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Macey & Aleman, Thomas G. Macey, Individually, and Jeffrey J. Aleman, Individually v. Carlene M. Simmons

February 15, 2012

MACEY & ALEMAN, THOMAS G. MACEY, INDIVIDUALLY, AND JEFFREY J. ALEMAN, INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CARLENE M. SIMMONS, AND ELIZABETH C. KAMPER, AND DAVIS MILES PLLC, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman Chief Judge, United States District Court

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER JAMES F. HOLDERMAN, Chief Judge:

Attorneys Thomas G. Macey and Jeffrey J. Aleman, and their law firm Macey & Aleman (collectively, "Macey & Aleman"), filed suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County against attorneys Carlene M. Simmons and Elizabeth C. Kamper for alleged conduct related to the termination of Simmons's and Kamper's employment with the Macey & Aleman law firm. The case was removed to this court. Simmons and Kamper initially filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) (Dkt. No. 11), which the court denied on April 14, 2011 (Dkt. No. 17).

On November 10, 2011, Macey & Aleman filed their First (Corrected) Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 56 ("Am. Compl.")) which added claims against Davis Miles PLLC ("Davis Miles"), the law firm that hired Simmons and Kamper after they left Macey & Aleman. Davis Miles now moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). (Dkt. No. 61.) For the following reasons, Davis Miles's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

Macey & Aleman is an Illinois partnership with its principal place of business in Chicago, Illinois, and law offices in twenty different states. (Dkt. No. 56 ¶ 5.) Macey & Aleman is managed by four partners from its Chicago office, including Thomas G. Macey, the Owner and Managing Partner, and Jeffrey J. Aleman, a Senior Partner. (Id. ¶ 6.) The firm primarily handles bankruptcy cases for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 debtors but also handles Fair Debt Collection Practice Act cases and provides assistance for various types of injury claims. (Id. ¶ 5.)

Simmons and Kamper are Arizona citizens who are licensed to practice law in the State of Arizona. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 9.) Prior to July 2010, Simmons, Kamper, and paralegal Sue Lyons were employed at Macey & Aleman's Phoenix office. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 9.) On July 2, 2010, however, Simmons and Kamper each sent Macey & Aleman's four partners an e-mail resigning from the Macey & Aleman firm. (Id. ¶ 14.) Lyons sent a similar e-mail on July 3. (Id. ¶ 15.) The e-mails from Simmons, Kamper, and Lyons each offered to provide assistance to Macey & Aleman's clients for the next two weeks, if requested. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 18.)

Simmons, Kamper, and Lyons did not show up for work after the July 4 holiday, with the exception of a few hours that Simmons spent at the office on July 6 and 7. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 24.) On July 6, Simmons explained to Deborah Stencel, Macey & Aleman's Attorney Manager, that Kamper and Lyons were not coming into work anymore because they were both working for Macey & Aleman's competitor, Davis Miles. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 26.) Simmons also said "I'm supposed to be there right now." (Id. ¶ 26.) Stencel then asked Simmons why Simmons, Kamper, and Lyons had not given notice, and Simmons replied that it was because they had not ironed out a deal with Davis Miles until July 2. (Id. ¶ 27.) Stencel also asked why the e-mails were written to imply that they were giving two weeks notice, when they were in fact not giving any notice at all. (Id. ¶ 28.) Simmons replied that Davis Miles had told them what to write. (Id.) Subsequently, Macey & Aleman discovered that Simmons and Kamper took various property, including copies of confidential client files, with them from Macey & Aleman to Davis Miles. (Id. ¶¶ 30-33.)

Beginning July 12, almost all of the approximately 1,000 active clients of Macey & Aleman's Phoenix office began receiving letters from Davis Miles asking them if they wanted to retain Simmons and Kamper as their lawyers at Davis Miles. (Id. ¶¶ 34, 35.) The letter exhorted clients that "you must call Macey & Aleman immediately, requesting that they do nothing to jeopardize your case." (Id. ¶ 35.)Some clients were contacted additional times by Davis Miles. (Id. ¶ 36.) Simmons and Kamper also solicited some clients from Macey & Aleman's Tuscon office. (Id. ¶ 38.)

As a result, within 30 days, over 220 Macey & Aleman clients had signed up to follow Simmons and Kamper to Davis Miles. (Id. ¶ 54.) The defendants continue to contact other clients to encourage them to switch to Davis Miles. (Id. ¶ 55.)

Macey & Aleman's First Amended Complaint brings three counts against Davis Miles, alleging that it is liable for conversion, tortious interference with a business expectancy, and defamation. Pending before the court is Davis Miles's motion to dismiss, in which it contends that the claims against it should be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction.

LEGAL STANDARD

The plaintiff "bears the burden of making a prima facie showing of the existence of personal jurisdiction." Citadel Group Ltd. v. Wash. Reg'l Med. Ctr., 536 F.3d 757, 760 (7th Cir. 2008). "A federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction has personal jurisdiction only where a court of the state in which it sits would have such jurisdiction." Philos Techs., Inc. v. Philos & D, Inc., 645 F.3d 851, 855 n.2 (7th Cir. 2011). To determine if personal jurisdiction exists, courts must "consider the Illinois long-arm statute, the Illinois constitution, and the federal constitution." Citadel Group, 536 F.3d at 760. Illinois's long-arm statute provides that courts may exercise jurisdiction "on any . . . basis now or hereafter permitted by the Illinois Constitution and the Constitution of the United States," 735 ILCS 5/2--209(c), so the inquiry under the statute collapses into the constitutional inquiries. Citadel Group, 536 F.3d at 761. Moreover, neither federal courts nor Illinois courts have identified a case that has found jurisdiction under the federal constitution without also finding jurisdiction under the Illinois constitution. See id.. Therefore, the court need only proceed with the federal constitutional analysis. Id.

The federal constitutional analysis requires that: the defendant must have minimum contacts with the forum state such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Those contacts may not be fortuitous. Instead, the defendant must have purposefully established minimum contacts within the forum State before personal jurisdiction will be found to be reasonable and fair. Crucial to the minimum contacts analysis is a showing that the defendant should reasonably anticipate being haled into court in the forum State, because the defendant has purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities there.

Kinslow v. Pullara, 538 F.3d 687, 691 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Hyatt Int'l Corp. v. Coco, 302 F.3d 707, 716 (7th Cir. 2002)). If a defendant's contacts with the forum are not numerous enough to justify the exercise of general jurisdiction in all cases, "a state may exercise specific jurisdiction when the defendant has a lesser degree of contact with the state, but the litigation arises out of or is related to those contacts." Logan Prods., Inc. v. Optibase, Inc., 103 F.3d 49, 52 (7th Cir. 1996). Specific jurisdiction requires that "(1) the defendant has purposefully directed his activities at the forum state or purposefully availed himself of the privilege of conducting business in that state, and (2) the alleged ...


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