United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
THOMAS F. BANGASSER, an individual, and derivatively on behalf of Nominal Defendants MIDTOWN LIMITED PARTNERSHIP and MIDTOWN COMMUNITY LAND TRUST, Plaintiffs,
HUGH F. BANGASSER, an individual, K&L GATES, STEPHEN J. SIRIANNI, an individual, ANN E. MERRYFIELD, an individual, CHRIS R. YOUTZ, an individual, RICHARD E. SPOONEMORE, an individual, SIRIANNI YOUTZ SPOONEMORE HAMBURGER, DAVIS WRIGHT TREMAINE LLP, and GREGORY FRANKLIN ADAMS, an individual, Defendants,
HONORABLE RICHARD A. JONES JUDGE
matter comes before the Court upon the Defendants' Joint
Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. # 12. Plaintiffs have opposed, and
Defendants have filed a Reply. Dkt. ## 15, 16.For the reasons
set forth below, the Court GRANTS
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.
lawsuit arises from a family dispute over real property
located in the heart of Seattle's Central District.
Plaintiff Midtown Limited Partnership, comprised of five
sibling partners which include Plaintiff Thomas Bangasser and
his brother Hugh Bangasser, owned real property in
Seattle's Central District, which it sold in May 2017.
Dkt. # 13, Exs. A, C. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges the
following facts, in full:
On December 22, 2014, the Union Street Business Association
made a $30 million offer to purchase the real estate owned by
MidTown Limited Partnership. The subject property is the
entire south-east corner city block (2.44 acres) in
Seattle's historically black neighborhood at 23rd &
East Union. Plaintiff MidTown Community Land Trust
(“MCLT”) is the successor organization of Union
Street Business Association and AfricaTown Community Land
Trust. Plaintiff Thomas F. Bangasser sold/gifted 6 of his 12
MidTown Partnership units to MCLT (a 10.7% ownership in
MidTown). Defendants have refused to recognize MCLT as an
owner and have withheld from [sic] more than $1.5 million for
more than a year while paying themselves excessive legal and
consulting fees from MidTown.
Dkt. # 4 at 5. This lawsuit, filed January 2019, represents
the latest in a long legal battle dating back to September
2015, spanning two cases in King County Superior Court, a
case in this District before Judge Coughenour, and a case
before the Washington Court of Appeals. See Dkt. #
13, Exs. B-L. Plaintiffs' current lawsuit is directed at
his brother and the attorneys who have previously advocated
against him. Dkt. # 4. Plaintiffs seek to recover
“losses suffered as a result of Defendants breaches of
the Rules of Professional Conduct and their fiduciary duties
to Plaintiff and the nominal Defendants.” Dkt # 4 at 8.
have moved to dismiss this case for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). When considering a
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the court is not
restricted to the face of the pleadings, but may review any
evidence to resolve factual disputes concerning the existence
of jurisdiction. McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d
558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S.
1052 (1989); Biotics Research Corp. v. Heckler, 710
F.2d 1375, 1379 (9th Cir. 1983). A federal court is presumed
to lack subject matter jurisdiction until the plaintiff
establishes otherwise. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.
of America, 511 U.S. 375 (1994); Stock West, Inc. v.
Confederated Tribes, 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir.
1989). Therefore, plaintiff bears the burden of proving the
existence of subject matter jurisdiction. Stock
West, 873 F.2d at 1225; Thornhill Publishing Co.,
Inc. v. Gen'l Tel & Elect. Corp., 594 F.2d 730,
733 (9th Cir. 1979).
Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court must
construe his pleading liberally, and the pleading,
“however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers[.]” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007) (citation omitted). Nonetheless, pro se
litigants are still “bound by the rules of
procedure.” Ghazali v. Moran, 46 F.3d 52, 54
(9th Cir. 1995).
Plaintiffs Fail to Show Subject Matter Jurisdiction
jurisdiction may be based on diversity or the existence of a
federal question, as set forth in 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331
and 1332. Plaintiffs allege that the jurisdictional basis for
this lawsuit is federal question jurisdiction. Dkt. # 4 at 3.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal district courts
have original jurisdiction over “all civil actions
arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the
United States.” “A case ‘arises under'
federal law either where federal law creates the cause of
action or ‘where the vindication of a right under state
law necessarily turn[s] on some construction of federal
law.'” Republican Party of Guam v.
Gutierrez, 277 F.3d 1086, 1088-89 (9th Cir. 2002)
(quotation omitted). The presence or absence of federal
question jurisdiction is governed by the “well-pleaded
complaint rule, which provides that federal question
jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented
on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded
complaint.” Smallwood v. Allied Van Lines,
Inc., 660 F.3d 1115, 1120 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
list the following as bases for federal question
jurisdiction: “Segregation towards Seattle's
African American community and historic black neighborhood;
Lawyer conflict of Interest; abuse of due process rights;
violation of contract right to arbitration. Judicial bias and
prejudice.” Dkt. # 4 at 3. None of these listed reasons
are sufficient to confer federal question jurisdiction.
Plaintiffs fail to identify any federal statute,
constitutional provision, or other authority that would
confer subject matter jurisdiction in this case. Moreover,
even accepting the allegations of Plaintiffs' Complaint
as true, there is no apparent jurisdictional basis for what
appear to be primarily state law breach of contract or breach
of fiduciary duty claims. Aside from a vague reference to
unidentified “due process rights, ” there is no
indication that any of these claims, which are not alleged
against any governmental entity, would necessarily turn on
some construction of federal law.
this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over
Plaintiff's claims. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is
The Court Grants ...