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Montgomery v. Scialla

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 29, 2017

JEAN A. MONTGOMERY, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES SCIALLA, WILLIAM SIMPSON, SCIALLA ASSOCIATES, INC. and NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF POSTAL SUPERVISORS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Jean A. Montgomery, a former postal service supervisor, brings suit against Defendants Charles Scialla, William Simpson, Scialla Associates, Inc. (“Scialla Associates”), and the National Association of Postal Supervisors (“NAPS”) to redress Defendants' alleged violation of a contract (or contracts) to provide legal representation to Plaintiff in her appeal before the Merit Systems Protection Board (“MSPB”). Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim [57]. Because the Court has detected flaws in Plaintiff's pleading of jurisdictional facts, it denies Defendants' motion [57] without prejudice. Plaintiff shall have until September 27, 2017 to file a third amended complaint that contains sufficient jurisdictional allegations. Plaintiff is given leave to file a motion for jurisdictional discovery, if she believes that such a motion is necessary to enable her to file a third amended complaint correcting the errors identified herein.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Jean A. Montgomery was a long-term employee of the U.S. Postal Service, eventually reaching the rank of customer service manager at the Englewood neighborhood post office in Chicago, Illinois. See [47] at ¶ 4. On April 2, 2012, Plaintiff was served with a Notice of Proposed Removal from the Postal Service based on charges of Failure to Report an Accident and Failure to Perform Assigned Duties, and she was ultimately removed. Id. at ¶ 27. Plaintiff challenged her removal before the MSPB, and, by way of her membership in NAPS, Plaintiff was represented in a hearing before that body by William Simpson of Scialla Associates. Id. ¶¶ 6, 36. Plaintiff alleges that Charles Scialla, the president of Scialla Associates, also filed documents on her behalf in the MSPB proceeding. Id. ¶¶ 5, 51, 53. According to Plaintiff, neither Simpson nor Scialla is an attorney. Id. at ¶ 45. In February 2013, an administrative judge upheld Plaintiff's termination as lawful. Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff requested that the full MSPB review the administrative judge's decision; the MSPB upheld the decision in October 2013. See Montgomery v. Donahoe, 602 F. App'x 638, 640 (7th Cir. 2015). The MSPB's decision was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. See Montgomery v. U.S. Postal Serv., 566 F. App'x 968 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (per curiam), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 426 (2014), reh'g denied, 135 S.Ct. 777 (2014).[1]

         On December 2, 2015, Plaintiff brought suit against NAPS and Scialla Associates under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986 to redress Defendants' alleged denial of fair representation to Plaintiff at a January 16, 2013 hearing before the MSPB. [1]. NAPS and Scialla Associates eventually moved to dismiss [21], and the Court granted the motion on December 7, 2016. [46]. In doing so, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint with the following instructions:

Plaintiff shall have until January 9, 2017 to file an amended complaint for state-law breach of contract only, to the extent that Plaintiff can do so consistent with this opinion. In her amended complaint, Plaintiff must allege a basis for this Court to exercise diversity jurisdiction over Defendants, or the case will be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff should also identify: (a) the parties to each alleged contract; (b) whether the contract was oral or written; (c) when the contract was made; (d) the relevant terms of the contract; (e) how the contract was breached; and (f) how Plaintiff was damaged as a result of the breach.

         See [46] at 1-2. Plaintiff filed a “second amended complaint” by the deadline imposed by the Court [47], adding two new defendants in the process: Charles Scialla and William Simpson. In brief, the second amended complaint alleges that Defendants breached a contract (or contracts, the complaint is not clear) to provide Plaintiff with “legal representation” before the MSPB. Defendants again have moved to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff's second amended complaint fails to adequately allege a breach of contract by any Defendant. See [57], [59].

         II. Discussion

         The Court has already explained to Plaintiff that federal district courts are “courts of limited jurisdiction.” Healy v. Metro. Pier & Exposition Auth., 804 F.3d 836, 845 (7th Cir. 2015). They have original “federal question” jurisdiction over “all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. They also have “diversity” jurisdiction over all civil actions in which two requirements are met. First, there must be complete diversity of citizenship between all named plaintiffs and all named defendants. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Howell v. Tribune Entertainment Co., 106 F.3d 215, 217 (7th Cir. 1997) (complete diversity of citizenship means that “none of the parties on either side of the litigation may be a citizen of the state of which a party on the other side is a citizen”) (citing Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. (3 Cranch) 267, 2 L.Ed. 435 (1806)). The second requirement is that the matter in controversy must “exceed[] the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

         The Seventh Circuit requires “scrupulous adherence to the limitations on the subject-matter jurisdiction of the federal courts.” Meyerson v. Harrah's E. Chi. Casino, 299 F.3d 616, 617 (7th Cir. 2002) (per curiam). In other words, “jurisdiction is a threshold requirement that must be satisfied before a court can pass judgments on the merits.” Rawlins v. Select Specialty Hosp. of Nw. Indiana, Inc., 2014 WL 1647182, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 23, 2014) (citations omitted); see also Smith v. Am. Gen. Life & Accident Ins. Co., 337 F.3d 888, 892 (7th Cir. 2003) (the court has an independent obligation to satisfy itself that federal subject matter jurisdiction exits before proceeding to the merits even where the parties have not questioned the existence of jurisdiction). In a case filed in federal court, the plaintiff-as the proponent of federal subject matter jurisdiction-has the burden to prove its existence. See Meridian Sec. Ins. Co. v. Sadowski, 441 F.3d 536, 540 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp. of Ind, 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936)); Brill v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 427 F.3d 446, 447-48 (7th Cir. 2005).

         Plaintiffs second amended complaint relies on diversity of citizenship for federal jurisdiction. Regarding the parties to the action, the second amended complaint contains the following allegations:

. At all times herein mentioned, Plaintiff Jean Montgomery * * * was a resident of Cook County, Illinois, and was employed by the United States Postal Service in the State of Illinois for almost 45 years, and was last employed as the Manager of Customer Service at the Englewood Post Office when she was terminated.
. At all times herein mentioned, Defendant Charles Scialla * * * was a resident of Fairfield, New Jersey, and is the president of Defendant Scialla Associates, Inc.
. At all times herein mentioned, Defendant William Simpson * * * was a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is an employee of Defendant ...

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