United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division
ORDER AND OPINION
E. Shadid, United States District Judge
before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in the
entirety for lack of jurisdiction or, in the alternative, to
dismiss certain requests for relief. Doc. 14. For the reasons
that follow, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in the
entirety is DENIED. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss certain
requests for relief is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
filed a second amended Complaint (addressing previous
jurisdictional defects) on March 21, 2019. Doc. 8. Defendants
filed a Motion to Dismiss on May 17, 2019. Doc. 14. Plaintiff
filed his Opposition to the Motion on June 21, 2019. Doc. 18.
retained Defendant Helen Ogar as his lawyer to represent him
in a custody dispute involving Plaintiff's minor son and
the other parent. Doc. 8, p. 2. After Plaintiff obtained
custody of the child, DCFS workers urged Plaintiff's
relocation for the child's safety. Id. at p. 3.
Over the course of a month, Plaintiff sent a series of emails
to Defendant Ogar asking if there were legal barriers to an
out-of-state move. Id., pp. 3-5. Defendant Ogar did
not reply in a substantive way until the day of
Plaintiff's departure. She wrote, “Well, there may
be some issues. We will have to deal with those as they
arise.” Id. at p. 5. Plaintiff moved to
Massachusetts and was subsequently arrested and jailed.
Id. Plaintiff allegedly suffered increased legal
fees, costs, lost income, lost custody of the child, and
other expenses in an amount exceeding $75, 000 as a result of
Defendants' alleged negligence. Id. at p. 6.
Further, Plaintiff allegedly suffered emotional distress and
loss of normal life damages in an amount exceeding $75, 000.
Id. Plaintiff is a citizen of Massachusetts.
Id., p. 1. Defendant Helen Ogar is a citizen of
Illinois. Id. Defendant Ogar & Miller is a law
firm partnership consisting of two partners, both of whom are
citizens of Illinois. Id. The citizenship of a
partnership is the citizenship of all of its partners.
Ind. Gas Co., Inc. v. Home Ins. Co., 141 F.3d 314,
316 (7th Cir. 1998).
the parties dispute whether the domestic relations exception
to federal diversity jurisdiction applies. Doc. 14, p. 3;
Doc. 18, p. 1. Second, the parties dispute whether Plaintiff
adequately pleaded a claim for custody loss arising from
legal malpractice. Doc. 14, p. 4; Doc. 18, p. 5. Third, the
parties dispute whether damages for emotional distress and
loss of normal life are available as a matter of law. Doc.
14, p. 4; Doc. 18, pp. 6-7.
where there is a substantive right enforceable in state
court, it is enforceable in federal court if the controversy
is between citizens of different states and involves an
amount in controversy equal or greater to $75, 000. 28 U.S.C.
survive a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss, a complaint must contain a short and plain statement
of the plaintiff's claim sufficient to plausibly
demonstrate entitlement to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2);
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57
(2007). At the dismissal stage, the court accepts all
well-pleaded facts as true, construes the complaint in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, and draws all
reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.
United States ex rel. Berkowitz v. Automation Aids,
Inc., 896 F.3d 834, 839 (7th Cir. 2018).
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in the Entirety for Lack of
domestic relations exception provides that divorce, alimony,
and child custody cases fall outside federal jurisdictional
bounds. Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 690
(1992). State courts are better suited to deciding domestic
relations cases because of greater familiarity with family
law adjudication and because of closer association with local
agencies that handle its enforcement. See Id. at
704. In addition to divorce, alimony, and custody cases, the
domestic relations exception includes a penumbra of ancillary
cases. Friedlander v. Friedlander, 149 F.3d 739, 740
(7th Cir. 1998). An ancillary case may be one that a state
court is required to litigate as an appendix to a core
domestic relations case, such as a suit for the collection of
unpaid alimony following a divorce. Id. The domestic
relations exception does not extend to independent civil
actions. See Lloyd v. Loeffler, 694 F.2d 489, 491
(7th Cir. 1982). This is true even if the independent civil
action is, in an abstract sense, a continuation of a custody
battle resolved in state court. See Id. at 491.
case does not fall within the core of the domestic relations
exception. The Plaintiff is not challenging the state court
order for custody of the minor child. Nor does this case fall
within the “penumbra” of the domestic relations
exception - Plaintiff is not requesting litigation as an
appendix to the custody case. He is suing his lawyer for
malpractice pursuant to lack of advice on whether or not he
could cross state lines with his child after the issuance of
the custody decree. This is an independent civil action.
Therefore, the Court finds that the domestic relations
exception does not apply and that this Court may exercise
diversity jurisdiction. At this preliminary stage, the Court
denies Defendants' request to dismiss the Complaint in
Motion to Dismiss ...