Motion Practice • Jurisdiction • Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 12(b)(1)

Gibson-Kennedy v. Slutsky, PICS Case No. 14-0207 (E.D. Pa. Jan 27, 2014) Schmehl, J. (10 pages).

The court granted defendants’ motions to dismiss plaintiff’s amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Plaintiff was the daughter of Lillian Gibson, who was 82 years old. In January 2013, a representative of Montgomery County Aging and Adult Services came to Gibson’s home in response to a complaint it had received which suggested Gibson was mentally incapacitated and was being financially exploited. The Orphans’ Court of Montgomery County adjudicated the matter and found Gibson to be totally incompetent. The orphans’ court appointed a guardian and attorney for her. Gibson’s assets were seized and placed under the control of the guardian.

Plaintiff filed a complaint, purportedly on behalf of Gibson, alleging violations of Gibson’s constitutional rights regarding unreasonable search and seizure. Plaintiff later filed an amended complaint to include additional defendants, although the allegations of the complaint did not change. All defendants filed motions to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Pro.12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The court held plaintiff did not have the legal capacity to file suit on behalf of Gibson. Because Gibson had been declared incapacitated, only her court-appointed legal guardian could bring an action on her behalf. Even if plaintiff had been appointed as Gibson’s guardian, she would still be required to appear through an attorney and could not proceed on a pro se basis. The right to appear pro se in federal court only applies to a party in his or her own right, and not to non-attorneys who attempt to appear on behalf of other individual.

Plaintiff did not have the legal authority to bring a suit on behalf of her incapacitated mother, so the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction. Because amendment would be futile due to the lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the court dismissed the amended complaint with prejudice.