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MITCHELL v. SHIFFERMILLER

January 13, 2004.

George Mitchell, Plaintiff
v.
Joy Shiffermiller, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES HOLDERMAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On July 9, 2003, pro se plaintiff George Mitchell ("Mitchell") filed a one-count complaint against defendant Joy Shiffermiller ("Shiffermiller") alleging legal malpractice. On December 2, 2003, Shiffermiller moved, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), to dismiss Mitchell's complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. For the following reasons, Shiffermiller's motion to dismiss is granted.

BACKGROUND

  While living and working in Nebraska, Mitchell claimed that his employer, Union Pacific Railroad ("UPR"), discriminated against him. After filing a complaint with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission on January 7, 1997, Mitchell was discharged from his employment with UPR on January 15, 1997, and moved to Chicago, Illinois. On December 4, 1998, Mitchell, then Page 2 an Illinois resident, entered into a contingency fee agreement with Shiffermiller, a licensed Nebraska attorney.

  After Mitchell received a right to sue letter, on July 29, 1999, Shiffermiller, on behalf of Mitchell, filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against UPR in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska. During the course of the litigation, Shiffermiller mailed to Mitchell in Illinois copies of court papers related to his litigation against UPR. In addition, on at least eleven occasions, Shiffermiller e-mailed Mitchell in Illinois requesting or providing information. From January 29, 2001, to February 1, 2001, Mitchell's case against UPR was tried to a jury in Nebraska, and Mitchell lost.

  After the trial, Shiffermiller sought payment from Mitchell in Illinois for mediation and trial expenses, and Mitchell paid these expenses. Shiffermiller filed a post-trial motion for a new trial, which was denied. Mitchell requested that Shiffermiller file an appeal, but Shiffermiller declined, so Mitchell filed his own appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the trial court, and the United States Supreme Court denied Mitchell's petition for writ of certiorari,

  In this court, Mitchell alleges that Shiffermiller's quality of representation was below that of a lawyer with ordinary training and skill in the practice of law and that he was prejudiced by Shiffermiller's inadequate representation. Specifically, Mitchell claims that Shiffermiller did not: bring certain information to the trial court's attention, including that Shiffermiller did not have proper training and that the collective bargaining agreement required the employer to make certain disclosures (Compl. ¶ 2); take depositions or interrogatories of certain witnesses (Compl. ¶ 3); enter transcripts of disciplinary hearings into evidence at trial (Compl. ¶ 3); adequately prepare for trial Page 3 (Compl. ¶ 3); request the recording of the voir dire; examination (Compl. ¶ 4); present medical evidence to the jury (Compl. ¶ 5); include all possible theories of relief (Compl. ¶ 5); disclose that she sat on the same professional panel as the trial judge (Compl. ¶ 6); introduce necessary evidence at trial (Compl. ¶ 7); accurately assess or compute the amount of Mitchell's damages (Compl. ¶ 7); or present issues on appeal when requested by Mitchell (Compl. ¶ 8). In sum, all of Mitchell's allegations center on Shiffermiller pre-trial, trial, and post-trial conduct in Nebraska.

  ANALYSIS

  This court, sitting in Illinois, has personal jurisdiction over Shiffermiller in this diversity action only if an Illinois state court would have jurisdiction over her. RAR, Inc. v. Turner Diesel Ltd., 107 F.3d 1272, 1275 (7th Cir. 1997). Mitchell has the bur den of making a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction. Id. at 1276. In determining whether Mitchell has met this burden, this court must examine three distinct issues; (1) state statutory law, (2) state constitutional law, and (3) federal constitutional law. Id Mitchell must satisfy each of these, and if any one is lacking, this court does not have personal jurisdiction over Shiffermiller. As the Seventh Circuit has explained, however, "[b]ecause the Illinois [long arm] statute authorizes personal jurisdiction to the constitutional limits, the three inquiries . . . collapse into two constitutional inquiries-one state and one federal." Id. Each will be discussed below.

 I. Illinois Constitution

  As the Seventh Circuit has recognized, "Illinois courts have given little guidance as to how state due process protection differs from federal protection in the context of personal jurisdiction." Id The Illinois Supreme Court has held that "[j]urisdiction is to be asserted only when it is fair, just, and reasonable to require a nonresident defendant to defend an action in Illinois, considering the Page 4 quality and nature of the defendant's acts which occur in Illinois or which affect interests located in Illinois." Rollins v. Ellwood. 141 Ill.2d 244, 275, 565 N.E.2d 1302; 1316 (1990),

  Mitchell, in his response to Shiffermiller's motion to dismiss, does not address this state constitutional limitation on personal jurisdiction. Much of the discussion below, with respect to the United States Constitution, applies here. It seems to this court to be unfair, unjust, and unreasonable to require Shiffermiller, a Nebraska attorney, to defend a legal malpractice action in this court when all of the alleged acts of malpractice took place, in Nebraska, while none occurred in Illinois, and Shiffermiller had a few isolated, ancillary communications with Mitchell in Illinois. However, because personal jurisdiction jurisprudence under the Illinois Constitution has not been greatly developed, this court will also address the federal constitutional considerations.

 II. United States Constitution

  Most clearly, Mitchell fails to make a prima facie showing that this court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over Shiffermiller would not violate the United States Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. Under the due process clause, a defendant must have "certain minimum contacts with [the forum state] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend `traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice,'" International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)). In specific jurisdiction cases like the one at hand,*fn1 where this suit must arise out of or relate to Shiffermiller's contacts with Illinois, this court must determine whether the defendant has "`purposefully established minimum contacts within [Illinois]'" and "whether, by traditional standards, those contacts would make personal jurisdiction reasonable and fair under the ...


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