the
plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing a factual basis
for the Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over
the defendant. Crane v. N.Y. Zoological Soc'y,
894 F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990); First Chi. Int'l
v. United Exch. Co., 836 F.2d 1375, 1378-79 (D.C. Cir.
1988). To sustain this burden, “a plaintiff must make a
prima facie showing of specific and pertinent
jurisdictional facts that connect the defendant to the
forum.” Toumazou v. Turkish Republic of N.
Cyprus, No. 14-7170, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 787, at *2
(D.C. Cir. Jan. 15, 2016) (per curiam) (citing First Chi.
Int'l, 836 F.2d at 1378-79). Only bare allegations
or conclusory statements, however, “[do] not constitute
the prima facie showing necessary to carry the
burden of establishing personal jurisdiction.”
Naartex Consulting Corp. v. Watt, 722 F.2d 779, 787
(D.C. Cir. 1983); see also United States v. Philip Morris
Inc., 116 F.Supp.2d 116, 120 n.4 (D.D.C. 2000) (noting
that the court “may receive and weigh affidavits and
any other relevant matter to assist it in determining the
jurisdictional facts.”). While pro se
complaints must be construed liberally, see Howerton v.
Ogletree, 466 F.Supp.2d 182, 183 (D.D.C. 2006), pro
se plaintiffs are not “freed from the requirement
to plead an adequate jurisdictional basis for [their] claims,
” Gomez v. Aragon, 705 F.Supp.2d 21, 23
jurisdiction takes two forms: (1) general or all-purpose
jurisdiction or (2) specific or case-linked
jurisdiction.” Vasquez v. Whole Foods Mkt.,
Inc., 302 F.Supp.3d 36, 45 (D.D.C. 2018) (citing
Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564
U.S. 915, 919 (2011)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The
Court may exercise general jurisdiction if the
defendant's “affiliations with the State are so
‘continuous and systematic' as to render [him]
essentially at home in the forum State.”
Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 919 (citing Int'l Shoe
Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 317 (1945)).
Ordinarily, a court in the place of an individual's
domicile, see id. at 924 (“For an individual,
the paradigm forum for the exercise of general jurisdiction
is the individual's domicile[.]”), or a
corporation's “place of incorporation and principal
place of business, ” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571
U.S. 117, 137 (2014), may assert general jurisdiction. Thus,
under District of Columbia law, “[a] District of
Columbia court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a
person domiciled in . . ., or maintaining his . . . principal
place of business in, the District of Columbia as to any
claim for relief.” D.C. Code § 13-422. In this
case, the Tracys neither allege in their complaint nor make
any other showing that Kratovil is domiciled in or maintains
his principal place of business in the District of Columbia.
Consequently, general jurisdiction may not be exercised over
“specific jurisdiction, a plaintiff must allege that
the defendant's contacts with the forum gave rise to the
asserted claims.” Toumazou, 2016 U.S. App.
LEXIS 787, at *2-3 (citing Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 919
and D.C. Code § 13-423); see also Vazquez, 302
F.Supp.3d at 46 (noting that specific jurisdiction requires
showing that the claim giving rise to the lawsuit “is
related to or arises out of the non-resident defendant's
contacts with the forum.” (citing Helicopteros
Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414
n.3 (1984))). “To establish personal jurisdiction over
a non-resident [the Court] must first decide whether
statutory jurisdiction exists under the District's
long-arm statute and, if it does, then [the Court] must
determine whether an exercise of ...