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Liberi v. Taitz

June 3, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.



On May 4, 2009, Plaintiffs Lisa Liberi ("Liberi"), Philip J. Berg, Esq. ("Berg"), the Law Offices of Philip J. Berg, Evelyn Adams a/k/a Momma E ("Adams"), Lisa Ostella ("Ostella"), and Go Excel Global (collectively, "Plaintiffs") initiated this defamation, libel and slander action against Defendants Orly Taitz ("Taitz"), Defend our Freedoms Foundations, Inc. ("DOFF"), Neil Sankey, The Sankey Firm and Sankey Investigations, Inc. (collectively, "Sankey"), Edgar Hale, Caren Hale, Plains Radio, KPRN AM 1610, Bar H. Farms, Plains Radio Network (collectively, "the Hales"), and Linda Sue Belcher (collectively, "Defendants").*fn1

Plaintiffs allege that, though at one time the parties worked together on a movement to prove that President Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen, Defendants allegedly published personal and defamatory information in a "quest to destroy" Plaintiffs.

Jurisdiction for this action is predicated upon diversity of citizenship. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The citizenship of all parties is as follows. For Plaintiffs: Berg and Liberi are Pennsylvania citizens, Adams is an Oklahoma citizen, and Ostella and Go Global are citizens of New Jersey. For Defendants: Taitz, DOFF, and Sankey are citizens of California, Sundquist and Rock Salt Publishing are citizens of New Jersey, and Belcher and the Hales are citizens of Texas.*fn2

Here, Sankey, Hale, and Belcher have moved to dismiss the case or, in the alternative, requested a transfer of venue, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a), to the Western District of Texas. Defendant Taitz moved to dismiss based on lack of diversity jurisdiction, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), and the insufficiency of Plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs filed responses thereto, opposing each of Defendants' motions to dismiss. This Court denied all motions to dismiss without prejudice and subsequently, in order to focus the issues, issued a rule to show cause as to why the action should not be severed and the claims transferred to the home jurisdiction of each Defendant. The parties have submitted multiple responses and replies thereto.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), it is proper for a district court to issue an Order to Show Cause as to why an action should not be transferred. See, e.g., Minkoff v. Chubb Corp., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29137 (D.N.J. Apr. 6, 2009). Here, the Court directed Plaintiffs to show cause as to why their complaint should not be dismissed on any one of the following three grounds. First, why this case should not be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Second, why this case should not be severed into three (3) or fewer cases against the following groups or Defendants: (i) the Hales; (ii) Belcher; (iii) Taitz, DOFF, and Sankey. Third, why this case should not be transferred to an appropriate district in either Texas or California, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).*fn3

The matter is now ripe for disposition.


First, the Court has subject matter and personal jurisdiction over Defendants. A federal district court may exercise diversity jurisdiction, under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, where all parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy sought exceeds $75,000. At the time of the filing of the complaint, Plaintiffs Ostella and Go Global and Defendants Sundquist and Rock Salt Publishing were citizens of New Jersey; however, because their presence in the litigation would destroy diversity, the New Jersey defendants were voluntarily dismissed from the case by Plaintiffs. Therefore, all remaining parties are diverse and there is no issue as to the amount in controversy. Further, Plaintiffs had made out a prima facie case for personal jurisdiction over each Defendant as the allegedly defamatory statements at issue were directed towards Plaintiffs in Pennsylvania and could be covered under the Pennsylvania long arm statute. 42 Pa. C.S. § 5322(b) (providing that the Pennsylvania long arm statute is coextensive with the due process clause); Time Share Vacation Club v. Atl. Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 63 (3d Cir. 1984); Giusto v. Ashland Chem. Co., 994 F. Supp. 587, 592 (E.D. Pa. 1998) ("Moreover, defamation and libel may be unique in that the act can be done in one place, but the effects may foreseeably be felt in some distant location.").

Second, pursuant to § 1404(a) and in consideration of "the convenience of parties and witnesses, [and] in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Section 1404(a) provides that "where a case could have been brought against some defendants in the transferee district, the claims against those defendants may be severed and transferred while the claims against the remaining defendants, for whom transfer would not be proper, are retained." D'Jamoos v. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., 566 F.3d 94, 110 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing White v. ABCO Eng'g Corp., 199 F.3d 140, 144 (3d Cir. 1999)).*fn4

Likewise, the Court may transfer all the severed claims to different districts, provided each of the claims being transferred satisfies § 1404(a). Id.

Pursuant to § 1404(a), "[o]nce a court determines that venue would be proper in another district, the court must consider 'all relevant factors to determine whether on balance the litigation would more conveniently proceed and the interests of justice be better served by transfer to a different forum.'" Sentry Select Ins. Co. v. LBL Skysytems, Inc., 486 F. Supp. 2d 496, 505 (E.D. Pa. 2007) (quoting Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995)). In considering a motion for transfer under § 1404(a), the court should consider both private and public interests. Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879-80.

In this case, severance and transfer are warranted. First, the Court, in its Order to Show Cause, apprised "all relevant parties . . . that the court is considering a transfer" so opposition could be filed. Id. at 144. Therefore, each party to the litigation was ...

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