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Procom Supply, Inc. v. Langner

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio

December 11, 2019

LANGNER, et al., Defendants.



         Defendant Mechel Langner moves for relief from default judgment, claiming the Court lacks subject matter and personal jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES Langner's motion to set aside judgment.

         I. Background

         On December 3, 2013 Plaintiff Procom Supply, Inc (“Procom”) sued Langner and Aharon Mann, as well as four limited liability companies.[1] Both Langner and Mann are members of the sued limited liability companies.[2] After Langner failed to answer or otherwise defend, on April 8, 2014 Procom moved for default judgment against Langner.[3]On April 24, 2014 the Court granted this motion.[4]

         On April 6, 2016 Langner failed to appear for a properly noticed deposition related to efforts to enforce the default judgment.[5] On June 10, 2016 Plaintiff moved for the issuance of a bench warrant. On August 9, 2016 the Court granted Plaintiff's motion, issuing the bench warrant, as well as sanctions against Langner.[6]

         On August 15, 2019 Langner filed a Rule 60(b) motion to set aside the default judgment and to set aside the August 9, 2016, bench warrant.[7] On August 29, 2019 Procom opposed.[8]

         On October 7, 2019 the Court ordered Procom to provide supplemental briefing on whether Defendant Mann was diverse. On October 21, 2019 Procom responded.[9] On November 4, 2019 Langner replied.[10]

         II. Langner's Challenge to this Court's Personal Jurisdiction Was Not Raised Within a Reasonable Time.

         Langner argues that he was not properly served with summons in this action and argues that this Court had no personal jurisdiction over him.[11] Procom responds that Langner's challenge to the Court's personal jurisdiction, raised over 5 years after this case was filed, is untimely.[12]

         Rule 60 requires that motions for relief from a final judgment “be made within a reasonable time.”[13] “The reasonable time standard has been interpreted to depend on the factual circumstances of each case.”[14] Pertinent considerations include “the interest in finality, the reason for the delay, the ability of the party to learn earlier of the grounds relied on and prejudice to the opposing party.”[15]

         Procom filed this case on December 3, 2013.[16] After Defendants did not respond, the Court granted default judgment to Procom on April 24, 2014.[17] Langner did not file his motion to set aside the judgment until August 15, 2019, more than five years after judgment had been given.[18]

         Langner claims that he first became aware of this case on November 30, 2017 and has been challenging the judgment in Israeli courts since then.[19] But Procom served Langner with the original complaint at 406 Avenue I, Brooklyn, New York 11230 (the Brooklyn residence) in January 2014.[20] And in September 2015 the Israel Office of Foreign Legal Affairs served Langner in Jerusalem. Langner received notice in conformity with the Hauge protocol, giving him notice of his default in this case.[21]

         Langner asserts that he could not have been personally served then, as he was traveling with his family outside of the country.[22] Yet the Israel Office of Foreign Legal Affairs certification of service makes no mention of personal service-it merely states that “service of documents upon Mechel Langner has been executed.”[23] Accordingly, Langner has not presented clear evidence to overcome the presumption that the Israeli officials carried out their duties and properly served Langner.[24]

         Langner knew of the Court's order granting default judgment in late 2015, and he could have raised any challenges to the Court's personal jurisdiction and subject-matter jurisdiction immediately. Instead he delayed for nearly four years. Langner's delay in filing the Rule 60(b) motion is not reasonable. Therefore, the Court rejects his challenge to the Court's personal jurisdiction as untimely.

         III. The Court Has Subject-Matter Jurisdiction Over Langner

         Langner argues that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over himself and his co-defendant Aharon Mann.[25] He alleges that they are both United States citizens, but neither is domiciled in any state, and therefore the Court cannot have diversity jurisdiction over them under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.[26]

         As explained above, Langner has not raised his challenge to the Court's jurisdiction within a reasonable time. Yet the Sixth Circuit has noted that a “motion seeking to vacate a judgment for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction might not be subject to a reasonable-time requirement” because “objections to subject-matter jurisdiction may not be waived or forfeited.”[27] Therefore, the Court considers Langner's diversity-jurisdiction challenge.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), federal district courts have diversity jurisdiction over civil matters where the controversy is between citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs. The United States Supreme Court has “read the statutory formulation [of 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1)] to require complete diversity between all plaintiffs and all defendants.”[28] The parties must have diversity of citizenship at the time the suit is commenced.[29] “ ‘Citizen' and its variant ‘citizenship' have acquired a particular meaning in our law as being equivalent to ‘domicile.' “[30]

         “In elemental terms, domicile consists of (1) residence and (2) an intent to remain there.”[31] One's domiciles is the “true, fixed, and permanent home . . . . [and] the place to which [one] returns whenever he [or she] is absent.”[32] “An individual . . . may have several residences, but only one domicile.”[33] Although courts may consider one's declared intent to remain in a location, these declarations may be overcome by contrary evidence.[34]

         “One acquires a ‘domicile of origin' at birth, and that domicile continues until a new one (a ‘domicile of choice') is acquired.”[35] Once a person establishes a new domicile, that “domicile is not lost until a new one is acquired.”[36]

         Plaintiff Procom was domiciled in Colorado when it sued.[37] Langner contests whether Langner and Mann were domiciled in Israel when this case was filed. If either were domiciled in Israel, that defendant would be a “stateless” person for the purpose of diversity.[38] If either defendant were a “stateless” person, the parties would not be completely diverse and the Court would have no jurisdiction.[39] But if both defendants were domiciled in New York, the Court would have diversity jurisdiction.

         The burden rests on the party seeking exercise of the Court's jurisdiction to demonstrate that the Court indeed has jurisdiction.[40] Plaintiff Procom must show by a preponderance of the evidence that both Langner and Mann were domiciled in New York on December 3, 2013.[41]

         a. Defendant Langner Was Diverse with Plaintiff Procom

         The Court accepts as uncontested that Langner was born in New York and lived for many years in Brooklyn.[42] During this time Langner was domiciled in New York.[43]

         According to Langner, he moved to Israel in 1996 for school.[44] He claims that he permanently moved to Israel in 2000 when he married.[45] He further asserts that he has not maintained his New York residency since 2000.[46]

         Langner offers evidence that he has established a new residence in Israel. He states that he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and children, has leased a home there since 2000, and his children attend school there.[47] Langner also notes that he pays utilities, has health insurance, and owns a car in Israel; he does none of these in the United States.[48]

         Procom does not provide any evidence to show that Langner does not have a residence in Israel. The weight of the evidence thus suggests that Langner has indeed established a residence in Israel.

         Procom does provide evidence, however, that Langner did not intend for Israel to be his permanent home.

         Procom submitted copies of Langner's Israeli visas that were valid from September 2009 to September 2013.[49] Both visas are student visas that state that Langner is “not permitted to work” in Israel.[50] As Langner is a United States citizen and has no Israeli citizenship, [51] this suggests that his presence in Israeli had been only temporary.

         Procom also gives evidence that Langner maintained a residence at 406 Avenue I, Brooklyn, New York (the Brooklyn residence) and that this residence was Langner's true home. It notes that Langner used bank accounts in New York in 2008.[52] Langner also deposited checks into a New York bank account in late 2008, writing the address for the Brooklyn residence by hand on the deposit slip's “Customer Address” section.[53] Langner further received a federal tax refund, federal economic stimulus payment, and a New York tax refund addressed to the Brooklyn home in 2008 and 2009.[54] He also received numerous checks addressed to this same Brooklyn home in 2008.[55]

         Procom also submitted the testimony of Daniel Kasnett, Langner and Mann's business partner, who in 2012 indicated that Langner was “located” in Brooklyn.[56]Additionally, Langner filed a lawsuit in 2008 that listed his “post office address” as the Brooklyn residence.[57] A foreclosure action was also brought against Langner in 2009 for the same Brooklyn residence.[58]

         Langner's evidence suggests that his current residence is in Israel, but this evidence has limited utility in determining when, if ever, he decided to make the Jerusalem residence his permanent one. Taken as a whole, the evidence does not support an inference that Langner changed his intent before December 2013.

         Furthermore, Langner's assertion that “[s]ince 2000, Jerusalem has been [his] permanent and exclusive residence and home, ” made in an affidavit, [59] is undercut by Procom's objective evidence that Langner maintained an active residence in New York after 2000.

         Considering the foregoing, the weight of the evidence suggests that Langner did not intend for Israel to be his permanent residence after 2000. And absent a permanent change in residency, Langner cannot have changed his domicile.[60] The Court finds that Langner was New ...

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