Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Americans Residing Abroad — Dual Citizenship — Diversity Jurisdiction

Plaintiff files suit against defendant. One year later, plaintiff moves for dismissal for lack of federal jurisdiction. Defendant opposes the motion and cross-moves for summary judgment. Not a typical procedural setting facing the court in Ayenu v. Chevy Chase Bank, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56405 (D. MD. July 31, 2007). The issue: diversity jurisdiction. The plaintiff was born in Ghana in 1930 and served in the Ghanian army until 1979; she moved to the United States and became a U.S. citizen in 1980; then returned to Ghana as a retiree in 1996. There were no federal question claims. As a U.S. citizen living abroad but not a citizen of any state (because she had no domicile here), she could not invoke jurisdiction. Newman-Green, Inc. v. Alfonzo-Larrain, 490 U.S. 826, 828 (1989) ("I]n order to be a citizen of a State within the meaning of the diversity statute, a natural person must both be a citizen of the United States and be domiciled within the State").

If plaintiff were a dual citizen, while the general rule is to look only at the U.S. citizenship of a dual national, there is authority for an exception in situations where a litigant proves to be predominantly the citizen of a country other than the United States. ‛This exception would apply only where a two-part test was satisfied: (1) the litigant's dominant nationality, by reason of residence or other association, is that of another country, and (2) the litigant had manifested an intention to be a national of the other state and has taken all reasonably practicable steps to avoid or terminate his status as a national of the United States.“ (Citations omitted.) While the record was unclear as to whether the plaintiff was a dual national, it was clear to District Judge Roger W. Titus held that she had not manifested an intention to be a national of Ghana and had not taken all reasonably practicable steps to avoid or terminate her status as a national of the United States. On the contrary, ‛[t]he facts presented at the hearing indicate just the opposite; [plaintiff’s] testimony reveals that she is very proud to be an American citizen. She stated at the hearing, ‘Your honor, I'm very, very proud to be an American, and I've kept in touch with everything. I'm proud.’“ Case dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

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