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Dantes v. Greer

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

September 12, 2019

NICOLE DANTES
v.
J. BROOCKS GREER, III

          FOOTE, MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Mark L. Hornsby, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Introduction

         Nicole Dantes (“Plaintiff”) filed this civil action for legal malpractice against attorney J. Broocks Greer III, who represented her in an employment discrimination suit that was filed in this court. The federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's malpractice claim. For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that the complaint be dismissed without prejudice.

         Relevant Facts

         Plaintiff, represented by attorney Greer, filed a civil action in this court that asserted claims against Plaintiff's former employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII. Dantes v. American Electric Power, 15-cv-0528. The defendants in that case eventually filed a motion for summary judgment, as well as a Rule 37 motion based on Plaintiff's alleged failures to appear at her deposition and provide information requested in discovery. The motions were noticed for briefing, but Plaintiff did not file a response to either motion. Judge Hicks entered a reasoned decision that granted the motion for summary judgment, which was followed by the entry of a judgment that dismissed the case with prejudice.

         Several months later, Plaintiff filed a pro se letter in which she stated that she had recently learned through a Google search that her attorney did not oppose the motion for summary judgment and that the case had been dismissed. She made a request under Rule 60 that the case be reopened. Judge Hicks denied the request.

         Plaintiff, now self-represented, then filed this civil action against attorney Greer. The caption of her petition indicates that it was perhaps intended for filing in the state court in Caddo Parish, but Plaintiff filed it with this federal court by tendering it over the counter. The court's staff confirmed that the clerk's office suggested to Plaintiff at the time of filing that she may have intended to file the petition in state court, as indicated in the caption. Plaintiff nevertheless insisted on filing the petition in this court. The clerk then accepted the filing.

         The complaint describes the prior civil action and contends that attorney Greer did not consult with Plaintiff about his decision to not file any opposition to the motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff alleges that Greer's lack of consultation was a wrongful act that entitles her to recover damages from him. Plaintiff attached to her complaint a letter from the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board that states that, after initial screening, the Chief Disciplinary Counsel directed that a formal disciplinary investigation be opened.

         Jurisdictional Review

         Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis (“IFP”). The court is authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) to review IFP complaints and dismiss them if they are frivolous. The court also has a duty to examine the basis for subject matter jurisdiction. Torres v. Southern Peru Copper Corp., 113 F.3d 540, 542 (5th Cir. 1997). If subject matter jurisdiction over the complaint is lacking, dismissal is appropriate for that reason and pursuant to § 1915. Humphries v. Various Federal U.S. INS Employees, 164 F.3d 936, 941 (5th Cir. 1999).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a pleading that seeks relief contain “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction.” “Because federal courts have limited jurisdiction, parties must make ‘clear, distinct, and precise affirmative jurisdictional allegations' in their pleadings. MidCap Media Fin., L.L.C. v. Pathway Data, Inc., 929 F.3d 310, 313 (5th Cir. 2019), quoting Getty Oil Corp. v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., 841 F.2d 1254, 1259 (5th Cir. 1988). Plaintiff's complaint does not set forth any grounds on which she contends the federal court may exercise jurisdiction. The court will nonetheless review her factual allegations to determine whether there are any such grounds.

         Diversity Jurisdiction

         One basis for federal court jurisdiction that is often invoked in civil disputes is diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The statute applies only if all persons on one side of the controversy are citizens of different states than all persons on the other side. MidCap Media, 929 F.3d at 313. Plaintiff's complaint does not invoke diversity jurisdiction, and the facts provided do not support it. The pleadings in the current and former civil actions indicate that Plaintiff is a citizen of Louisiana. Plaintiff alleges that Greer practices in Louisiana, and he is known to this court to ...


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