The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Just filed today; it's short, because it doesn't have to be long:
On April 2, 2021, Plaintiff Marc Rotenberg filed his original Complaint in this action. The initial pleading named four defendants: POLITICO LLC ("Politico"), Protocol Media, LLC ("Protocol"), Politico's and Protocol's Publisher Robert Allbritton, and Protocol's Executive Editor Tim Grieve. Plaintiff asserted claims for defamation (Counts I and II), false light invasion of privacy (Count III), public disclosure of private facts (Count IV), and unjust enrichment (Count V), and he argued that "[t]his Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, as the parties to this matter at [sic] citizens of different states, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000."
On April 29, 2021, this Court issued a Minute Order, sua sponte, stating that "the venue, jurisdiction and parties sections of the Complaint do not set forth the facts necessary to establish that this court has jurisdiction pursuant to 29 U.S.C. Section 1332." The Court noted, in particular, that "Plaintiff has not alleged the states where the individual defendants are citizens. Additionally, Defendant has not alleged where Politico LLC has its principal place of business, nor where Protocol Media, LLC is incorporated or has its principal place of business." The Court directed Plaintiff to "file an Amended Complaint that contains the facts necessary for this court to establish jurisdiction" by May 5, 2021.
On May 5, 2021, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed Mr. Allbritton and Mr. Grieve from this action. That same day, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint against Politico and Protocol, including the same five claims as in the original Complaint and asserting again that "[t]his Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, as the parties to this matter at [sic] citizens of different states, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000." …
The Amended Complaint invokes federal diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), which provides that "[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between . . . [c]itizens of different States." While Plaintiff seeks sufficient damages to satisfy the amount-in- controversy requirement, he fails to establish complete diversity among the parties to this case.
"For purposes of diversity jurisdiction, a person is a 'citizen of the State' in which he is domiciled." Core VCT Plc v. Hensley (D.D.C. 2014) (citing Prakash v. Am. Univ. (D.C. Cir. 1984)). Here, Plaintiff alleges that he "is a resident of Washington, DC," and it is well-settled that "residency is indicative of domicile," even though "it is not determinative."
A limited liability company, however, has the citizenship of all of its members. See, e.g., Carden v. Arkoma Assocs. (1990); CostCommand, LLC v. WH Administrators, Inc. (D.C. Cir. 2016) ("Unincorporated associations, including LLCs, have the citizenship of each of their members."). Here, as set out in the attached First Declaration of Chao Liu, Politico is a limited liability company, and its members—now and at the time the Amended Complaint was filed—are citizens of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Texas, and Virginia. Likewise, as set out in the attached Second Declaration of Chao Liu, Protocol is a limited liability company, and its members are citizens of those same five jurisdictions.
For diversity jurisdiction purposes, therefore, Plaintiff is presumably a citizen of the District of Columbia, and Politico and Protocol are citizens of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Texas, and Virginia. Because Plaintiff and Defendants are each citizens of the District of Columbia, complete diversity does not exist among the parties. See, e.g., CostCommand, LLC ("For diversity jurisdiction to exist, no plaintiff may share state citizenship with any defendant."). As a result, pursuant to the Federal Rules this Court "must dismiss" this action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction….
This is indeed what I expected, and I can't see how the plaintiff can get around this, though I look forward to seeing his response.