United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE
the Court is the United States Magistrate Judge's Report
and Recommendation (Doc. 12) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1). The Magistrate Judge recommended granting
Defendant John Cucci's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10) and
dismissing Plaintiffs legal malpractice claim and application
to modify an arbitration award with prejudice. The Report and
Recommendation notified the parties that, under 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1), they had fourteen days from the date they
received the Report and Recommendation to file written
objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of
law, and recommendations therein. (Doc. 12). Plaintiff filed
a timely objection. (Doc. 13). For the following reasons, the
Court adopts the Report and Recommendation, in part.
suit arises from a dispute over legal fees. (Doc. 4).
Plaintiff alleges that he agreed to pay Defendant John Cucci
$30, 000 to defend him against a 2nd degree murder charge in
Caddo Parish, Louisiana, and he ultimately paid Defendant.
$36, 270. (Doc. 4 at ¶ 2). Plaintiff also alleges that
he hired Defendant to handle a separate Texas civil
forfeiture matter and agreed to pay one-third of the $8, 041
recovered (or $2, 680) to Defendant, but Defendant retained
the remaining $5, 361 for his own use. Id. at ¶
3. In total, Defendant received $44, 311 from Plaintiff.
Id. at ¶ 4). At some point, the parties entered
into arbitration under the auspices of the Louisiana State
Bar Association to resolve a fee dispute arising from
Defendant's legal representation. (R. Doc. 1-1). On
February 23, 2015, the Arbitrator concluded that
"[Defendant] should refund to [Plaintiff] the sum of
$10, 000.00, representing attorney's fees and expenses
excessively or improperly charged to [Plaintiff]." (Doc.
1-1 at 6). Plaintiff claims, however, that Defendant has
failed to pay the arbitration award. (Doc. 4 at ¶ 12).
filed suit on January 20, 2016, asking the Court to modify
the arbitrator's award and increase the award to $76,
071.00, or alternatively to confirm the arbitrator's
award of $ 10, 000 and enter judgment in favor of Plaintiff.
(Doc. 1, 4 at ¶ 18). Plaintiff also brought a legal
malpractice claim. The Magistrate Judge recommended granting
Defendant's motion to dismiss because Plaintiffs claim to
modify the arbitration award and his legal malpractice claim
are time-barred. (Doc. 12 at p. 8). In Plaintiffs objection
to the Report and Recommendation he, in fact, agrees that
these claims are time-barred. (Doc. 13).
only objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation is that it failed to discuss his requested
alternative relief-the confirmation of his $10, 000
arbitration award. (Doc. 13 at p. 3). As a result, Plaintiff
asks the Court to convert the arbitration award into an
enforceable judgment. Id.
does not object to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation
that his legal malpractice claim and application to modify
the arbitration award are untimely. (Doc. 13). The Court will
therefore dismiss these claims with prejudice. Plaintiff,
however, correctly notes that the Magistrate Judge did not
discuss whether Plaintiffs application to confirm the
arbitration award should be dismissed. (See Doc. 10). In his
Motion to Dismiss, Defendant argues that the Court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs petition to
confirm the arbitration award because the amount in
controversy is not met. (Doc. 10-2 at p. 2).
is well established that the FAA is not an independent grant
of federal jurisdiction." Smith v. Rush Retail
Ctrs., Inc., 360 F.3d 504, 505 (5th Cir. 2004). Rather,
the FAA authorizes a district court to consider
arbitration-related matters "if the court would have
jurisdiction, save for [the arbitration] agreement, over a
suit arising out of the controversy between the
parties." Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49,
52 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted) (alterations in
original). Plaintiff claims that diversity is an independent
basis of jurisdiction over this matter, and there is no
dispute that the parties are diverse. (Docs. 10, 13). The
sole issue then is whether the amount in controversy is
federal district court has jurisdiction to hear a civil
action "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). Where the plaintiff has claimed, as in this case,
"a sum certain that exceeds the requisite amount in
controversy, that amount controls if made in good
faith." Allen v. R & H Oil & Gas Co.,
63 F.3d 1326, 1335 (5th Cir. 1995). In such cases, "[t]o
justify dismissal, 'it must appear to a legal certainty
that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional
amount.'" St. Paul Reinsurance Co., 134
F.3d at 1253 (quoting St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red
Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 289 (1938)).
question then is whether Plaintiffs time-barred petition to
modify the arbitration award and legal malpractice claim can
contribute to the amount in controversy. The United States
Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has held that
"the jurisdiction of a federal court sitting in
diversity is determined as of the time of filing of the
complaint" and "[s]ubsequent events such as a bar
by a statute of limitations raised as a defense will not
serve to deprive the court of jurisdiction."
Seafoam, Inc. v. Barrier Sys., Inc., 830 F.2d 62, 66
(5th Cir. 1987); see also Johns-Manville Sales Corp. v.
Mitchell Enters., Inc., 417 F.2d 129, 131 (5th Cir.
1969). Therefore, Plaintiffs time-barred legal malpractice
claim and application to modify the arbitration award
contribute to the amount in controversy. Plaintiff seeks to
confirm the $10, 000 award, to increase the award by $34,
311.00, and seeks $31, 760.00 arising from his malpractice
claim, for a total amount in controversy of $76, 071.00. (Do.
4 at ¶ 14-16). This exceeds the amount in controversy
requirement for federal courts.
the Court has subject matter jurisdiction, the Court must now
determine whether to grant Plaintiffs petition to confirm the
arbitration award. A motion to confirm an arbitration award
is a summary proceeding. Im v. Chun, No. 08-CV-691,
2008 WL 4238784, at *1 (S.D. Tex. Sept. 11, 2008) (citing
Yusuf Ahmed Alghanim & Sons, W.L.L. v. Toys
"R" Us, Inc., 126 F.3d 15, 23 (2d Cir. 1997)).
No. trial or evidentiary proceeding is therefore necessary. A
district court's review of an arbitration award is
"extraordinarily narrow." Kergosien v. Ocean
Energy, Inc., 390 F.3d 346, 352 (5th Cir. 2004).
"If an [arbitration] award is rationally inferable from
the facts before the arbitrator, the award must be
affirmed." Id. at 353.
Defendant does not argue that the award is not rationally
inferable from the facts before the arbitrator. (See
Doc. 10). The only remaining issue is therefore whether
Plaintiff timely filed his petition to confirm the
arbitration award. Under 9 U.S.C. § 9, "at any time
within one year after the award is made any party to the
arbitration may apply to the court . . . for an order
confirming the award, and thereupon the court must grant such
an order unless the award is vacated, modified, or corrected
as prescribed in sections 10 and 11 of this title." 9
U.S.C. § 9. Plaintiff filed his motion to confirm the
arbitration award on January 20, 2016, within the one year
statutory period to file a motion to confirm the February 23,
2015, arbitration award. (See Doc. 1-1). Accordingly, the
Court confirms the $10, 000 arbitration award, and will issue
a judgment accordingly.
also requests interest on the $10, 000 arbitration award
"from the date the princip[al] amount was awarded."
(Doc. 4 at ¶ 15). But the arbitration award is silent
about whether Plaintiff is entitled to interest from the date
of the award. (Doc. 4-1). In effect, Plaintiff therefore
seeks to modify the arbitration award to include interest
from the date of the award. As the Magistrate Judge, however,
correctly concluded, Plaintiffs application to modify the
arbitration award was untimely because Plaintiff failed to
provide Defendant notice of a motion to modify the
arbitration award within three months of ...