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Joshua Clottey v. Vincent Scolpino

September 14, 2011

JOSHUA CLOTTEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VINCENT SCOLPINO
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Linares, District Judge .

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff has filed a motion for summary judgment. (D.E.15) and Defendant has filed a counter motion to dismiss. (D.E. 25). The parties both filed opposition papers. The Court has carefully considered the parties' respective positions and, based on the reasons that follow, finds it appropriate to decline to exercise jurisdiction over this matter.

I. Background

The relevant facts are not in dispute unless otherwise noted. Plaintiff is a boxer. Defendant is a boxing manager. On March 13, 2006, Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a boxer-manager agreement ("the Contract"). The Contract had an initial three year term and was automatically extended for two years to March 12, 2011 when Plaintiff "was offered the opportunity to participate in a world championship bout." (Clottey Decl., Ex. B, ¶ 6). Between March 13, 2006 and March 12, 2011, Defendant sustained injuries resulting in medical suspensions precluding him from fighting for a total of approximately 14 months.

Plaintiff contends that the contract expired on March 12, 2011 either (1) by operation of law or (2) pursuant to the terms of the contract. Defendant, however, contends that the Contract term extends beyond March 12, 2011 for a period of time equal to Defendant's medical suspensions (approximately 14 months).

On May 26, 2011, Plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action against Defendant in this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201. (D.E. 1; Complaint p. 6). Plaintiff seeks an order from this Court declaring that "the boxer-manager contract between himself and defendant expired on March 12, 2011" either (1) by operation of N.J.C.A. 13:46-5.6(a) *fn1 or (2) by its own language. (Compl. at ¶¶ 17 & 16).

This Court's jurisdiction over Plaintiff's declaratory judgment Complaint is premised on diversity of citizenship, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). *fn2

II. Standard for Asserting Jurisdiction over Declaratory Judgment Actions

"The Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202, provides a remedy that may be used by the federal courts in appropriate circumstances. This statute provides that a court 'may declare the rights ... of any interested party,' and contemplates that district courts will exercise discretion in determining whether to entertain such actions." State Auto Ins. Companies v. Summy, 234 F.3d 131, 133 (3d Cir.2000) (internal citations omitted). The Act has been characterized as "an enabling Act, which confers a discretion on the courts rather than an absolute right upon the litigant." Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277, 28 (1995) (internal quotations omitted). In this regard, the Supreme Court has explained:

Although the District Court had jurisdiction of the suit under the Federal Declaratory Judgments Act, it was under no compulsion to exercise that jurisdiction.... Ordinarily it would be uneconomical as well as vexatious for a federal court to proceed in a declaratory judgment suit where another suit is pending in a state court presenting the same issues, not governed by federal law, between the same parties. Gratuitous interference with the orderly and comprehensive disposition of a state court litigation should be avoided.

Brillhart v. Excess Ins. Co. of Am., 316 U.S. 491, 494-495 (1942). The Third Circuit has held that "Congress has afforded the federal courts a freedom not present in ordinary diversity suits to consider the state interest in having the state courts determine questions of state law [in declaratory judgment actions]." State Auto Ins. Cos. v. Summy, the 234 F.3d 131, 135 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Mitcheson v. Harris, 955 F.2d 235, 238 (4th Cir. 1992)). The Court went on to conclude that "where the applicable state law is uncertain or undetermined, district courts should be particularly reluctant to entertain declaratory judgment actions." Id. Rather, "[s]uch matters should proceed in normal fashion through the state court system." Id. (citations omitted).

III. The Court Exercises its Discretion and Declines Jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Declaratory Judgment Action due to Unclear State Law .

Plaintiff seeks a declaration from the Court that the Contract expired on March 12, 2011 pursuant to N.J.C.A. 13:46-5.6(a) which Plaintiff alleges provides that "Boxer-manager contracts in New Jersey shall be ...


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