Katayama v. Horita

Decision Date20 February 2019
Docket NumberCase No. 2:17-cv-03063-MMD-PAL
PartiesDAVID KATAYAMA, Plaintiff, v. KUNIHIKO HORITA, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Nevada

REPORT OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

This matter is before the court on Plaintiff David Katayama's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 1). This proceeding is referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and LR IB 1-3 and LR IB 1-4 of the Local Rules of Practice.

I. IN FORMA PAUPERIS APPLICATION

Mr. Katayama is proceeding in this action pro se, which means he is not represented by an attorney. See LSR 2-1. He has requested authority pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"), meaning without prepaying the filing fees, and submitted a proposed Complaint (ECF No. 1-1). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) and the Judicial Conference Schedule of Fees, a $400 filing fee is required to commence a civil action in a federal district court. The court may authorize a person to commence an action without prepaying fees and costs if the person submits an IFP application on the court's form, which includes an affidavit stating that he or she is unable to pay the initial fees. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1); LSR 1-1. However, the court must apply "even-handed care" to ensure that "federal funds are not squandered to underwrite, at public expense, either frivolous claims" or the colorable claims of a plaintiff "who is financially able, in whole or in material part, to pull his own oar." Temple v. Ellerthorpe, 586 F. Supp. 848, 850 (D.R.I. 1984) (collecting cases); see also Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992) (recognizing Congress' concern that "a litigant whose filing fees and court costs are assumed by the public, unlike a paying litigant, lacks an economic incentive to refrain from filing frivolous, malicious, or repetitive lawsuits") (citation omitted).

Having reviewed his complaint, the court will recommend denial of Katayama's IFP application because the court lacks personal jurisdiction or venue over his claims. A "district court may deny leave to proceed in forma pauperis at the outset if it appears from the face of the proposed complaint that the action is frivolous or without merit." Minetti v. Port of Seattle, 152 F.3d 1113, 1115 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Tripati v. First Nat'l Bank & Trust, 821 F.2d 1368, 1370 (9th Cir. 1987)). Consistent with this principle, a district court may properly deny an IFP application where the movant has not carried his burden of establishing standing and jurisdiction. See Minetti, 152 F.3d at 1115.

II. SCREENING THE PROPOSED COMPLAINT

Federal courts must screen any IFP complaint or amended complaint before allowing the case to move forward, issuing summons, and requiring an answer or responsive pleading. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (§ 1915(e) applies to "all in forma pauperis complaints"). If an IFP complaint states a plausible claim for relief, the court will direct Clerk's Office to issue summons to the defendant(s) and instruct the plaintiff to serve the summons and complaint within 90 days of the screening order authorizing service of process. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m). If the court finds that the complaint fails to state an actionable claim, the complaint is dismissed and the plaintiff is ordinarily given leave to amend with directions as to curing the pleading deficiencies, unless it is clear from the face of the complaint that the deficiencies cannot be cured by amendment. Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995). Allegations in a pro se complaint are held to less stringent standards than formal pleading drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, pro se litigants "should not be treated more favorably than parties with attorneys of record," Jacobsen v. Filler, 790 F.2d 1362, 1364 (9th Cir. 1986); rather, they must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants. Ghazali v. Moran, 46 F.3d 52, 54 (9th Cir. 1995).

A. Mr. Katayama's Factual Allegations and Claims for Relief

The proposed Complaint (ECF No. 1-1) alleges that Mr. Katayama is a resident of Nevadaand defendants are each individuals or business entities residing or located in Yokohama, Japan. Katayama names as defendants (i) Hills Acclaim Mitsu-Ike Kouen, a condominium located in Japan ("Condo"); (ii) Nice Community Management Corporation, a foreign property management company that manages the Condo and conducts business in Japan ("Management Company"); (iii) Kunihiko Horita, a former president of the Condo's board of managers; and (iv) Tadashi Hara, the current president of the Condo's board of managers. Compl. at 2, ¶¶ 2-5. Katayama claims this court has subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship. Id. ¶ 7. Venue is allegedly proper in Nevada

under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(2) because "an entity with capacity to sue ...... , if plaintiff, only in judicial district in which it maintains its principal place of business.", and under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 (c)(3), "a defendant not resident in the U.S. may be sued in any judicial district."

Id. ¶ 8. He is a resident of Nevada and "Defendant individuals are not resident in the U.S., and Defendant corporation operates business outside of the U.S." Id.

Mr. Katayama claims defendants published defamatory, "unprecedented and extraordinary statements" in a letter to a third-party on or about December 18, 2015 meeting. Id. at 3, ¶ 10. Katayama further alleges that defendants published the defamatory letter days after the Condo's attorney received a complaint about a defective fire-escape ladder in Katayama's unit. Id. ¶ 13. The Complaint identifies causes of action for (1) injurious falsehood/libel, (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (3) reckless endangerment, and (4) injunctive relief. Id. at 3-5. Katayama seeks an award of monetary and punitive damages as well as interest, costs and fees, and injunctive relief to enjoin defendants from continuing to publish and/or slander him with false and defamatory statements. Id. at 5.

B. Legal Standard

A properly pled complaint must provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" as well as the grounds for the court's jurisdiction and a demand for relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). The plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction is appropriate. Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004).

Federal courts are required to dismiss an IFP action if the complaint fails to state a claimupon which relief may be granted, is legally "frivolous or malicious," or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). In determining whether a complaint is frivolous and therefore warrants complete or partial dismissal, a court is not bound "to accept without question the truth of the plaintiff's allegations." Denton, 504 U.S. at 32. Allegations are frivolous when they are "clearly baseless" or lack an arguable basis in law and fact. Id.; Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolous claims include those based on legal conclusions that are untenable, as well as claims based on fanciful factual allegations. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28; McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991).

C. Analysis

For the reasons explained below, the court finds that the proposed Complaint fails to establish the court has personal jurisdiction over the defendants or that the District of Nevada is the proper venue for plaintiff's claims. The court therefore recommends dismissal.

1. Jurisdictional Defects

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005). A court is "presumed to lack jurisdiction in a particular case unless the contrary affirmatively appears." Stock West, Inc. v. Confederated Tribes of Colville Reservation, 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir. 1989). "A federal district court is obligated to ensure it has jurisdiction over an action, and once it determines it lacks jurisdiction, it has no further power to act." Guerra v. Hertz Corp., 504 F. Supp. 2d 1014, 1017-18 (D. Nev. 2007) (citing Steel Co. v. Citizens for Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998) ("Without jurisdiction the court cannot proceed at all in any cause. Jurisdiction is power to declare the law, and when it ceases to exist, the only function remaining to the court is that of announcing the fact and dismissing the cause.").

A court's jurisdiction to resolve a case on its merits requires a showing of both subject matter and personal jurisdiction. Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 577 (1999).1 Personal jurisdiction gives a court jurisdiction over the person(s) or entity(ies) against whom thecase is brought. Personal jurisdiction is based on principles of individual liberty and it represents a restriction on judicial power. Ins. Corp. of Ireland v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982). "The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment constrains a State's authority to bind a nonresident defendant to a judgment of its courts." Walden v. Fiore, 134 S. Ct. 1115, 1121 (2014) (citing World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291 (1980)). "Due process requires that to exercise jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant, the defendant 'have certain minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice'." Washington Shoe Co. v. A-Z Sporting Goods Inc., 704 F.3d 668, 672 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)).

There are two types of personal jurisdiction: general and specific. General or "all purpose" jurisdiction "permits a court to assert jurisdiction over a defendant based on a forum connection unrelated to the underlying suit (e.g., domicile)." Walden...

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