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Kurzon v. Democratic National Committee

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 2, 2017



          J. PAUL OETKEN United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jeffrey Mead Kurzon, an attorney now proceeding pro se, initiated this action against the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) and the New York State Democratic Committee (“NYSDC”) on June 3, 2016. (Dkt. No. 4.) Kurzon initially sought a preliminary injunction to enjoin Defendants from applying the superdelegate voting rules at the Democratic National Convention; the Court denied that motion on July 18, 2016. (Dkt. No. 32.) Since the denial of the preliminary injunction, Kurzon has twice amended his complaint and terminated his counsel. He filed the operative Second Amended Complaint on December 16, 2016, naming only the DNC as a defendant and alleging a variety of state-law claims and a single federal common law “Democracy Tort.” (Dkt. No. 50 (“SAC”).)[1] The DNC moves to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 53.) For the reasons that follow, the DNC's motion to dismiss is granted.

         I. Background

         The Court presumes familiarity with the background of this action, as set out in its Opinion and Order on Kurzon's motion for a preliminary injunction. Kurzon v. Democratic Nat'l Comm., 197 F.Supp.3d 638 (S.D.N.Y. 2016). The following facts are taken from the Second Amended Complaint and are presumed true for the purposes of this motion.

         The SAC relies on much of the same factual underpinning as the initial complaint. Kurzon “seek[s] justice” for himself and others who were “wronged by the [DNC]'s illegal actions surrounding the 2016 Democratic Presidential Primary.” (SAC ¶ 1.) The SAC quotes at length from the DNC Charter and Bylaws regarding the DNC's obligation of impartiality in the selection of a Presidential candidate. (Id. ¶¶ 16-18.) He then cites a host of news articles and internal DNC documents describing the DNC's alleged favoritism of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic Presidential Primary. (Id. ¶¶ 19-49.)

         Where the SAC differs most notably from the initial complaint is in the causes of action it alleges. The SAC alleges eight different state-law claims-fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duties, negligence, prima facie tort, breach of contract, deceptive business practices under New York law, and unlawful trade practices under D.C. law-and a “Violation of Federal Common Law: Democracy Tort.” (Id. ¶¶ 55-119.) Kurzon seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as punitive damages in the amount $10, 000, 000. (Id. ¶ 120.) In contrast, the initial complaint raised claims for violation of Kurzon's rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and for breach of contract. (Dkt. No. 4 ¶¶ 35-42.)

         II. Legal Standard

         “‘Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, ' possessing ‘only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.'” Gunn v. Minton, 133 S.Ct. 1059, 1064 (2013) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). “A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it.” Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)). “When resolving a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, a district court may refer to evidence outside the pleadings, and the plaintiff bears the burden to prove subject-matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.” Morrow v. Ann Inc., No. 16 Civ. 3340, 2017 WL 363001, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 24, 2017) (citing Makarova, 201 F.3d at 113).

         II. Discussion

         The DNC argues that Kurzon's SAC should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(1) for want of subject matter jurisdiction because he has failed to allege either diversity of citizenship or federal-question jurisdiction and because he lacks standing.[2] (Dkt. No. 54 at 5-15.) The DNC also argues that the SAC should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Id. at 15-24.) Because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the SAC must be dismissed; the Court reaches neither standing nor whether the SAC states a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).[3]

         A. Diversity of Citizenship

         To properly allege diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, Kurzon must present a claim between parties who are citizens of different states where the amount in controversy is greater than $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The party seeking to invoke jurisdiction bears the burden of proving complete diversity and the amount in controversy by a preponderance of the evidence. See Makarova, 201 F.3d at 113.

         Now that the NYSDC is no longer a party to this action, the parties are completely diverse, as Kurzon is a New York citizen and the DNC is a citizen of Washington, D.C. (SAC ¶¶ 4, 8.) The DNC does not dispute this prong of the diversity analysis. (Dkt. No. 54 at 14.)

         The DNC argues, however, that Kurzon has not satisfied the amount in controversy requirement. (Id. at 14-15.) In the SAC, Kurzon does not seek compensatory damages; rather, he seeks injunctive and declaratory relief and ...

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