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Scheidemann v. Qatar Football Association

January 15, 2008

NICOLE SCHEIDEMANN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
QATAR FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION, QATAR NATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Loretta A. Preska, United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

This action stems from an alleged breach of contract between Plaintiff Nicole Scheidemann and Defendants Qatar Football Association ("QFA") and Qatar National Olympic Committee ("QNOC"). Plaintiff claims to be entitled to compensation for arranging a football (translation: soccer) match between the Qatari National Team and Italian-based AC Milan. Before the Court are defendants' motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. For the reasons discussed below, the motions are GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

The underlying dispute in this case is uncomplicated. Plaintiff claims that she was retained by the defendants to arrange an exhibition match between the prominent AC Milan and the Qatari National Team and that the defendants failed to pay her commission. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 8, 11-12.)*fn1 Despite being a German citizen and conducting all negotiations overseas, Plaintiff alleges that the parties agreed "that any disputes [over the agreement] would be construed and governed by the laws of New York, in the federal courts located in New York." (Compl. ¶ 38.) After failing to receive payment, she filed this action for, inter alia, the recovery of her commission.*fn2

DISCUSSION

This Court does not have jurisdiction over any and every case. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has "repeatedly said: 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. It is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction." Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466, 489 (2004) (internal citations omitted). This case turns on whether the limited jurisdiction of this Court is invoked by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

I. Standard for Dismissal For Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Federal courts must satisfy themselves of the presence of subject matter jurisdiction as a threshold matter before proceeding to the merits of a case. See, e.g., Wynn v. AC Rochester, 273 F.3d 153, 157 (2d Cir. 2001). The plaintiff bears the burden of proving, by a preponderance of evidence, that a court has subject matter jurisdiction. Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). The action must be dismissed unless Plaintiff can demonstrate, on the face of the complaint, that one of the options for satisfying subject matter jurisdiction has been specifically met. Tasini v. New York Times Co., 184 F. Supp. 2d 350, 358 (S.D.N.Y. 2002). When ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the Court may look beyond the pleadings if necessary to resolve any disputed issues necessary to the Court's ruling. See Robinson v. Gov't of Malaysia, 269 F.3d 133, 140 (2d Cir. 2001).

II. Plaintiff Has Failed to Prove Subject Matter Jurisdiction

The complaint in this case contains one paragraph dedicated to jurisdiction, which reads:

This Court has jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1330 because it is an action against agencies and instrumentalities of a foreign state as defined in section 1603(a), and furthermore, because the parties agreed in writing, in advance of the dispute to submit to the jurisdiction of this Court. (Compl. ¶ 6.)

A. Parties Cannot "Agree" To Federal Jurisdiction

The latter basis for jurisdiction -- that the parties have "agreed to jurisdiction" -- can be easily rejected. (See Pl.'s QNOC Mem. at 2.)*fn3 Parties cannot confer subject matter jurisdiction on a federal court by agreement. Ins. Corp. of Ireland, Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982) ("[N]o action of the parties can confer subject-matter jurisdiction upon a federal court. Thus, the consent of the parties is irrelevant.").

B. Plaintiff Has Not Proven That Either Defendant is an "Organ" of The Qatari Government

1. The Statute

The only remaining basis for jurisdiction that Plaintiff has pleaded is the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA"), 28 U.S.C. 1602 et seq. (2000 ed. & Supp IV). Under the FSIA, this Court has jurisdiction over claims against "foreign states," a term which is defined to include those states' agencies and instrumentalities. See 28 U.S.C. ยงยง ...


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