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Scott v. Bently

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

January 6, 2015

CALVIN W. SCOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT BENTLY, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

RICHARD W. STORY, District Judge.

This case comes before the Court on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss [4, 7, 8, 24, 26]; Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [15]; Plaintiff's Motion to Void the State Court's Judgment Due to Fraud on the Court [18]; Plaintiff's Motion for Clarification of Venue [27]; Plaintiff's Motion for an Expedited Order to Show Cause [30]; Plaintiff's Ex Parte Motion and Declaration for an Expedited Hearing [31]; Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Second Motion to Amend Complaint to Add Additional Defendants [36]; Plaintiff's Ex Parte Motion to Lift Stay of Discovery [37]; Plaintiff's Motion to Lift Stay of Discovery [38]; Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Jurisdiction [39]; Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Production [40]; and Plaintiff's Notice of, and Motion for Summary Judgment, and Request for Sanctions [41]. After reviewing the record, the Court enters the following Order.

Background

Plaintiff Calvin Scott filed this action seeking to recover benefits against numerous Defendants, including Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama; Judge James Woodroof of the Limestone County, Alabama Circuit Court; Lucile B. Scott, Plaintiff's former wife; Donald L. Dixon, a human resources supervisor; the U.S. Office of Personnel Management ("OPM"); the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board ("FRTIB"); Redstone Federal Credit Union; and Joseph Newberry, Chief Executive Officer of Redstone.[1]

Plaintiff alleges Defendants are denying him federal retirement benefits to which he is entitled as a former spouse of a federal employee. (Compl., Dkt. [1] at 6.) During Plaintiff's divorce from Defendant Lucile Scott, Plaintiff moved from Huntsville, Alabama, to Atlanta, Georgia. (Id.) By late March 2012, Plaintiff had not received notice of a hearing related to his divorce, so he contacted the court and found out that a hearing had already been held. (Id.) Judge Woodroof entered the final judgment of divorce on April 18, 2012. (Dkt. [1-1] at 7.) Plaintiff alleges that Judge Woodroof abused his authority by denying Plaintiff his request for division of Ms. Scott's retirement benefits. The court apparently dismissed Plaintiff's claim for alimony and retirement benefits as a sanction for his failure to appear at a hearing or to provide required discovery responses. (See id.) Plaintiff asserts that Judge Woodroof's decision violated provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), and the Spouse Equity Act of 1984, in addition to violating due process of law. While Plaintiff names numerous other Defendants, his Complaint primarily details the errors he believes Judge Woodroof made in issuing the divorce decree.

Plaintiff filed this action pro se on April 9, 2014. Defendants filed motions to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and failure to state a claim. On June 2, 2014, the Court stayed proceedings until it ruled on the pending motions. However, Plaintiff continued to file motions, which the Court will not consider in this Order in light of the stay.

Discussion

I. Motions to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction [4, 7, 8]

"As a general rule, courts should address issues relating to personal jurisdiction before reaching the merits of a plaintiff's claims." Republic of Panama v. BCCI Holdings (Lux.) S.A., 119 F.3d 935, 940 (11th Cir. 1997). Because Defendants challenge the Court's personal jurisdiction over them, the Court must resolve this issue before turning to the merits because "[a] defendant that is not subject to the jurisdiction of the court cannot be bound by its rulings." Id.

On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, "[t]he district court must accept the facts alleged in the complaint as true, to the extent that they are uncontroverted by the defendant's affidavits." Cable/Home Commc'n Corp. v. Network Prods., Inc., 902 F.2d 829, 855 (11th Cir. 1990). Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, his "pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed." Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998). "This leniency, however, does not require or allow courts to rewrite an otherwise deficient pleading in order to sustain an action." Thomas v. Pentagon Fed. Credit Union, 393 F.App'x 635, 637 (11th Cir. 2010).

A federal court properly may exercise personal jurisdiction over out-ofstate defendants "only if two requirements are met: (1) the state long-arm statute, and (2) the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Posner v. Essex Ins. Co., 178 F.3d 1209, 1214 (11th Cir. 1999). Thus, the Court uses a "two-step inquiry in determining whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant is proper." Internet Solutions Corp. v. Marshall, 557 F.3d 1293, 1295 (11th Cir. 2009). First, courts must consider whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction of the defendant would comport with Georgia's long-arm statute. Id . If so, courts then consider whether the defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with the state such that the exercise of jurisdiction would not offend due process notions of "fair play and substantial justice." Id . (citation omitted). Finally, "[a] plaintiff seeking the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant bears the initial burden of alleging in the complaint sufficient facts to make out a prima facie case of jurisdiction.'" Scutieri v. Chambers, 386 F.App'x 951, 956 (11th Cir. 2010) (emphasis in original) (quoting United Techs. Corp. v. Mazer, 556 F.3d 1260, 1274 (11th Cir. 2009)).

Under the relevant portion of the Georgia long-arm statute,

A court of this state may exercise personal jurisdiction over any nonresident... as to a cause of action arising from any of the acts ... enumerated in this Code section, in the same manner as if he or she were a resident ...

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