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Kennel suit parties at odds over venue

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Russell Ebersole

Aberdeen Acres owner under investigation for possible animal abuse claims horse breeder made libelous postings

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

Parties in a Frederick County kennel owner's defamation lawsuit are arguing over which court should hear the case.

Russell L. Ebersole claims Bridget Kline-Perry and her Purcellville horse-breeding business, Norsire Farms, posted libelous statements on the Internet about him and Aberdeen Acres Pet Care Center, 667 Walters Mill Lane, Stephenson. Ebersole seeks $1.35 million from the defendant, who has denied allegations of wrongdoing.

Ebersole, acting on his own behalf, filed the complaint in Loudoun County Circuit Court in December, but a judge transferred the case to the U.S. District Court in Alexandria. The defendants filed a notice of removal of the civil action from the Loudoun County court.

The plaintiff has asked the federal court to remand his complaint back to the state court.

The defendants, represented by Fairfax attorneys Nicholas J. Lawrence and Steven W. Bancroft, asked the federal court in a response filed Tuesday to maintain jurisdiction over the case.

Ebersole filed an answer to the defendant's notice of removal Feb. 1 stating the venue of Loudoun County Circuit Court remains proper under code. Ebersole argues at the time of the filing of his complaint, and on Dec. 20, he lived as a resident of Hagerstown, Md., while operating Aberdeen Acres. Ebersole states that "however, during the time of the events giving rise to the underlying Complaint, [he] resided ... at 161 Pastoral Lane, Berryville." With his home and place of business in Virginia "there is no relevant diversity of citizenship," Ebersole argues in his answer.

The plaintiff states the U.S. court must abstain from hearing the civil action because at the time of the actions that gave rise to the complaint he lived in Virginia.

Ebersole argues the defendant's requests for removal to the U.S. court "are merely intended to burden the Federal District's Court's docket, are dilatory, are intended to delay the proceedings, are designed to inconvenience the Plaintiff and drive up the costs of litigation."

But, according to the defendant's response, "jurisdiction is determined at the time the suit is initiated." Per the complaint, as well as sworn statements of the plaintiff in his filings in both the district and bankruptcy courts, Ebersole was a resident of Hagerstown, Md., the defendants argue.

The defense cites an ongoing bankruptcy case pending in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Harrisonburg. Sworn reports dating back at least a year before the alleged incidents of libel show Ebersole as having a Hagerstown address.

The defense notes in its argument that Ebersole has multiple felony convictions for fraud in the federal court serving the Eastern District of Virginia, and felonies including witness tampering in the court serving the Western District.

"In addition, plaintiff's Bankruptcy Court filings, and his lengthy felony record provide substantial reason to disregard his present claim that he was a resident of Virginia at the time of the events that gave rise to this litigation," the defense response states.

The defense asked the court enter an order denying any request by the plaintiff to send the case back to Loudoun County.

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