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PRACTICE PROBLEMS RE ERIE, SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION, AND PLEADINGS

Senator plans to file suit against Author alleging that he was libeled by Authors unauthorized biography of him. [Libel is the tort of injuring someones reputation by publishing written false statements about him.] Senator lives in an apartment on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Author lives in Bread Loaf, Vermont and wrote the book there. For the purposes of this question, assume that the libel cause of action arose in Vermont where the book was written. 1. In what court or courts could Senator file his complaint? (Consider both subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction.) Senators attorney plans to file a complaint in the federal court sitting in the District of Columbia. Which jurisdictions law will provide the elements of a cause of action for libel? Which jurisdictions rules will govern the procedural aspects of the case?

2.

The complaint was filed on the day after the statute of limitations had run. The complaint and summons were served on someone fitting Authors description who answered the door at 3506 Main Street. Author in fact lives at 3606 Main Street and never received the complaint and summons. An alert reporter spotted the complaint in the Clerks Office and wrote a story about it. Having seen the story, Author hires an attorney to represent her. The attorneys review of the complaint reveals that it alleges all of the critical elements of libel except malice. Under the applicable substantive law, malice is part of the plaintiffs prime facie libel case (i.e., an essential element) against a public figure like Senator. 3. What should Authors first responsive document be and what issues should it cover?

Authors attorney files a 12(b)(5) motion to dismiss to challenge the service on the wrong person. 4. The judge denies the motion. The attorney believes this is incorrect. Can she appeal the ruling now?

Having lost the pre-answer motion to dismiss based on improper service of process, the attorney would now like to point out to the court (1) that it does not have personal jurisdiction over Author because she does not have sufficient minimum contacts with the District of Columbia and (2) that malice has not been alleged as required for libel against a public figure.

5. a. Can she file a motion to dismiss to challenge the courts personal jurisdiction over Author? b. Can she file a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim?

6.

The judge does not allow her to file another motion to dismiss. a. Can she still raise the lack of personal jurisdiction? b. the failure to plead malice in the complaint? How?

Author tells her attorney that she can prove that everything she said in the book is true and that Senator violated her Fifth Amendment due process rights by starting a Congressional investigation of Authors tax records. 7. How does her attorney use that information in a responsive pleading?

The case is about to go to trial and the defendants attorney realizes that she forgot to say anything in the answer about the fact that the statute of limitations on the libel claim had expired. 8. What can she do?

Author loses the defamation case on the merits at trial. She appeals the rulings the trial court judge made against her on First Amendment issues all the way to the Supreme Court. While preparing for the oral argument in the Supreme Court, Authors attorney reviews the trial transcript and notices that when Senator testified he identified himself as domiciled in Vermont with a residence on Capitol Hill where he stays while Congress is in session. 9. 10. How does this information help her client? What if Senator had chosen to file his lawsuit against the publisher, Oxbridge University Press, a British corporation, instead of against Author, in state court. Could Oxbridge remove that case to federal court? What procedure would it follow to remove the case? If Senator sues Oxbridge in federal court and Oxbridge impleads Author, arguing that Author should have to reimburse Oxbridge for anything it is ordered to pay to Senator, does the federal court have jurisdiction over the third party claim? Can Senator file an amended complaint and add Author as defendant?

11.

12. You have just hung out your shingle and are still unpacking your books and notes when your secretary informs you that a potential client has appeared in the waiting room. Eagerly, you meet with the client to discuss his case. Client, who is walking with a cane and appears to be in pain, tells you that he was injured while crossing in a crosswalk with a walk light when a UPS van ran a red light and knocked him down. He was in the hospital for several weeks, had back surgery, and cannot return to his job as a Word Processor because of continuing back pain. He gives you copies of his medical records, the name and address of a witness to the accident who he says will testify for him, and asks that you file the case as quickly as possible. After he leaves, you begin to review the medical records and realize under the applicable statute of limitations tomorrow is the last day to file. Feverishly working all night, you draft a complaint and file it in federal court the next day just in the nick of time. The complaint and summons are served on UPS the same day. A week later you receive a call from an attorney for UPS who informs you that your Client is a former UPS employee who has a grudge against the company because he was fired and has filed numerous lawsuits against UPS to harass it. All of them allege accidents on the same day but in different sections of the city. The attorney tells you she has filed and is about to serve a motion for summary judgment and a request for FRCP 11 sanctions against your client, you, and your firm so that your much more affluent partner will have to pay. Assuming the facts the UPS attorney gave you are true, argue to the Judge that sanctions should not be imposed as requested in the Rule 11 motion filed by the UPS attorney.

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