The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Larry Alan Burns United States District Judge
ORDER ON MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE
Two motions are pending before the Court in this case: Defendants' motion to transfer venue to the Central District of Missouri and Defendants' motion to dismiss. The Court will consider the venue motion first, and the motion to dismiss if necessary.
Emad Tadros, a psychiatrist at Scripps Mercy Behavioral Health
Services in San Diego, was involved in a custody dispute in San Diego
Superior Court. Dr. Tadros hired Steven Doyne, a California-based
psychologist, to conduct a custody evaluation, presumably expecting
that Dr. Doyne's evaluation would serve Dr. Tadros' cause.*fn1
It turned out not to, and Dr. Tadros sued Dr. Doyne for being incompetent and falsifying his
credentials. The lawsuit was stricken on anti-SLAPP grounds, and Dr.
Tadros was ordered to reimburse Dr. Doyne for $80,000 in costs and
approximately $6,000 in attorney's fees. (See Dkt. No. 6-3, Ex. 2.)
Dr. Tadros paid up. (See FAC Ex. B.)
Dr. Doyne is a member of the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute, one of the Defendants in this case, and he lists this membership among his professional credentials. After Dr. Tadros' lawsuit against Dr. Doyne failed, he sued ACFEI in Los Angeles Superior Court, essentially for concealing its credentialing process and misleading him and the San Diego Superior Court as to Dr. Doyne's true qualifications. This lawsuit was, without a doubt, a collateral attack on the judgment entered against Dr. Tadros in his case against Dr. Doyne. Dr. Tadros voluntarily dismissed this case on September 13, 2011.*fn2
In October of 2011, ACFEI brought a defamation lawsuit against Dr. Tadros in state court in Missouri. Dr. Tadros removed the case to the Western District of Missouri, which then dismissed it for lack of personal jurisdiction over Dr. Tadros. (See Dkt. No. 18.) The court suggested that the Southern District of California, not the Western District of Missouri, would be the appropriate venue for ACFEI's defamation lawsuit, but really the court's decision had to do with its own lack of jurisdiction over Dr. Tadros. Presumably, that is why it dismissed the case without prejudice rather than transfer it here. This is an important point, because Dr. Tadros asks the Court to take judicial notice of the dismissal of ACFEI's lawsuit in the Western District of Missouri as grounds for denying ACFEI's motion to transfer thiscase to the Western District of Missouri. That argument has less force considering that the dismissal had more to do with jurisdiction than venue.
After receiving ACFEI's defamation lawsuit, Dr. Tadros again sued ACFEI, only now in federal court in San Diego rather than state court in Los Angeles. ACFEI argues that this lawsuit is essentially the same lawsuit that Dr. Tadros previously filed against ACFEI.
Indeed, in this case, Dr. Tadros accuses ACFEI of having substandard credentialing standards, of misrepresenting Dr. Doyne's actual qualifications, and of refusing Dr. Tadros' many requests for information relating to Dr. Doyne's credentialing.
While Defendants ask the Court to transfer this case to the Central District of Missouri, they also casually assert that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them. They look past this issue, however, simply because "the more efficient procedure is to transfer this action to the Central District of Missouri under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)." (Dkt. No. 6-1 at 6.) Defendants are right that if the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the Defendants, it can still transfer the case. See Fogarty v. USA Truck, Inc., 242 Fed.Appx. 152, 154 (5th Cir. 2007); Fort Knox Music Inc. v. Baptiste, 257 F.3d 108, 1011 (2d Cir. 2001). If Defendants are right, though, and Dr. Tadros "is a serial litigant, waging bizarre and multifaceted campaign against imagined enemies," it would seem too much of a favor to Dr. Tadros to help him prosecute this case elsewhere, rather than dismiss it for lack of jurisdiction and force him to re-file. (See Dkt. No. 6-1 at 3.) The Court therefore isn't inclined to look past its jurisdiction over Defendants and straight to the question of transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
A. Jurisdictional Standards
Personal jurisdiction over a defendant is proper if it complies with a state's long-arm statute and constitutional due process standards. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. Nat'l Bank of Cooperatives, 103 F.3d 888, 893 (9th Cir. 1996). California's long-arm statute is co-extensive with constitutional standards, however, so it is only the latter that matter here. See Boschetto v. Hansing, 539 F.3d 1011, 1015 (9th Cir. 2008). "For a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, that defendant must have at least 'minimum contacts' with the relevant forum such that the exercise of jurisdiction 'does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 801 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)).
Personal jurisdiction may be either specific or general. The Court will say ...