Uberoi v. Labargo
ORDER: Defendant the Honorable Jorge Labarga Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 11 ) is GRANTED to the extent that the Court transfers this action to the United States District Court for the Northern Dist rict of Florida, Tallahassee Division. The Clerk is directed to transfer this case to the Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee Division. Thereafter, the instant case shall be closed. Signed by Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington on 10/11/2016. (KAK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
BARBARA U. UBEROI,
Case No: 8:16-cv-1821-T-33JSS
JORGE LABARGA, solely in his
capacity as the Chief Justice
of the Florida Supreme Court,
This matter comes before the Court pursuant to Defendant
the Honorable Jorge Labarga Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme
Court’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 11), which was filed on July
Pro se Plaintiff Barbara Uberoi filed a Response in
Opposition to the Motion on August 9, 2016. (Doc. # 13).
the reasons that follow, the Court grants the Motion to the
extent that the Court transfers this action to the United States
District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee
Uberoi received the degree of Juris Doctor on May 16, 1998,
from Stetson University, College of Law. (Doc. # 1-1 at 2).
executed a Florida Bar application on October 13, 2010, and
successfully completed all parts of the Florida Bar Examination.
However, during the character and fitness investigation
conducted by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, serious issues
emerged. (Id.). After formal and informal hearings, the Florida
Board of Bar Examiners issued Findings of Fact, Conclusions of
Law, and a Recommendation on February 6, 2013. (Doc. # 1-1).
That document described Uberoi’s failure to pay her creditors,
failure to pay student loans, failure to file federal tax
returns, failure to pay state and federal tax obligations, and
bankruptcy proceedings. (Id. at 3-4).
The Florida Board of Bar
financial resources to make scheduled payments under a confirmed
bankruptcy plan, but simply refused to do so. (Id. at 4).
The Florida Board of Bar Examiner’s report also explained
that Uberoi gave false answers in her Florida Bar Application.
(Id. at 5). Furthermore, the report stated that Uberoi has
mental health issues, including multiple hospitalizations and
suicide attempts associated with “major depressive disorder,"
which may impair her ability to practice law in a competent or
professional manner. (Id. at 5-6).
Despite Uberoi’s difficulties described above, the Florida
Board of Bar Examiners recommended that Uberoi be conditionally
admitted to the Florida Bar. (Id. at 14).
Uberoi and the
Florida Board of Bar Examiners entered into a Consent Agreement
on February 8, 2013. (Doc. # 1-2).
In the Consent Agreement,
Uberoi agreed to nine conditions “in the event the Supreme Court
of Florida should grant a probationary admission to the Florida
Bar.” (Id. at 1).
However, on October 10, 2013, the Florida Supreme Court
issued a decision rejecting the Consent Agreement and denying
Uberoi admission into the Florida Bar, specifying:
[T]his Court disapproves the Board’s recommendation
for conditional admission.
attempted to provide explanations for some of her
misconduct, the Bar must not become a haven for those
who have clearly violated the law repeatedly and, in
addition and further aggravation, provided information
that is totally false, misleading, and lacking in
candor. Applicant’s refusal to repay her financial
obligations, willful refusal to comply with state and
federal law, and failure to provide full and complete
candor in her application for admission call into
serious question her judgment and ability to serve as
an officer of our courts. Furthermore, we have held on
multiple occasions that the failure to timely file or
pay income taxes, in particular, merits disbarment or
a denial of re-admission to the Bar, and we will not
provide an exception here.
(Doc. # 1-3 at 2).
Nonetheless, the Florida Supreme Court granted Uberoi the
opportunity to re-apply in three years (or October 10, 2016).
(Id. at 3).
At this juncture, Uberoi has filed an action
against Justice Labargo, solely in his capacity as the Chief
Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. (Doc. # 1). Uberoi alleges
that the Florida Supreme Court’s rules of admission to the
Florida Bar violate the due process rights of applicants, such
as Uberoi, who have been denied admission after entering into
Justice Labarga filed a Motion to Dismiss asserting that
the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, that the complaint
fails to state a cause of action, and that venue is improper.
(Doc. # 11).
Uberoi has responded. (Doc. # 13).
Venue in cases arising under federal law is governed by 28
U.S.C. § 1391(b), which states in part:
A civil action may be brought in -- (1) a judicial
district in which any defendant resides, if all
defendants are residents of the State in which the
district is located; [or] (2) a judicial district in
which a substantial part of the events or omissions
giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial
part of property that is the subject of the action is
In addition, 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) provides, “The district
court of a district in which is filed a case laying venue in the
wrong division or district shall dismiss, or if it be in the
interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or
division in which it could have been brought.”
Uberoi’s Complaint specifies that she sues Justice Labarga
“solely” in his capacity as the Chief Justice of the Florida
Supreme Court. “Public officials reside in the county in which
they serve for purposes of venue in a suit challenging official
acts.” Bandjan v. Cameron Cty., No. 412-059, 2012 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 25741, at *2 n.1 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 28, 2012).
The seat of
government in Florida is Tallahassee, which is in the Northen
District of Florida. Fla. Const. Art. II, § 2.
This is where
the offices of the Florida Supreme Court shall be maintained.
Although Uberoi mentions that she took her bar examination
in Tampa, Florida, and participated in a hearing with the
Florida Board of Bar Examiners in Jacksonville, Florida, this
Court is not convinced that the Tampa Division of the Middle
District of Florida is the appropriate venue for this action.
As pointed out by Justice Labarga, the act Uberoi complains of,
the denial of her admission to the Florida Bar, was accomplished
by a written decision of the Florida Supreme Court sitting in
Tallahassee. The prospective relief that Uberoi seeks, a formal
hearing regarding bar admission, if granted, would take place in
Tallahassee, as well.
The Court determines that the Northern
District of Florida, Tallahassee Division, is the proper venue
for this action.
This Court finds that the interests of justice will be
served by a transfer of this case from the Middle District of
Florida, Tampa Division, to the Northern District of Florida,
Accordingly, it is now
ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that:
Defendant the Honorable Jorge Labarga Chief Justice of the
Florida Supreme Court’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 11) is
GRANTED to the extent that the Court transfers this action
District of Florida, Tallahassee Division.
The Clerk is directed to transfer this case to the Northern
District of Florida, Tallahassee Division. Thereafter, the
instant case shall be closed.
DONE and ORDERED in Chambers in Tampa, Florida, this 11th
day of October, 2016.
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