United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
REV. MAHN COALEY KRUA, et al., Plaintiffs,
ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. Casper United States District Judge
case arises out of claims by pro se Plaintiffs Reverend Mahn
Coaley Krua and Pastor Torli Harlan Krua (collectively,
“the Kruas”) arising principally out of actions
in Liberia. The Kruas allege violations of numerous federal
statutes. They have made their claims against ten defendants,
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Charles G. Taylor, Jucontee Thomas
Woewiyu, the estate of Samuel K. Doe and George M. Weah
(collectively, “the Liberia Defendants”),
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen
Nielsen (collectively, “the Federal Defendants”),
Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker and Baptist
Mid-Missions (“BMM”). BMM has moved to dismiss
for lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a
claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6), respectively,
or, in the alternative, to require a more definite statement.
D. 26. For the reasons set forth below, the Court ALLOWS
BMM's motion to dismiss.
Standard of Review
satisfy the prima facie standard for establishing personal
jurisdiction over the defendants pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(2), a plaintiff must “demonstrate the existence
of every fact required to satisfy both the forum's
long-arm statute and the Due Process Clause of the
Constitution.” United States v. Swiss Am. Bank,
Ltd., 274 F.3d 610, 618 (1st Cir. 2001) (citation and
quotations omitted). The Court considers the facts alleged in
the pleadings as well as the parties' supplemental
filings. Sawtelle v. Farrell 70 F.3d 1381, 1385 (1st
Cir. 1995); Ticketmaster N.Y., Inc. v. Alioto, 26
F.3d 201, 203 (1st Cir. 1994). The Court will “take
specific facts affirmatively alleged by the plaintiff as true
(whether or not disputed) and construe them in the light most
congenial to the plaintiffs jurisdictional claim.”
Mass. Sch. of Law v. Am. Bar Ass'n, 142 F.3d 26,
34 (1st Cir. 1998). The Court will then “add to the mix
facts put forward by the defendants, to the extent that they
are uncontradicted.” Id Notwithstanding the
liberality of this approach, the court will not “credit
conclusory allegations or draw farfetched inferences”
in determining whether there is a lack of personal
jurisdiction over defendants under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2).
Ticketmaster, 26 F.3d at 203.
decide a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under
Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must determine if the well-pled
facts alleged “plausibly narrate a claim for
relief.” Schatz v. Republican State Leadership
Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012). “The
plaintiff need not demonstrate [they are] likely to
prevail” at this stage, only that their claims are
facially plausible. Garcia- Catalán v. United
States, 734 F.3d 100, 102 (1st Cir. 2013). Plausible
means “more than a sheer possibility, ” and
permits the Court to incorporate a contextual analysis of the
facts. Id at 102-03 (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). This determination
requires a two-step inquiry. Id. at 103. First, the
Court must distinguish the factual allegations from the
conclusory legal allegations in the complaint. Id
Second, taking plaintiffs allegations as true, the Court
should be able to “draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Id. (quoting Iqbal 556 U.S. at 678);
Ocasio-Hernández v. Fortuño-Burset,
640 F.3d 1, 11 (1st Cir. 2011). In assessing the plaintiffs
showing, the Court may accept all well-pleaded allegations as
true, unless they are contradicted by the defendant's
affidavits. See Universal Trading & Inv. Co. v.
Bureau for Representing Ukrainian Interests in Int'l
& Foreign Courts, 898 F.Supp.2d 301, 317 (D. Mass.
2012) (quoting Turnley v. Banc of Am. Inv. Services,
Inc., 576 F.Supp.2d 204, 211 (D. Mass. 2008)). The
Court is not required to accept as true any legal
conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
plaintiff is pro se, the Court must apply a liberal
reading to the complaint and hold pro se litigants
to a less stringent pleading standard. Kruskall v. Sallie
Mae Serv., Inc., No. 15-cv-11780-DJC, 2016 WL 1056973,
at *1 (D. Mass. Mar. 14, 2016) (citing Green v. Com. of
Mass., 108 F.R.D. 217, 218 (D. Mass. 1985)). A pro
se plaintiff, however, must still comply with procedural
and substantive law and “dismissal remains appropriate
. . . when the complaint fails to even suggest an actionable
claim.” Overton v. Torruella, 183 F.Supp.2d
295, 303 (D. Mass. 2001).
following relevant facts are taken from the Kruas' second
amended complaint, D. 13-1,  and BMM's affidavits in
support of its motion to dismiss, D. 27-1 and D.
Kruas, born in Liberia, are both naturalized American
citizens residing in Massachusetts. D. 13-1 at ¶¶
62, 103. BMM is an Ohio corporation with its principal place
of business in Ohio. D. 27-1 at ¶ 3. The Kruas allege
certain discriminatory and “dehumanizing”
activities by BMM in Liberia. D. 13-1 at ¶¶
133-189. With respect to conduct occurring within the United
States, the Kruas allege that BMM sent two missionaries to
Boston to take the Kruas grocery shopping, id. at
¶ 172, that the Kruas sent tickets to a fundraising
dinner to BMM and BMM returned the tickets, id. at
¶ 173, and that BMM discriminated against Plaintiff
Reverend Krua in denying him employment when he sought work
with the organization, id. at ¶ 185.
not registered or authorized to do business in Massachusetts
and has no property or bank accounts in Massachusetts. D.
27-1 at ¶¶ 5-7. Of the 444 active BMM missionaries,
seventy-two are in the United States and two missionary
families are in Massachusetts. Id. at ¶ 10. The
missionaries do not receive direct income from BMM.
Id. There are 4, 340 churches and 7, 428 individuals
in the United States that support BMM, with twenty-eight of
the churches and thirty-nine of the individuals in
Massachusetts. Id. at ¶¶ 11-12. Almost all
funds generated in Massachusetts are raised by individual
missionaries to support their work; less than 1% of donations
from Massachusetts are given to BMM based in Ohio. D. 51-2 at
March 23, 2018, the Kruas filed their complaint, D. 1. The
Kruas then filed an amended complaint on August 6, 2018
adding additional facts and defendants, including BMM. D. 9.
The Kruas has filed a second amended complaint by way of
attachment to their motion for an extension of time to serve
Defendants, D. 13. D. 13-1. BMM has now moved to dismiss. D.
26. This Court heard argument on the motion and took it under
advisement, D. 52. The Kruas filed a motion for an additional
hearing on March 6, 2019, D. 54, and filed an amended motion
for same on April 9, 2019, D. 57.
determining whether a non-resident defendant is subject to
its jurisdiction, a federal court exercising diversity
jurisdiction is the functional equivalent of a state court
sitting in the forum state.” Daynard v. Ness,
Motley, Loadholt, Richardson & Poole, P.A., 290 F.3d
42, 51 (1st Cir. 2002) (internal quotations and citations
omitted). Accordingly, this Court may only exercise personal
jurisdiction within the limits set by the Massachusetts
long-arm statute and the Constitution. Lyle Richards
Intl, Ltd. v. Ashworth, Inc., 132 F.3d 111, 112 (1st
Cir. 1997). Here, “[b]ecause the [Massachusetts]
long-arm statute imposes specific constraints on the exercise
of personal jurisdiction that are not coextensive with the
parameters of due process . . . a determination under the
long-arm statute is to precede consideration of the
constitutional question.” SCVNGR, Inc. v. Punchh,
Inc., 478 Mass. 324, 325 (2017).
statutory burden is met, constitutional due process requires
that a non-resident defendant “ha[s] certain minimum
contacts with it such that the maintenance of the suit does
not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice.'” Int'l Shoe Co. v.
Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 319 (1945) (quoting
Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)). This
constitutional guarantee of due process “protects an
individual's liberty interest in not being subject to the
binding judgments of a forum with which he has established no
meaningful ‘contacts, ties, or relations.'”
Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 471-72
(1985) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co, 326 U.S. at 319). A court
may exercise two types of personal jurisdiction: general and
specific, Cossaboon v. Maine Med. Ctr., 600 F.3d 25,
30-31 (1st Cir. 2010), which the Court will address in turn
following the statutory inquiry.