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Haffey v. Seymour

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

May 17, 2017

SHANE HAFFEY and HEATHER McKEEVER, Plaintiffs,
v.
BARBARA M. SEYMOUR, in her official and individual capacity, and UNKNOWN MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION ON LAWYERS MISCONDUCT, in their official and individual capacity, [1]Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          KAREN K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE

         Heather McKeever is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Kentucky who is the subject of a disciplinary investigation and prosecution in South Carolina for alleged professional misconduct in the Palmetto State. McKeever and her husband, Shane Haffey, bring this suit to strike down as unconstitutional an administrative rule related to the disciplinary process McKeever is facing and to hold Barbara M. Seymour, the Deputy Disciplinary Counsel of the South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel, and Unknown Members of the South Carolina Commission of Lawyer Conduct accountable for their involvement in the proceedings.

         This matter, however, cannot go forward as Kentucky's ties to this case are too loose to haul these out-of-state defendants before this Court. Because Kentucky's long-arm statute does not reach so far as to touch any of the defendants' alleged conduct, this case is dismissed for want of personal jurisdiction. McKeever and Haffey must find another forum in which to assert their claims.

         I.

         Heather McKeever and Shane Haffey are a married couple who reside in Lexington, Kentucky. McKeever is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth with experience in the area of mortgage document fraud (Compl. ¶ 7), and Haffey is a heritage breed livestock farmer. (Compl. ¶ 8). Sometime in August 2016, McKeever received a letter from the South Carolina Commission of Lawyer Conduct. (Compl ¶ 28). The letter was signed by Jody W. Gilham, an administrative assistant for the Commission. (Compl. ¶ 29). Gilham carbon copied Barbara Seymour, the Deputy Disciplinary Counsel of the South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel on the letter. (Compl. ¶ 29). Dated July 16, 2016, the letter informed McKeever that the Commission of Lawyer Conduct had launched a disciplinary investigation into her alleged unauthorized practice of law in a lawsuit regarding her and her husband's real property located in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The letter also noted that a hearing on the matter was set for September 19, 2016, and notified McKeever that she must attend or face default. (Compl. ¶ 30).

         Apparently McKeever did not attend the hearing, as a document obtained by McKeever titled “Default Order” later revealed.[2] (Compl. ¶ 31). The Order noted that Seymour had filed the underlying disciplinary charges on April 7, 2016, and served McKeever in accordance with Rule 14(c) of the South Carolina Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement. (Compl. ¶ 32). McKeever denies having received any notice or service before receiving the August letter. (Compl. ¶ 33).

         In response to the disciplinary proceedings, McKeever, along with her husband, sued Seymour, in her individual and official capacity, and Unknown Members of the South Carolina Commission of Lawyer Conduct asserting the following:

1. A declaratory judgment action requesting that this Court declare Rule 14(c) of the South Carolina Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement, which refers to the service of process requirement of disciplinary charges and is codified as a part of Rule 413 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (“SCACR”), unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Compl. ¶¶ 56-72.);
2. A claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all defendants for violations of their “ministerial and discretionary duties” related to the prosecution of the disciplinary complaint filed against McKeever (Compl. ¶¶ 73-83.);
3. A claim under the provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq., alleging that the defendants “us[ed] the mails to defraud Haffey of money and/or property” (Compl. ¶¶ 84-88.);
4. A claim for “Tortious Interference with Court Ordered Agreements and Private Contracts” (Compl. ¶¶ 89-93.);
5. A violation of the South Carolina Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 413, SCACR, related to Deputy Disciplinary Counsel's alleged interference with plaintiffs' right to counsel at the September 16, 2016 disciplinary hearing (Compl. ¶¶ 94-98); and
6. A violation of the South Carolina Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 413, SCACR, related to Deputy Disciplinary Counsel's alleged “forcible recruitment” of Betty McMichael-the plaintiffs' formal real estate agent-to act as a Complainant against McKeever in the disciplinary action proceeding against McKeever (Compl. ¶¶ 99-103).

         The defendants now move under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) to dismiss this action for a lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue, or, in the alternative, under Rule 12(b)(3) to transfer this action to the District of South Carolina pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404. (DE 5). Because the Court lacks the requisite power to exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendants, this ...


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