The Volokh Conspiracy

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The Hunter Biden Laptop Repairman's Federal Libel Lawsuit Against Twitter Fizzles Quickly …

though the case can be refiled in state court.


From Judge Beth Bloom in Mac Isaac v. Twitter, Inc., decided Monday (but docketed Tuesday), dismissing a complaint filed Monday (for more on the case, see here):

This cause is before the Court upon a sua sponte review of the record. On December 28, 2020, Plaintiff filed a Complaint for Defamation asserting a single count for libel per se and seeking damages, including punitive damages equal to $500,000,000.00. According to the Complaint, Defendant made false statements that Plaintiff is a "hacker" in reference to materials obtained by the New York Post and shared on Twitter in an exposé concerning the contents of Hunter Biden's computer hard drive. For the reasons set forth below, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.

"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial decree." … "Indeed, it is well settled that a federal court is obligated to inquire into subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte whenever it may be lacking." "The jurisdiction of a court over the subject matter of a claim involves the court's competency to consider a given type of case and cannot be waived or otherwise conferred upon the court by the parties. Otherwise, a party could work a wrongful extension of federal jurisdiction and give courts power the Congress denied them." … Accordingly, "once a federal court determines that it is without subject matter jurisdiction, the court is powerless to continue."

The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff is a resident of Delaware and that Defendant is a Delaware corporation "with an office in Dade County, Florida." The sole basis for subject matter jurisdiction is diversity of citizenship. For a court to have diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), "all plaintiffs must be diverse from all defendants."

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c), "a corporation shall be deemed a citizen of every State … by which it has been incorporated and of the State or foreign state where it has its principal place of business[.]" Thus, accepting the Complaint's allegations as true, the Complaint fails to allege complete diversity. Therefore, the Court is without subject matter jurisdiction over the instant action.