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Rudolph v. Cunningham

United States District Court, D. Wyoming

March 31, 2015

LAWRENCE P. RUDOLPH, D.D.S., and CAMELBACK CONSULTING MARKETING, LLC, Plaintiffs,
v.
RALPH CUNNINGHAM; LARRY HIGGINS; SCOTT CHAPMAN; JOYCE HANLEY; and DAVID SMALL, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION

ALAN B. JOHNSON, District Judge.

Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Doc. Nos. 16 and 23), Plaintiffs' opposition thereto (Doc. Nos. 21 and 26) and Defendants' further reply (Doc. No. 28) have come before the Court for consideration. Having considered the pleadings, the applicable law, the parties' written submissions, and materials offered in support of their respective positions, the Court FINDS and ORDERS as follows:

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Rudolph alleges that after a fellow Safari Club International member filed a complaint against him, Defendants, members of the Safari Club International Board of Inquiry, failed to investigate the allegations properly and in numerous venues announced false accusations against him to third parties. Plaintiff Rudolph asserts that because of Defendants' defamatory comments, Safari Club terminated his contract, banned him from the club, and revoked all of his previous awards.

Plaintiff Rudolph brings claims of defamation, civil conspiracy to defame, and tortious interference with contract claims against Defendants. Defendants moved to dismiss the claim for lack of personal jurisdiction. After Defendants filed their first motion to dismiss, Plaintiff Rudolph amended his complaint and added his limited liability corporation, Camelback Consulting Marketing LLC, as a co-plaintiff. In response, Defendants filed another motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Because Defendants lack minimum contacts with Wyoming, the Court agrees that it lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendants and therefore GRANTS Defendants' motions.

FACTS

Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiffs, the following facts are from the Amended Complaint and attached exhibits. This case involves a dispute stemming from all parties' membership and roles in Safari Club International (SCI), a nonprofit organization that has 196 chapters in 26 countries and has around 55, 000 members.[1] (Amended Compl. ¶ 13). SCI has a 320-member Board of Directors with a 10-member Executive Committee. (Amended Compl. ¶ 23). SCI is not a party in this case.

At the time relevant to this complaint, SCI had a Board of Inquiry (BOI), comprised of five SCI members that handled internal disputes within SCI. At all relevant times, Defendant Cunningham was the BOI Chairman and Defendants Higgins, Chapman, Hanley, and Smalls were BOI members. (Amended Compl. ¶ 25). Plaintiff Rudolph is not a Wyoming resident, neither are any of Defendants. (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 6-10). Plaintiff Camelback Consulting Marketing, LLC is not a Wyoming LLC.

The BOI has its own set of procedures for handling complaints and internal disputes. Although the parties did not provide the Court with a copy of the BOI procedures, based on the Complaint, the procedures, in the least, allow the BOI to investigate and hold hearings on SCI member misconduct or other internal disputes, and allow the BOI to set forth findings and recommend sanctions to the Board of Directors and Executive Committee. (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 33-37).

Plaintiff Rudolph was very involved in SCI. He was a 25-year SCI member, served in numerous, respected SCI leadership roles, and received a Weatherby Award that recognizes SCI members for outstanding support of wildlife conservation, lifetime hunting achievement, and dedication to the principles of ethical sport hunting. (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 16-21). Additionally, Plaintiff Rudolph, through his LLC, Camelback Consulting Marketing, performed public relation functions as SCI's Chief Communications Officer from July 2011 to August 2012. (Amended Compl. ¶ 22).

In February 2012, however, Plaintiff Rudolph started having trouble within SCI. Plaintiff Rudolph alleges that at the SCI's Hunters Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, his SCI co-member, Paul Babaz, [2] started spreading false rumors about him. (Amended Compl. ¶ 27). Plaintiff Rudolph alleges that he confronted Babaz about the rumors and Babaz threated to harm him. (Amended Compl. ¶ 28). Plaintiff Rudolph further alleges that after their disagreement, Babaz reported the rumors to then SCI-President and General Counsel and complained that Plaintiff Rudolph threatened Babaz physically. (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 30, 31). Then someone, it is not clear who, filed a BOI complaint against Plaintiff Rudolph. (Amended Compl. ¶ 32).

Plaintiff Rudolph alleges that before he had the opportunity to request a BOI hearing, on May 1, 2012, the BOI issued findings that addressed alleged misconduct by Plaintiff Rudolph. (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 38-42). The BOI found that Plaintiff Rudolph: (1) breached his fiduciary duties to SCI; (2) made false or deceptive record book entries; (3) made false statements or published nonpublic SCI information; (4) engaged in inappropriate relationships with women while on SCI business; (5) filed questionable reimbursement requests; and (6) engaged in misleading conduct toward the BOI. (Amended Compl. ¶ 42) ("the findings").

On May 12, 2012, SCI held a board meeting in Washington D.C.; around 160 board members attended by video or in person. (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 44-46). During this meeting, SCI held its annual election and Plaintiff Rudolph was a candidate for secretary. (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 44, 45). Prior to the elections, the BOI allegedly publicly presented the findings as described above. (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 47-49, 58-61). Plaintiff Rudolph did not win the secretarial election. ( See Amended Compl. ¶ 53).

On May 31, 2012, Plaintiff Rudolph requested an internal hearing on the charges. (Amended Compl. ¶ 57). The hearing occurred on August 18, 2012. (Amended Compl. ¶ 75). It is unclear from the record where the hearing occurred, but Plaintiff Rudolph appeared by phone. (Amended Compl. ¶ 77). Following the hearing, on August 22, 2012, the SCI Executive Committee ...


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