Valizadeh v. Doe et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 54 MOTION for Reconsideration re 52 Order on Motion to Dismiss/Lack of Jurisdiction, 53 Judgment; MOTION to Dismiss With Prejudice; MOTION for Sanctions. Signed by Honorable Mary Geiger Lewis on 5/23/20017. (cbru, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
JANE DOE a/k/a “Susan” and
JOHN AND JANE DOES 2-10,
all whose true names are unknown,
Civil Action No. 3:16-03098-MGL
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING NONPARTY SUBPOENA
RECIPIENT JANE GARI’S MOTION TO RECONSIDER NON-PREJUDICIAL EFFECT OF
DISMISSAL, TO DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE, AND TO IMPOSE SANCTIONS
This is a defamation case in which Plaintiff alleges Jane S. Gari (Gari), a nonparty to this
action, posted a story (the Story) on her website wrongfully accusing Plaintiff of raping Defendant
Jane Doe a/k/a “Susan” (Susan). Plaintiff’s Complaint (Complaint) alleges the Court has subject
matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Pending before the Court is Gari’s Motion to
Reconsider Non-Prejudicial Effect of Dismissal, to Dismiss with Prejudice, and to Impose
Sanctions (Gari’s Motion to Reconsider).
In Gari’s Motion to Reconsider, she requests the Court reconsider and vacate its March 24,
2017, Order (Order) granting Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss without Prejudice (Motion to Dismiss)
and its corresponding judgment of the same date (Judgment) dismissing this action without
prejudice, and enter a new order holding Plaintiff has voluntarily dismissed this case under Federal
Civil Procedure Rule 41 as well as a corresponding judgment of dismissal with prejudice. Gari
also asks the Court sanction Plaintiff and his attorneys pursuant to its inherent authority to impose
sanctions for bad faith conduct. Having carefully considered the Motion, Gari’s supporting
memorandum, the response, the reply, the record, and the applicable law, it is the judgment of the
Court Gari’s Motion to Reconsider will be denied.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This case arises out of Gari’s posting of the Story on her website. Plaintiff maintains the
accusation he raped Susan is false. Plaintiff’s Complaint asserts claims against Susan and John
and Jane Does 2-10 for defamation and false light in connection with the Story. ECF No. 1.
Plaintiff chose not to name Gari as a defendant. See id.
Plaintiff originally filed this action in South Dakota, but he voluntarily dismissed it.
Plaintiff filed his Complaint with this Court on September 13, 2016. Id.
On September 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed an Ex Parte Motion for Leave to Take Early
Discovery (Motion for Early Discovery) in which he sought permission to serve subpoenas on
certain individuals, including Gari, who Plaintiff believed had information that would allow him
to identify the Doe Defendants. ECF No. 5. The Court issued an ex parte order granting the
Motion for Early Discovery on October 26, 2016 (Order Granting Early Discovery), ECF No. 9,
and Gari subsequently served a subpoena on Gari.
For reasons irrelevant to Gari’s Motion to Reconsider, the Court ultimately unsealed the
Motion for Early Discovery, unsealed and vacated the Order Granting Early Discovery, and
granted Gari permission to file a response to Plaintiff’s Motion for Early Discovery. ECF No. 24.
The parties then filed numerous briefs and reports relating to the Motion for Early Discovery. ECF
Nos. 28, 29, 30, 33, 34, 35, 37, 38. In such filings, Gari questioned whether the Court has subject
matter jurisdiction over this action and sought permission to depose and serve interrogatories upon
Plaintiff for the purpose of investigating subject matter jurisdiction; Plaintiff opposed Gari’s
requests for discovery.
On January 30, 2017, the Court entered an Order granting Gari permission to depose
Plaintiff and propound fifteen interrogatories upon him regarding matters relevant to subject matter
jurisdiction. ECF No. 39. The Order further stated the Court would hold Plaintiff’s Motion for
Early Discovery in abeyance pending the Court’s determination of whether it has subject matter
Plaintiff filed his Motion to Dismiss without Prejudice on March 23, 2017. ECF No. 51.
In Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss, he requested the Court dismiss the case without prejudice for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(h)(3). In the alternative, Plaintiff requested the Court
dismiss the action for failure to serve the defendants as required by Rule 4(m). That same day,
Plaintiff also filed a status report informing the Court he had failed to serve the defendants and
stating he “stipulates to administrative dismissal of this action, without prejudice, for failure to
serve as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m).” ECF No. 50. On March 24, 2017, the Court issued the
Order granting Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, ECF No. 52,
and the Judgment dismissing this action without prejudice, ECF No. 53.
Gari filed her Motion to Reconsider on March 24, 2017, shortly after entry of the Court’s
Order and Judgment. ECF No. 54. Pursuant to the Court’s permission, ECF No. 55, Gari filed a
memorandum in support of her Motion to Reconsider on March 31, 2017. ECF No. 56. Plaintiff
filed a response in opposition on April 5, 2017, ECF No. 57, to which Gari replied on April 10,
2017, ECF No. 58. The Court, having been fully briefed on the relevant issues, is now prepared
to discuss the merits of Plaintiff’s Motion.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
There are only three limited bases for a district court to grant a Rule 59(e) motion to alter
or amend judgment: “(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account
for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest
injustice.” Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1081 (4th Cir. 1993). A Rule 59(e) motion “may
not be used to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been
raised prior to the entry of judgment.” Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471, 486 n.5 (2008)
(internal quotation marks omitted). Further, “mere disagreement [with a district court’s ruling]
does not support a Rule 59(e) motion.”
Hutchinson, 994 F.2d at 1082.
reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy which should be used
sparingly.” Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat’l Fire Ins. Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
“[D]istrict courts have the inherent power to sanction parties for certain bad faith conduct.”
Strag v. Bd. of Trs., Craven Cmty. Coll., 55 F.3d 943, 955 (4th Cir. 1995). A court’s inherent
power to sanction “must be exercised with the greatest restraint and caution, and then only to the
extent necessary.” United States v. Shaffer Equip. Co., 11 F.3d 450, 461 (4th Cir. 1993) (citations
omitted). A district court’s decision of whether to impose sanctions under its inherent power is
within its discretion. Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 55 (1991) (citations omitted).
CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES
Gari urges the Court to reconsider and vacate the Order granting Plaintiff’s Motion to
Dismiss and the Judgment dismissing the case without prejudice. Gari argues the Court should
construe its dismissal of this case as a voluntary dismissal under Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(i) because it
was taken upon Plaintiff’s initiative and at Plaintiff’s request. Gari asserts because Plaintiff
previously filed this action in South Dakota and voluntarily dismissed it, Plaintiff’s voluntary
dismissal in this action is with prejudice under Rule 41. Gari requests the Court enter a new order
dismissing this matter with prejudice under Rule 41 or, in the alternative, deny Plaintiff’s Motion
to Dismiss and require Plaintiff to submit to a deposition and to fully answer Gari’s interrogatories.
In support of her position, Gari avers Plaintiff’s statement in his Motion to Dismiss he is
unable to provide evidence he has incurred $75,000 in actual damages fails to require the Court to
dismiss this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Gari argues the Court is not obligated to
grant Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss and dismiss the case without prejudice because doing so
enables Plaintiff to engage in forum shopping. Gari further asseverates dismissal for failure to
serve under Rule 4(m) is unwarranted because Defendants are residents of Europe, and Rule 4(m)
is inapplicable to service outside of the United States. Additionally, Gari alleges Plaintiff has
pursued this action in bad faith, and she asks the Court to impose sanctions upon Plaintiff and his
attorneys pursuant to its inherent authority to sanction parties for bad faith conduct.
Plaintiff refutes Gari’s contentions and opposes her Motion for Reconsideration.
DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
Because Gari’s Motion challenges the wisdom of the Court’s Order and Judgment and was
filed less than ten days after the entry of such, the Court construes Gari’s Motion as a Rule 59(e)
motion. 1 See MLC Auto., LLC v. Town of S. Pines, 532 F.3d 269, 277 (4th Cir. 2008) (“[I]f a postjudgment motion is filed within ten days of the entry of judgment and calls into question the
correctness of that judgment it should be treated as a motion under Rule 59(e), however it may be
formally styled.” (quoting Dove v. CODESCO, 569 F.2d 807, 809 (4th Cir. 1978))). In support of
Gari’s Motion, she has offered no analysis of a change in controlling law or new evidence
previously unavailable. Rather, she appears to be relying on the third basis for granting a Rule
59(e) motion—“to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” Hutchinson, 994
F.2d at 1081.
The Court remains convinced it properly granted Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss and
dismissed this case without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. “Federal courts are
courts of limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377
(1994). “It is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of
establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction.” Id. (internal citations
omitted); see also Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999) (“It is elementary that the
burden is on the party asserting jurisdiction to demonstrate that jurisdiction does, in fact, exist.”).
“If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss
the action.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3). Moreover, a dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
is generally without prejudice. S. Walk at Broadlands Homeowner’s Ass’n, Inc. v. OpenBand at
Broadlands, LLC, 713 F.3d 175, 185 (4th Cir. 2013). Contra Roland v. United States Citizenship
Although Gari is not a party to this action, she has standing to bring her Motion to Reconsider
because she has an interest in this litigation, and she participated extensively in the proceedings.
See Doe v. Pub. Citizen, 749 F.3d 246, 259 (4th Cir. 2014) (“We have recognized an exception to
the general rule that permits a nonparty to appeal a district court’s order or judgment when the
appellant (1) possessed ‘an interest in the cause litigated’ before the district court and (2)
‘participated in the proceedings actively enough to make him privy to the record.’” (quoting Kenny
v. Quigg, 820 F.2d 665, 668 (4th Cir. 1987))).
& Immigration Servs., 850 F.3d 625, 628 (4th Cir. 2017) (affirming the district court’s dismissal
with prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in an instance in which a “statutory provision
eliminates judicial review of discretionary decisions made by” an immigration agency).
In Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss, he states he is “compelled to inform the court that it lacks
subject matter jurisdiction.” ECF No. 51 at 2. He further asserts because he “has now determined
that he cannot continue to claim subject matter jurisdiction, he must bring this to the Court’s
attention.” Id. Thus, Plaintiff makes it clear in his Motion to Dismiss he is no longer claiming
there is subject matter jurisdiction in this case, and he seeks dismissal as a result. See id. Although
Gari insists Plaintiff’s concessions in his Motion to Dismiss regarding subject matter jurisdiction
fail to require the Court to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, see ECF No. 56 at 2-4,
Gari neglects to argue the Court has subject matter jurisdiction. In fact, Gari has challenged and
questioned the existence of subject matter jurisdiction throughout this litigation. See ECF Nos. 10
at 8-12, 28 at 7-10, 48 at 5-7. Thus, neither Plaintiff nor Gari is asserting there is subject matter
jurisdiction, and, consequently, neither has demonstrated the existence of subject matter
The Court declines to hold it has subject matter jurisdiction over this action when no party
involved in this case is asserting it, and Gari has asserted non-frivolous challenges to its existence.
Because the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction remains unsatisfied, the Court is of the
opinion it properly granted Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss and dismissed this case without prejudice
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
The Court notes Plaintiff misconstrued the Court’s rulings in his filings. In Plaintiff’s
Motion to Dismiss and his response to Gari’s Motion to Reconsider, he implies the Court held he
is unable to satisfy the amount in controversy requirement for federal diversity subject matter
jurisdiction through nominal and punitive damages alone. See ECF Nos. 51 at 1-2, 57 at 2. The
Court has made no ruling in this case regarding the issue of whether the amount in controversy
requirement can be satisfied solely by nominal and punitive damages. Nevertheless, the Court
declines to investigate the reasoning behind Plaintiff’s concession he is no longer claiming there
is subject matter jurisdiction; the fact remains no party involved in this litigation is claiming the
Court has subject matter jurisdiction.
In light of the fact no party is asserting there is subject matter jurisdiction, Gari has failed
to show the Court’s disposition of this matter constitutes a clear error of law or manifest injustice,
and the Court is convinced granting Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss and dismissing the case without
prejudice was the proper course. Accordingly, the Court will deny Gari’s Motion to Reconsider.
The Court will also deny Gari’s request to impose sanctions on Plaintiff and his attorneys.
Although the procedural history of this case is unusual, the Court is unable to say with certainty
Plaintiff or his attorneys have pursued this action in bad faith, and the Court therefore declines to
take the extraordinary step of imposing sanctions on Plaintiff or his attorneys.
Because the above holdings are dispositive of Gari’s Motion to Reconsider, the Court
abstains from considering Gari’s and Plaintiff’s remaining arguments. Karsten v. Kaiser Found.
Health Plan of Mid-Atl. States, Inc., 36 F.3d 8, 11 (4th Cir. 1994) (“If the first reason given is
independently sufficient, then all those that follow are surplusage; thus, the strength of the first
makes all the rest dicta.”).
Wherefore, based on the foregoing discussion and analysis, it is the judgment of the Court
Gari’s Motion for Reconsideration is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Signed this 23rd day of May 2017 in Columbia, South Carolina.
s/Mary Geiger Lewis______________
MARY GEIGER LEWIS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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