United States District Court, D. Maine
ALEXYS GRACE O'SHEA DUNCAN, Individually and as a Beneficiary of the Will and Trusts of John J.C. O'Shea Jr., Plaintiff,
KATHLEEN M. O'SHEA, Individually and as Co-Executor of the Estate of Rita O'Shea, Co-Trustee of the Will and Trusts of John J.C. O'Shea Jr., et al., Defendants.
ORDER ON FIELD, MANNING, STONE, HAWTHORNE, &
AYCOCK, P.C.'S MOTION TO DISMISS
LEVY CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiff, Alexys Grace O'Shea Duncan
(“Alexys”), brings this action individually and
as a beneficiary of the will and trusts of John J.C.
O'Shea Jr., her grandfather, for alleged breaches of
fiduciary duties, fraud, and conversion, among other claims,
related to the management of the trusts' assets.
Defendant Field, Manning, Stone, Hawthorne, & Aycock,
P.C. (“Field Manning”), a Texas law firm, moves
to dismiss (ECF No. 21) for lack of personal jurisdiction
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). Alternatively, Field Manning
argues that the suit should be dismissed for improper venue
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3). For the reasons that follow, I
conclude that this Court does not have personal jurisdiction
over Field Manning and, therefore, dismiss Field Manning as a
following facts are taken from the Second Amended Complaint
and supplemental affidavits in the record. For purposes of
this motion, I take as true the facts asserted in the
complaint and any undisputed facts asserted by Field Manning.
J.C. O'Shea, Jr. (“John Jr.”) and his wife,
Rita O'Shea (“Rita”) had four children: John
J.C. O'Shea III (“John III”), Kelley A.
O'Shea (“Kelley”), Kathleen M. O'Shea
(“Kathleen”), and Brian C. O'Shea
(“Brian”). The Plaintiff, Alexys, is Kelley's
daughter and, therefore, John Jr. and Rita's
granddaughter. John Jr. passed away in 1996 and his will was
probated in Lubbock County, Texas. John Jr.'s will
created two trusts: the O'Shea Family Trust and the
O'Shea Marital Trust. Rita inherited half of John
Jr.'s community property under Texas probate law, and the
other half was apportioned between the two trusts. Rita was
the executor of John Jr.'s estate, the trustee of the two
trusts, and the primary beneficiary of the two trusts during
her lifetime. The claims asserted against Field Manning in
this suit arise out of Field Manning's representation of
John Jr.'s death, Rita and the Family Trust jointly owned
a vacation house in Kennebunkport (“the Maine
Property”). In 2009, Rita, individually and as trustee
of the Family Trust, conveyed the Maine Property to a Texas
limited liability company, Killybegs, LLC, in consideration
for a membership interest in the LLC. Field Manning
represented Rita in the creation of Killybegs, LLC, and
Rita's conveyance of the Maine Property. All of Field
Manning's legal services related to the creation of
Killybegs, LLC, and the transfer of the Maine Property were
performed in Texas. Thus, the documents prepared by Field
Manning related to the LLC and the deed of conveyance were
prepared in Texas, and Rita executed the deed in Texas. After
the property was transferred to Killybegs, LLC, Attorney
Carrissa Cleavinger of Field Manning mailed the deed and a
transfer tax form from Texas to the York County Registry of
Deeds in Maine for recording. Other than mailing the deed
from Texas to the Maine registry for recording, Field Manning
had no contact with Maine related to the work that the law
firm performed for Rita. None of Field Manning's
attorneys are licensed to practice law in Maine.
“It is axiomatic that, to hear a case, a court must
have personal jurisdiction over the parties, that is, the
power to require the parties to obey its decrees.”
Hannon v. Beard, 524 F.3d 275, 279 (1st Cir. 2008)
(internal quotation marks omitted). Where, as here, neither
party requests an evidentiary hearing, the District Court
uses the prima facie standard to evaluate whether it has
personal jurisdiction over a defendant. United States v.
Swiss Am. Bank, Ltd., 274 F.3d 610, 618 (1st Cir. 2001).
Under this standard, “the inquiry is whether the
plaintiff has proffered evidence which, if credited, is
sufficient to support findings of all facts essential to
personal jurisdiction.” Phillips v. Prairie Eye
Ctr., 530 F.3d 22, 26 (1st Cir. 2008). In conducting
this analysis, the Court “take[s] the facts from the
pleadings and whatever supplemental filings (such as
affidavits) are contained in the record, giving credence to
the plaintiff's version of genuinely contested facts.
[The Court] may, of course, take into account undisputed
facts put forth by the defendant.” Baskin-Robbins
Franchising LLC v. Alpenrose Dairy, Inc., 825 F.3d 28,
34 (1st Cir. 2016) (internal citation omitted). The burden
rests on the plaintiff to demonstrate that personal
jurisdiction exists. Plixer Int'l, Inc. v.
Scrutinizer GmbH, 905 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2018).
determining whether a non-resident defendant is subject to
its jurisdiction, a federal court exercising diversity
jurisdiction ‘is the functional equivalent of a state
court sitting in the forum state.'”
Baskin-Robbins, 825 F.3d at 34 (quoting Sawtelle
v. Farrell, 70 F.3d 1381, 1387 (1st Cir. 1995)). The
same is true in a federal question case. Id. at 34
n.2 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A)). “[W]ith one
exception the Rule 4(k) framework does not treat federal
question cases differently than cases where a federal court
adjudicates state-created rights based on diversity of
citizenship jurisdiction.” 4 Charles Alan Wright et
al., Federal Practice & Procedure § 1068.1
(4th ed. 2018). That one exception is set out in Rule
4(k)(2), which authorizes the exercise of personal
jurisdiction in federal question cases where a defendant
lacks sufficient minimum contacts with “any single
state” but has sufficient minimum contacts with the
United States as a whole to justify the application of
federal law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k) advisory committee's note
to 1993 amendment. That exception does not apply here because
Field Manning is subject to general personal jurisdiction in
Texas, where the law firm maintains its regular business.
establish personal jurisdiction, “a plaintiff must
satisfy both the forum state's long-arm statute and the
Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Knox v. MetalForming, Inc., 914 F.3d 685, 690 (1st
Cir. 2019) (quoting C.W. Downer & Co. v. Bioriginal
Food & Sci. Corp., 771 F.3d 59, 65 (1st Cir. 2014)).
Because Maine's long-arm statute is coextensive with the
Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, see 14
M.R.S.A. § 704-A(1) (Westlaw through 2017 2d Reg. Sess.
and 2d Spec. Sess. of 128th Leg.), the minimum contacts
doctrine controls. “Due process requires that 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.”
Scrutinizer, 905 F.3d at 7 (quoting Int'l
Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945))
(internal quotation marks omitted). “Consistent with
the demands of due process, a federal district court may
exercise either general or specific jurisdiction over a
defendant.” Baskin-Robbins, 825 F.3d at 35.
Alexys contends that both general and specific jurisdiction
exist here. ECF No. 25 at 9-13.
jurisdiction exists when the litigation is not directly
founded on the defendant's forum-based contacts[.]”
Swiss Am. Bank, 274 F.3d at 618 (quoting United
Elec., Radio & Mach. Workers of Am. v. 163 Pleasant St.
Corp., 960 F.2d 1080, 1088 (1st Cir. 1992)). “To
permit the exercise of general jurisdiction, the defendant
must engage in the continuous and systematic pursuit of
general business activities in the forum state.”
Cossaboon v. Maine Med. Ctr., 600 F.3d 25, 32 (1st
Cir. 2010). Here, Field Manning's contacts with Maine are
“manifestly insufficient” to subject the law firm
to general jurisdiction. 163 Pleasant St. Corp., 960
F.2d at 1088. None of Field Manning's attorneys
are licensed to practice law in Maine and the record contains
no facts demonstrating that Field Manning conducted any
activities in Maine outside of the limited contact related to
the transfer of the Maine Property, let alone activities that
are continuous and systematic. Cf. Cossaboon, 600
F.3d at 33-39 (holding that New Hampshire could not exercise
general jurisdiction over Maine hospital that
“engage[d] in some advertising of its services [in New
Hampshire], maintain[ed] an interactive website, had one New
Hampshire-based employee for a time . . . and treat[ed] some
New Hampshire residents.”).