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Wascher v. State of Wisconsin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

December 13, 2018



          Michael J. McShane, United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Ricky Wascher and Patricia Wascher bring this action for RICO conspiracy, racketeering, fraud, breach of contract, conversion, libel, extortion, and blackmail against the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, the Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission, and various individual defendants. Defendants move to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Because Plaintiffs fail to allege that Defendants have sufficient contacts with the State of Oregon to support general or specific jurisdiction, the motion is GRANTED and the case is DISMISSED with prejudice.


         Plaintiffs are Oregon residents who allege that Defendants engaged in racketeering by communicating with Plaintiffs regarding a review of their 2013 Wisconsin tax filing. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants impermissibly and maliciously expanded the scope of Plaintiffs' tax review when Plaintiffs refused to provide additional information regarding the 2013 filing.

         The Wisconsin Department of Revenue and the Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission are Wisconsin state agencies. Both agencies make determinations on various tax issues for the State of Wisconsin. They are not located in Oregon and do not conduct business in Oregon.

         Plaintiffs allege thirty-two counts in their complaint related to Defendants' alleged conspiracy to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity and predicate acts. Plaintiffs request two million dollars in compensatory damages and additional punitive damages.


         Defendants move to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiffs submit no response on the merits of the personal jurisdiction argument; instead arguing that the Fourteenth Amendment provides this Court with federal question jurisdiction over their claims anywhere in the United States. Whether a district court has federal question jurisdiction over a particular action, however, is a different question than whether a district court has personal jurisdiction over the particular defendants named in the action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A) authorizes personal jurisdiction in federal court only as far as it would be authorized in state court. By failing to respond to Defendants' personal jurisdiction arguments, Plaintiffs implicitly concede that personal jurisdiction is not proper in this case. See adidas-Am., Inc. v. Payless Shoesource, Inc., 546 F.Supp.2d 1029, 1076 (D. Or. 2008); S. Nevada Shell Dealers Ass'n v. Shell Oil Co., 725 F.Supp. 1104, 1109 (D. Nev. 1989). As such, Defendants' motion is granted and the case is dismissed. Despite the Plaintiff's failure to address the issue, it is clear, based on the allegations in the complaint, that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendants.[1] Because Plaintiffs proceed pro se, the basis for finding that the court lacks personal jurisdiction is discussed below.

         Where, as here, there is no applicable federal statute governing personal jurisdiction, a district court must apply the law of the state in which it sits. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(1)(A); Panvasion Int'l, L.P. v. Toeppen, 141 F.3d 1316, 1320 (9th Cir. 1998). Oregon law authorizes personal jurisdiction to the full extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. See Or. R. Civ. P. 4L. To comport with the requirements of due process, a court may only exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant if that defendant has sufficient “minimum contacts” with the forum state, such that the exercise of personal jurisdiction would not “offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (citations and quotation marks omitted). A defendant's minimum contacts may be established through a showing of either general or specific jurisdiction. Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 801 (9th Cir. 2004). Plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing either basis for personal jurisdiction, addressed in turn.

         I. General Personal Jurisdiction

         A defendant is subject to general jurisdiction if its contacts with the forum state are “so continuous and systemic as to render it essentially at home” there. Daimler v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 127 (2014) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

         Here, there is no evidence that Defendants have sufficient contacts to support general jurisdiction in Oregon. Defendants are Wisconsin State tax agencies that have no regular contacts with Oregon. To the extent that they interact with residents outside of Wisconsin, it is only to collect taxes owed to Wisconsin or resolve disputes thereof. Such contacts do not “approximate physical presence in the forum state.” Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 801 (citation omitted). It would therefore be inconsistent with due process for the Court to exercise general jurisdiction over Defendants.

         II. Specific Personal Jurisdiction

         In the Ninth Circuit, courts apply a three-part test to determine whether the exercise of specific jurisdiction over a ...

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