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Walker v. USA Swimming, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

March 1, 2017

PHILIP MARK WALKER, Petitioner/Plaintiff,
v.
USA SWIMMING, INC., a foreign corporation, Respondent/Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          KEVIN H. SHARP, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant USA Swimming, Inc.'s (“USA Swimming”) Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction. (Docket No. 35). Petitioner Philip Mark Walker (“Walker”) filed a Response in Opposition (Docket No. 50) and USA Swimming replied (Docket No. 54). For the reasons below, the Court will deny USA Swimming's 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction.

         BACKGROUND

         The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act (“Sports Act”) was originally enacted in 1978, and it created the United States Olympic Committee (“USOC”). For each Olympic sport, the Sports Act allows the USOC to recognize one national governing body. 36 U.S.C. § 220521(a). USA Swimming is the national governing body for Olympic swimming. (Docket No. 14 at ¶ 2.) As such, USA Swimming is tasked with a number of duties, including establishing eligibility requirements for participation in Olympic swimming, recommending swimmers to represent the United States in the Olympic Games, and coordinating amateur swimming competitions in the United States. 36 U.S.C. § 220523(a).

         Walker was a member of and coach for USA Swimming with over 30 years of experience. (Docket No. 14 at ¶ 7).[1] In 2013, USA Swimming informed Walker that he was the subject of a complaint alleging Code of Conduct violations. (Id.). After providing Walker with Notice of the Complaint, USA Swimming conducted a disciplinary process. (Id. at ¶ 8). This included a proceeding in front of USA Swimming's National Board of Review, where Walker was issued a lifetime ban from membership in USA Swimming based on the alleged Code of Conduct violations. (Id. at ¶ 17). The lifetime ban was upheld by USA Swimming's Board of Directors. (Id.).

         After the Board of Directors affirmed the National Board of Review's decision, Walker challenged the decision through the American Arbitration Association, as the Sports Act requires of anyone wishing to appeal a USOC or national governing body decision. (Docket No. 33 at 3-7 & 95-100); 36 U.S.C. § 220529(a) (“A party aggrieved by a determination of the corporation under section 220527 or 220528 of this title may obtain review by any regional office of the American Arbitration Association.”). In Walker's Applications for Relief with the American Arbitration Association, he requested a temporary injunction on the publication of his name on USA Swimming's “banned” list, dismissal of USA Swimming's lifetime ban, and/or a de novo hearing on the disciplinary issue. (Docket No. 33 at 6-7 & 99). Walker did not request any damages. (Id.). The arbitrator affirmed USA Swimming's imposition of a lifetime ban upon Walker. (Docket No. 33-2 at 151). No damages were awarded and each side was ordered to pay their own attorneys' fees and costs. (Id.). The Sports Act states that the “[f]inal decision of the arbitrators is binding on the parties if the award is not inconsistent with the constitution and bylaws of the corporation.” 36 U.S.C. § 220529(d).

         Walker subsequently filed an Amended Petition and Complaint to Vacate Arbitration Award and Complaint for Damages (“Amended Petition”) with this Court. (Docket No. 14). In the Amended Petition, Walker claims that USA Swimming and the arbitrator failed to follow a number of USA Swimming's own rules and regulations throughout the disciplinary process, including denying him the right to call witnesses and to conduct discovery. (Id. at ¶¶ 14 & 15). He claims that subject matter jurisdiction is appropriate under both the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) and the Sports Act, as well as through diversity jurisdiction. (Id. at ¶¶ 4 & 5). USA Swimming, in its Motion to Dismiss, counters that neither statute provides federal courts with subject matter jurisdiction to review USA Swimming's disciplinary process in regards to Walker. (Docket No. 35). USA Swimming further counters that Walker cannot meet the requirements of diversity jurisdiction. (Id.).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         USA Swimming's Motion to Dismiss is based upon Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Sixth Circuit has summarized the applicable standard of review regarding 12(b)(1) motions as follows:

A Rule 12(b)(1) motion for lack of subject matter jurisdiction can challenge the sufficiency of the pleading itself (facial attack) or the factual existence of subject matter jurisdiction (factual attack). United States v. Ritchie, 15 F.3d 592, 598 (6th Cir. 1994). A facial attack goes to the question of whether the plaintiff has alleged a basis for subject matter jurisdiction, and the court takes the allegations of the complaint as true for purposes of Rule 12(b)(1) analysis. Id.
A factual attack challenges the factual existence of subject matter jurisdiction. In the case of a factual attack, a court has broad discretion with respect to what evidence to consider in deciding whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, including evidence outside of the pleadings, and has the power to weigh the evidence and determine the effect of that evidence on the court's authority to hear the case. Id. Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that subject matter jurisdiction exists. DLX, Inc. v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 381 F.3d 511, 516 (6th Cir. 2004).

Cartwright v. Garner, 751 F.3d 752, 759-60 (6th Cir. 2014). USA Swimming's 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss is a facial attack on the sufficiency of subject matter jurisdiction. Therefore, the Court takes the allegations in the Petition as true.

         ANALYSIS

         I. ...


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