United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
ROBERT J. FREY, Plaintiff,
A. BINFORD MINTER and HAROLD BLACH, JR., Defendants.
S. MOODY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendant A. Binford
Minter's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended
Complaint (Doc. 17), Defendant Harold Blach, Jr.'s Motion
to Dismiss the same (Doc. 18), and Plaintiff's Response
in Opposition (Doc. 19). As discussed further below, the
Court agrees that venue in this district is improper.
However, rather than dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended
Complaint (Doc. 16), the Court will transfer this action to
the Middle District of Georgia.
Robert J. Frey is an attorney who is licensed to practice law
in Georgia but lives in Sarasota, Florida. He is suing
another licensed Georgia attorney, A. Binford Minter, and
Minter's client, Harold Blach, Jr., for defamation.
used to provide legal representation to an individual named
Sal Diaz-Verson. Plaintiff represented Diaz-Verson in a
number of matters over several years, which resulted in
Diaz-Verson owing him more than $350, 000 in attorney's
fees. In 2009, a creditor obtained a $395, 000 judgment
against Diaz-Verson; it subsequently filed a garnishment
action against him. In 2012, Diaz-Verson entered into a
settlement with the creditor, in which they agreed that the
creditor would assign a portion of its judgment against
Diaz-Verson to Plaintiff “to provide Plaintiff with
some security” for the attorney's fees he was
owed. (Doc. 16, ¶ 24.)
2014, Defendant Blach obtained a $160, 000 judgment against
Diaz-Verson. Defendant Blach has since attempted to collect
on that judgment by filing garnishment actions against
Diaz-Verson in the U.S. District Court for the Middle
District of Georgia In response, Plaintiff filed third-party
claims to the garnishment funds based on his superior
judgment against Diaz-Verson. Plaintiff and Defendant Blach
have also filed related actions in the Superior Court for
Muscogee County, Georgia.
Minter represents Defendant Blach in the federal and state
court actions in Georgia. As part of this representation, he
has argued that Plaintiff is not a good-faith creditor and is
committing a fraud on the court.
alleges that, from 2015 to 2017, Defendants have made
numerous defamatory statements about him. (Doc. 16, ¶
33.) Defendants have falsely accused him of fraud and
unethical conduct in violation of the Georgia Rules of
Professional Conduct in the following communications: (1)
their pleadings in the federal and state court proceedings in
Georgia, (2) a complaint to the State Bar of Georgia, (3)
letters to judge(s) and attorney(s) in Georgia, and (4) an
interview with Greg Land, a reporter with the Fulton County
Daily Report. Based on Greg Land's interview, the
Daily Report published an article about the Parties'
garnishment litigation, and the article quoted Defendant
Minter as saying, “I'm arguing that it's a
fraudulent arrangement; impermissible, unethical, and
void.” (Doc. 1, p. 9.)
alleges that Defendants' statements were “intended
to harm [him] personally in his home state of Florida and in
his professional status as [a] member of the Georgia
Bar.” (Doc. 16, p. 5.) Although Plaintiff alleges that
he was injured by Defendants' statements in Florida, he
does not specify any actual damages he sustained.
argue that the Court should dismiss Plaintiff's First
Amended Complaint because the Court lacks personal
jurisdiction over Defendants, venue in the Middle District of
Florida is improper, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted, and Plaintiff has failed to
join a party required under Rule 19. In evaluating these
arguments, the Court must accept all factual allegations
contained in the Complaint as true and construe those
allegations in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.
Hunt v. Aimco Properties, L.P., 814 F.3d 1213, 1221
(11th Cir. 2016) (internal citation omitted). In this case,
the Court need not reach most of Defendants' arguments
because it is apparent that venue in this district is
plaintiff may file a civil lawsuit in one of the following
(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if
all defendants are residents of the State in which the
district is located; (2) a judicial district in which a
substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to
the claim occurred . . .; or (3) if there is no district in
which an action may otherwise be brought . . ., any judicial
district in which any defendant is subject to the court's
personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.
28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). The first two options are
“preferred judicial districts, ” whereas the
third option is a “fallback.” Atl. Marine
Const. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for W. Dist. of Texas,
134 S.Ct. 568, 578 (2013). It is Plaintiff's burden to
demonstrate that the chosen venue is appropriate.
Wildfire Grp., LLC v. Prime Ins. Co., 974 F.Supp.2d
1333, 1337 (M.D. Ala. 2013); see also Delong Equip. Co.