Johnson v. Jimenez, 21-60987-MC-RUIZ/STRAUSS

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Southern District of Florida
Writing for the CourtJared M. Strauss United States Magistrate Judge
Docket Number21-60987-MC-RUIZ/STRAUSS
Decision Date14 December 2021



No. 21-60987-MC-RUIZ/STRAUSS

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

December 14, 2021


Jared M. Strauss United States Magistrate Judge

THIS CAUSE is before me upon Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction or Alternatively for Dismissal Pursuant to 28 USC § 1367 (“Motion”). (DE 21). This case has been referred to me by the District Court for rulings on all pre-trial, non-dispositive matters and for issuance of a Report and Recommendation on any dispositive matters. (DE 30). I have reviewed the Motion, Plaintiffs' response (DE 25), and Defendant's reply (DE 33). Being otherwise duly advised, I respectfully RECOMMEND that the Motion (DE 21) be DENIED for the reasons stated herein.


Plaintiffs, who reside in Hartford, Connecticut, first commenced an action against Defendant, Ericka Lovato and Cingaro Freshworks, LLC on August 20, 2015 in the Circuit Court for Martin County. (DE 21-1). Cingaro was a company that Defendant, Lovato, and one of the Plaintiffs created with financial help from Plaintiffs. Id. at 2. In the state court complaint, Plaintiffs brought counts seeking judicial dissolution of Cingaro (Count I) and a judgment of fraud against Defendant and Lovato (Count II). Id. at 4-7. With respect to the fraud count, Plaintiffs


contended that Defendant and Lovato mis-utilized funds that Plaintiffs provided, upon Defendant and Lovato's requests, solely for Cingaro. Id. at 6. On August 29, 2017, two days before a hearing on Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, Defendant filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division. (DE 25-3 at 3). Thus, the Martin County matter was automatically stayed as to Defendant. (DE 25 at 1). The case proceeded against Lovato, and Plaintiffs obtained a final judgment against her. (DE 25-3 at 7).

On January 9, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a claim in Defendant's Bankruptcy proceedings. (DE 21-3 at 2). Several weeks later, on January 28, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a formal Complaint Objecting to Dischargeability of Debt (“Dischargeability Complaint”) pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 523; Plaintiffs alleged that the Bankruptcy Court had jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 157 and 1334(b). Id. Plaintiffs' Dischargeability Complaint sought a judgment denying dischargeability of Defendant's debt to them based on: false pretenses, false representations, and fraud (11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A)); embezzlement (11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(4)); and willful and malicious injury (11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6)). Id. at 7-9. On March 1, 2019, the Bankruptcy Court entered an order granting summary judgment for Plaintiffs on all claims in the total amount of $1, 119, 593.14. (DE 25-3). The Bankruptcy Court also entered a Final Summary Judgment memorializing this order. (DE 1 at 3). Defendant's appeal of the Bankruptcy Court's Final Summary Judgment was dismissed on May 24, 2019. Id. at 1).

On April 21, 2021, the Bankruptcy Court entered an order finding that it lacked jurisdiction to further enforce[1] the final judgment it entered in March 2019 because Defendant's Chapter 7


Bankruptcy case had been closed. (DE 25-4 at 13-14). However, the order also noted that Plaintiffs had “the right to pursue enforcement of their Final Summary Judgment in any other forum of appropriate jurisdiction.” See Id. On May 11, 2021, Plaintiffs registered their Bankruptcy Court judgment in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1963. (DE 1). In their civil cover sheet, Plaintiffs averred that the basis of jurisdiction was diversity of citizenship (as the Plaintiffs reside in Connecticut and the Defendant resides in Florida) and that the action sought $1, 119, 593.14 in damages. (DE 1-1). Defendant filed the instant Motion arguing that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claim. (DE 21).


“The jurisdiction of a court over the subject matter of a claim involves the court's competency to consider a given type of case.” Univ. of S. Alabama v. Am. Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 410 (11th Cir. 1999). “Federal courts exercise limited subject matter jurisdiction, empowered to hear only those cases within the judicial power of the United States as defined by Article III of the Constitution or otherwise authorized by Congress.” See Salvors, Inc. v. Unidentified Wrecked & Abandoned Vessel, 861 F.3d 1278, 1285 (11th Cir. 2017) (quoting Taylor v. Appleton, 30 F.3d 1365, 1367 (11th Cir. 1994)); see also PTA-FLA, Inc. v. ZTE USA, Inc., 844 F.3d 1299, 1304 (11th Cir. 2016) (same). “In a given case, a federal district court must have at least one of the three types of subject matter jurisdiction: (1) jurisdiction under a specific statutory grant; (2) federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331; or (3) diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).” Baltin v. Alaron Trading Corp., 128 F.3d 1466, 1469 (11th Cir. 1997). “[T]he party invoking the court's jurisdiction bears the burden of proving it exists.” Orchid Quay, LLC v. Suncor Bristol Bay, LLC, 178 F.Supp.3d 1300, 1302 (S.D. Fla. 2016).


Section 1963 of Title 28 of the United States Code (regarding “Registration of judgments for enforcement in other districts”) provides the following:

A judgment in an action for the recovery of money or property entered in any court of appeals, district court, bankruptcy court, or in the Court of International Trade may be registered by filing a certified copy of the judgment in any other district . . . when the judgment has become final by appeal or expiration of the time for appeal or when ordered by the court that entered the judgment for good cause shown . . . A judgment so registered shall have the same effect as a judgment of the district court of the district where registered and may be enforced in like manner.

28 U.S.C. § 1963 (emphases added). The purpose of this statute was to “simplify and facilitate the enforcement of federal judgments, at least those for money, to eliminate the necessity and expense of a second lawsuit, and to avoid the...

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