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Pochampally v. Booth

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 30, 2018

JANE C. ETTINGER BOOTH, et al., Defendants.


         Presently before the court is defendants Jane C. Ettinger Booth (“Booth”) and Booth & Booth, APLC's (“Booth & Booth”) motion to dismiss (ECF No. 10). Plaintiff Radhika Pochampally (“Pochampally”) filed a response (ECF No. 18), to which defendants replied (ECF No. 20).

         Also before the court is defendants' motion to change venue (ECF No. 12). Plaintiff filed a response (ECF No. 18), to which defendants replied (ECF No. 20).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff and Dr. Vijyaendra Jaligam (“Dr. Jaligam”) married in 1997 and separated in December of 2007. (ECF Nos. 1, 10). In May of 2008, Dr. Jaligam filed a “Petition for Divorce Pursuant to Code Article 102” in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana and thereafter obtained a divorce on July 18, 2008. (ECF No. 1. at 4, 5). Plaintiff and Dr. Jaligam were awarded joint custody of the children and plaintiff was awarded residential custody of the children. (ECF No. 1). A protracted custody battle ensued between the plaintiff and Dr. Jaligam that is the genesis of this dispute. (ECF No. 10).

         In June and July of 2008, plaintiff met with defendants to discuss legal representation in family law matters stemming from her divorce. (ECF No. 1). Booth is an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana and is a part owner of Booth & Booth, a Louisiana professional law corporation. (ECF Nos. 1, 10). In July of 2010, Dr. Jaligam retained defendants as counsel for all future custody disputes with plaintiff. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff subsequently alleged that defendants should be disqualified from the representation based on plaintiff's prior consultation with the defendants. (ECF Nos. 1, 10). After raising this allegation in a “Rule to Disqualify Attorney” filed by plaintiff's attorney, plaintiff's attorney dismissed the allegation on August 24, 2010. (ECF No. 10 at 3). Plaintiff raises this disqualification issue again in her complaint. (ECF No. 1 at 5, 12).

         On July 31, 2012, plaintiff sought and obtained permission from the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans to move from Louisiana to Jackson, Mississippi, with her children. (ECF Nos. 1, 10). The Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans retained jurisdiction over future custody matters. (ECF No. 10). Plaintiff alleges that shortly after she moved to Mississippi, defendants, as counsel for Dr. Jaligam, engaged in malicious prosecution through ex parte motions for visitation, modification of custody requests, and contempt motions. (ECF No. 1). Moreover, plaintiff asserts that she was forced to obtain legal representation and protective orders as a result of defendants' actions. Id.

         In late 2015, defendants brought a motion on behalf of Dr. Jaligam seeking emergency sole custody and suspension of physical custody of the children. (ECF No. 1, 10). A judgment, issued on January 12, 2016, suspended all contact between plaintiff and the children pending professional therapy for plaintiff's previously diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. Id. The Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed this judgment on December 7, 2016.[1] (ECF No. 10). The custody dispute is ongoing as plaintiff attempts to regain contact with her children. Id.

         Plaintiff contends that defendants attempted to prevent her from contacting her children by intentionally and maliciously defaming her in communications with court appointed evaluators and therapists. (ECF No. 1). Moreover, plaintiff alleges that defendants made false representations to the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans regarding plaintiff's non- compliance with her mandatory therapy requirements. Id. Plaintiff now sues defendants for several tort claims related to defendants' conduct between July of 2010 and October of 2017. (ECF No. 1).

         In support of establishing personal jurisdiction over the defendants, plaintiff contends that defendants contacted her through FedEx and electronic mail after she moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, in September of 2017. (ECF No. 18). Furthermore, plaintiff notes that defendants have retained a Nevada law firm as counsel in this matter. Id. However, plaintiff acknowledges that Booth maintains her primary residence in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Booth & Booth's principal place of business is in Louisiana. (ECF No. 1).

         Booth contends that this court lacks jurisdiction because she has never had a bank account in Nevada, she has visited the state once, and she has never had contact with Nevada in any capacity other than her interactions with the plaintiff. (ECF No. 10). Booth also asserts that her interactions with plaintiff were limited to serving pleadings related to the ongoing Louisiana custody dispute. Id. Additionally, defendants contend that Booth & Booth does not maintain an office or bank account in Nevada and that no attorneys from Booth & Booth have ever handled any cases in the state. Id.

         II. Legal Standard

         A court may dismiss a complaint for “lack of personal jurisdiction.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). Personal jurisdiction over a defendant is proper when jurisdiction is provided for by law and the exercise of jurisdiction comports with due process. Walden v. Fiore, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1121 (2014). “Federal courts ordinarily follow state law in determining the bounds of their jurisdiction over persons.” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 753 (2014). Nevada has authorized its courts to exercise jurisdiction over persons “on any basis not inconsistent with . . . the Constitution of the United States.” Nev. Rev. Stat. § 14.065.

         Due process requires the defendant have at least “minimum contacts” with the forum state so that “maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). “[T]he defendant's conduct and connection with the forum State [must be] such that he should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.” World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980).

         In analyzing whether a defendant has a sufficient connection with a forum state, courts distinguish between general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia S.A. v. Hall,466 U.S. 408, 414 n.8-9 (1984). General jurisdiction is appropriate where a defendant's activities in the forum state are so “substantial” or “continuous and systematic” that the defendant is essentially at home in the forum. Daimler, 134 S.Ct. at 754. ‚ÄúThis is an exacting standard, as it should be, because a finding of general jurisdiction permits a defendant to be haled into ...

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