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Williams v. Steed

United States District Court, D. Oregon

December 4, 2014

JASON STEED, Defendant.


ANN AIKEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC), filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the ODOC, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Department and various medical personnel working for these entities violated his constitutional rights by failing to provide him with adequate medical care. Request for Judicial Notice ["RJN"] (#17) Exhibit 1. In January 2012, in 3:10-cv-00730-SI, Williams v. Oregon Department of Corrections et al, Judge Michael H. Simon granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on all issues. See, Defendant's Second Request for Judicial Notice (#29) Exhibit 1.

Plaintiff appealed Judge Simon's ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Ninth Circuit appointed Jason Steed to serve as plaintiff's pro bono counsel. Complaint (#1) 14-5. Mr. Steed is licensed to practice law in Texas and his office is located in Texas. RJN (#17) Exhibits 3-4. Mr. Steed filed a 64-page opening brief and a 33-page Reply Brief regarding plaintiff's appeal. He also traveled to Oregon and presented oral argument on plaintiff's behalf. Before oral argument, plaintiff sent the Ninth Circuit a letter seeking to add additional evidence to the record. The Ninth Circuit refused plaintiff's request, and affirmed Judge Simon's summary judgment decision. Id. Mr. Steed then filed a 21-page petition for panel re-hearing for Mr. Williams. Id. Exhibit 5. The Ninth Circuit summarily dismissed the petition. RJN (#17), Exhibit 2.

Plaintiff then filed this action alleging that Mr. Steed failed to provide proper representation during the appeal by not presenting certain arguments and evidence that plaintiff wanted him to present, and by failing to maintain adequate communication with plaintiff. Complaint (#1). Plaintiff alleges defendant's alleged failure constituted "professional misconduct" and seeks $360, 000 in damages and a declaration that Mr. Steed violated his constitutional rights. Id.

Defendant now moves to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the ground that this court lack personal jurisdiction over defendant. Defendant also argues that plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim as a matter of law.

As a preliminary matter, to the extent that plaintiff seeks to allege a constitutional claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, his claim fails as a matter of law because Mr. Steed is not a state actor. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 317-18 (1981); Miranda v. Clarke County, Nevada, 319 F.3d 1156, 1161 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc).

A state may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant if there exists "minimum contacts" between the defendant and the forum state. World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. V. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1988). A defendant's contacts with the forum state must be such that maintenance of the suit there does not "offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice" and the relationship between the defendant and the forum must be such that it is "reasonable * * * to require the (defendant) to defend a particular lawsuit which is brought there." World-Wide Volkswagen, supra, at 292. A defendant is subject to suit where it "purposefully avail itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum state." Id. at 297. See also, Burger King Corp. V. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462 (1985). Jurisdiction under Oregon's long-arm statute is appropriate if within the bounds of federal due process. Walden v. Fiore, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 1115 (2014). Because Oregon's long-arm statute is coextensive with due process, ORCP 4(L), the court needs only to consider the due process analysis.

Due process permits the exercise of general jurisdiction over a defendant who has "substantial" or "continuous and systematic" contacts with the forum state. Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 787, 800 (9th Cir. 2004); Fields v. Sedgwick Associated Risks, Ltd., 796 F.2d 299, 301 (9th Cir. 1986), citing Helicoptoros Nacionales de Colombia v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 (1984); Gray & Co. V. Firstenberg Machinery Co., Inc., 913 F.2d 758, 760 (9th Cir. 1990); Cross v. Kloster Cruise Lines, Ltd., 879 F.Supp. 1304, 1310 (D. Or 1995).

If a non-resident's activities in a forum state are substantial and systematic, the court may assert general jurisdiction over the claim, even if the claim is unrelated to the defendant's forum activities. Hirsh v. Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Kansas City, 800 F.2d 1474, 1477 (9th Cir. 1986). If the defendant's contacts are neither substantial nor continuous and systematic, the court may determine whether "specific" or "limited" jurisdiction exists. Farmers Ins. Ex. V. Portage at LaPrairie Mutual Ins. Co., 907 F.2d 911, 913 (9th Cir. 1990) (citing, International Shoe Co. V. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945).

The Ninth Circuit has adopted a three-pronged test to determine whether a court may exercise specific jurisdiction over a defendant:

(1) The non-resident defendant must purposefully direct his activities or consummate some transaction within the forum or with a resident thereof; or perform some act by which he purposefully avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum, thereby invoking the benefits and protections of its laws;
(2) the claim must be one which arises out of or relates to the defendants forum related activities;
(3) the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with fair play and substantial justice, i.e. it must be reasonable.

Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 802. The plaintiff must establish the first two prongs of the test. Id. If both prongs are established, the burden shifts to the defendant to show that exercising ...

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