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SHAKOUR v. THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY

May 2, 2002

JOHN D. SHAKOUR, KORNELISKE SHAKOUR, ROBERT A. SHAKOUR, MARINA S. HABER-SHAKOUR AND RICHARD K. SHAKOUR, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY AND THE ESTATE OF JOHN D. HOLLINGSWORTH, DECEDENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur D. Spatt, United States District Court Judge.

    MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER
This action arises out of a claim by pro se plaintiffs John D. Shakour ("J. Shakour"), Korneliske Shakour ("K. Shakour"), Robert A. Shakour ("R.A. Shakour"), Marina S. Haber-Shakour ("Haber-Shakour") and Richard K. Shakour ("R.K. Shakour") (collectively, the "plaintiffs") against the defendants the Federal Republic of Germany ("Germany") and the Estate of John D. Hollingsworth (the "Hollingsworth Estate"). The plaintiffs allege that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to deprive them of rights to certain property in Germany. Presently before the Court is a motion by the Hollingsworth Estate to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Rules 8(a), 12(b)(2), 12(b)(3) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
I. BACKGROUND
The following facts are taken from the amended complaint. At the outset, the Court notes that the amended complaint is largely unintelligible and it contains a number of unexplained exhibits, many written in German.
The plaintiffs allege that one Margarethe Otto ("M. Otto") conveyed her estate, involving three factories in the former East Germany, namely one in Leisnig, Germany and two in Mittweida, Germany, to J. Shakour in her will of July 6, 1980. The factories produced unspecified products in the carding industry. Carding involves the process in which machines clean and straighten wool or cotton in preparation for the spinning and weaving of material into clothing or fabric.
The plaintiffs further allege that in 1948, prior to the disposition set forth above, the German Democratic Republic (the "GDR") had expropriated the three factories at issue in this case. The GDR then renamed the factories and operated them until the downfall of the GDR in 1990. The plaintiffs also allege that the GDR purchased an additional factory in Neustadt (Orla), Germany on March 4, 1949 which expanded its operation in the carding industry.
The plaintiffs next allege that since 1990, they have attempted unsuccessfully to obtain restitution for or the return of the factories allegedly conveyed to J. Shakour from various German courts and administrative agencies. The plaintiffs also claim that they retained attorneys in Germany who advised them that they are not entitled to the factories allegedly conveyed to J. Shakour on the ground that the GDR expropriated the property in 1948.
II. DISCUSSION
In addressing the present motion, the Court is mindful that the plaintiffs are proceeding pro se and that their submissions should be held "`to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. . . .'" Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9, 101 S.Ct. 173, 176 (1980) (per curiam) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 595 (1972)); see also Ferran v. Town of Nassau, 11 F.3d 21, 22 (2d Cir. 1993). The Court recognizes that it must make reasonable allowances so that pro se plaintiffs do not forfeit rights by virtue of their lack of legal training. See Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.2d 90, 94 (2d Cir. 1983).
Indeed, district courts should "read the pleadings of a pro se plaintiff liberally and interpret them `to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)). Nevertheless, the Court is also aware that pro se status "`does not exempt a party from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law. . . .'" Traguth, 710 F.2d at 95 (citation omitted).
The Court will address the issues of jurisdiction first because a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction renders all other claims moot. See Ruhrgas A.G. v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 584, 119 S.Ct. 1563, 1570 (1999) (stating that subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction go to the power of the court to adjudicate the merits of a case). Here, the Court will analyze its subject matter jurisdiction before addressing personal jurisdiction. See Ruhrgas, 526 U.S. at 583, 119 S.Ct. at 1569 (stating that the district court may choose to first address either subject matter jurisdiction or personal jurisdiction).
A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
District courts must police subject matter jurisdiction on their own initiative. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); Lyndonville Savings Bank & Trust Co. v. Lussier, 211 F.3d 697, 700 (2d Cir. 2000) ("[F]ailure of subject matter jurisdiction is not waivable and may be raised at any time by a party or by the court sua sponte."). When evaluating subject matter jurisdiction, a court may consider affidavits and other materials beyond the pleadings to resolve the jurisdictional question. See Robinson v. Gov't of Malaysia, 269 F.3d 133, 141 n. 6 (2d Cir. 2001); Antares Aircraft, L.P. v. Fed. Republic of Nigeria, 948 F.2d 90, 96 (2d Cir. 1991), vacated on other grounds, 505 U.S. 1215 (1992); Exch. Nat'l Bank of Chicago v. Touche Ross & Co., 544 F.2d 1126, 1130 (2d Cir. 1976).
A court must accept as true all material factual allegations in the complaint, but will not draw inferences favorable to the party asserting jurisdiction. Shipping Fin. Servs. Corp. v. Drakos, 140 F.3d 129, 131 (2d Cir. 1998); Atl. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Balfour Maclaine Int'l Ltd., 968 F.2d 196, 198 (2d Cir. 1992). Hearsay statements contained in affidavits may ...

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