United States District Court, D. Hawaii
ORDER (1) GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO
DISMISS, AND (2) DENYING MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES UNDER
HRS § 607-14.5, ECF NOS. 11, 13
Michael Seabright, Chief United States District Judge
December 5, 2017, pro se Plaintiff Christopher Emanuel Haigh
(“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint asserting
state-law claims arising from underlying and highly
contentious divorce, custody, and disbarment proceedings in
Illinois and Indiana. Plaintiff names as Defendants his
ex-wife Aida Abuelizam, (“Abuelizam” or “A.
Haigh”); his ex-mother-in-law Raida Abuelizam a/k/a
Raida Abuizam (“Abuizam”); Karen Bowes
(“Bowes”), Plaintiff's minor daughter's
representative in the underlying divorce; Ronnie Zanayed
(“Zanayed”), Abuelizam's counsel in the
underlying custody dispute; and Steven Wittenberg
(“Wittenberg”), Abuelizam's former counsel in
the custody dispute (collectively, “Defendants”).
Compl. at 1-3; A. Haigh Decl. ¶¶ 14, 22, 28, ECF
No. 11-7 at PageID # 207, 209, 211; Abuizam Decl. ¶ 7
ECF No. 11-11.
the court are two Motions to Dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction, one on behalf of Abuelizam and Abuizam, which
also seeks an award of attorney's fees pursuant to Hawaii
Revised Statutes (“HRS”) § 607-14.5; and the
other on behalf of Bowes. ECF Nos. 11, 13. For the reasons
set forth below, the Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED, and the
Motion for Attorney's Fees is DENIED.
action follows a series of disputes between Plaintiff and
Defendants that began when Plaintiff lived in Illinois. As of
March 2016, Plaintiff had moved to Hawaii. With the
exception of this action, all legal proceedings referenced in
this action between Plaintiff and some or all Defendants
occurred in Illinois or Indiana courts. And although the
Complaint and briefing on the instant Motions include details
related to those legal proceedings and other disputes between
the parties, that history need not be repeated in detail
here. Thus, the court sets forth only those facts necessary
to determine the instant Motions.
alleged in the Complaint,  Plaintiff and Abuelizam have waged
“an extremely contentious divorce and custody battle,
” in the “Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois
for over six years.” Compl. ¶¶ 16, 23. In
addition, at some point Abuelizam allegedly gave false and
misleading documents and testimony to the Indiana Supreme
Court Disciplinary Commission, resulting in Plaintiff being
“disbarred from the practice of law in Indiana.”
Id. ¶¶ 26, 27, 189-90, 192, 194, 203, 235,
243. Plaintiff now resides in Hawaii, Defendants Abuelizam
and Abuizam are citizens of and reside in Indiana, and
Defendants Zanayed, Bowes, and Wittenberg are citizens of and
reside in Illinois. Id. ¶¶ 4-15.
course of these underlying proceedings, and thereafter,
Defendants allegedly have engaged in multiple actions
intended to harm Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 18. The
Complaint is rife with allegations of misrepresentations by
Defendants in connection with those proceedings that resulted
in financial harm to Plaintiff, his loss of primary custody
of his minor daughter, and interference with Plaintiff's
relationship with his daughter.
example, on March 18, 2016, Abuelizam and Abuizam allegedly
prevented Plaintiff from picking up his daughter from school
in Illinois to begin court-ordered visitation with Plaintiff
in Hawaii during the daughter's spring break.
Id. ¶¶ 274-91. This resulted in Plaintiff
and his daughter missing their flight to Hawaii, Plaintiff
expending more money to stay an extra night in Illinois and
to purchase new airline tickets, and Plaintiff and his
daughter spending less time together in Hawaii. Id.
addition, Abuelizam used Hawaii police officers to
“serve a subpoena on Dr. Espiritu, ”
Plaintiff's current wife, in an alleged effort to
threaten Plaintiff's relationship with Dr. Espiritu and
push Plaintiff to accept Defendants' offers to settle the
underlying disputes. Id. ¶¶ 20, 30-32;
Pl.'s Opp'n at 9-10, ECF No. 22.
Complaint alleges that in her capacity as representative for
Plaintiff's daughter in the underlying divorce, Bowes
made false statements to the court in Illinois and concurred
with false statements by Abuelizam, resulting in Plaintiff
losing custody, being limited to supervised visitation with
his daughter, and incurring higher financial costs and debt.
Id. ¶¶ 74-75, 100-07. During the time
Bowes represented Plaintiff's daughter, Bowes was
employed by the law firm Rinella and Rinella Ltd., and later,
as a solo practitioner. See Haigh Decl. ¶ 24,
ECF No. 23; Bowes Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 25-1. Rinella and
Rinella has continued to attempt to collect from Plaintiff
outstanding fees owed for work performed by Bowes.
See Haigh Decl. ¶ 25, ECF No. 23; Pl.'s Ex.
B, ECF No. 23-2. To be clear, all of these court proceedings
took place in Illinois.
on these and numerous additional allegations, the Complaint
asserts state-law tort claims for conspiracy to commit fraud,
fraud, abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional
distress, and alienation of affection. Id.
¶¶ 52-301. The Complaint also asserts a violation
of Illinois criminal law, 720 Illinois Compiled Statutes
5/10-5.5, for alienation of affection and conspiracy to abuse
Plaintiff's allotted time with his daughter. Id.
filed his Complaint on December 5, 2017. ECF No.1. On January
12, 2018, Defendants Abuelizam and Abuizam filed a Motion to
Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2)
for lack of personal jurisdiction, and for attorney's
fees pursuant to HRS § 607-14.5. ECF No. 11. On January
25, 2018, Defendant Bowes filed a Rule 12(b)(2) Motion to
Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. ECF No. 13. On
March 5, 2018, Plaintiff filed separate Oppositions to each
Motion and a Declaration. ECF Nos. 21-23. Replies were filed
on March 19, 2018. ECF Nos. 24-25. The Motions were heard on
April 2, 2018.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW