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CHAPMAN ASSOCS. GEN. BUS. v. JUSTAK

April 13, 1990

CHAPMAN ASSOCIATES GENERAL BUSINESS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
GARY JUSTAK, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHADUR

 MILTON I. SHADUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Chapman Associates General Business, Inc. ("Chapman") has sued Gary and Karen Justak and Justak Bulk Transport, Inc. (collectively "Justaks") in a three-count Amended Complaint (the "Complaint") stemming from the individual Justaks' sale of their corporation without paying Chapman a commission for its services in having located the ultimate buyer. Justaks have filed a 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) ("Section 1404(a)") motion to transfer this action to the Northern District of Indiana (Hammond Division). For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, Justaks' motion is granted.

 This Court rarely opts for the issuance of written opinions -- let alone for the publication of those opinions -- in Section 1404(a) situations. Most frequently such rulings simply involve fact-specific applications of the familiar Section 1404(a) standards ("for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice"), without announcing any new or extraordinary principles. In this instance, however, the unusual nature of the transfer sought by Justaks -- a transfer that Chapman's memorandum in opposition to the motion accurately characterizes as spanning a distance of just 20 miles from the courthouse here in Chicago to the Hammond courthouse -- occasions this writing, and publication as well.

 This Court's colleague Honorable John Nordberg has had the occasion to deal with an identical motion in Peterson v. United States Steel Corp., 624 F. Supp. 44 (N.D. Ill. 1985), and he has come to the opposite conclusion. In the course of doing so he effectively treated the close proximity of the two districts almost as though it justified a rule of law prohibiting such transfers, expressing the view that any such action would undercut the very intent that motivated the enactment of Section 1404(a) (624 F. Supp. at 46):

 
In essence, the court finds no convincing basis upon which to hold that the interest of justice would be best served by transferring this case. As other courts have noted, § 1404(a) should not be invoked for transfer between courts separated by a short and easily traveled distance since the intent of the statute was to eliminate the real inconvenience which may accrue to parties and witnesses residing a substantial distance from the district where the action is brought. Jenkins v. Wilson Freight Forwarding Co., 104 F. Supp. 422, 425 (D.C. N.Y. 1952); Lee v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 445 F. Supp. 189, 192 (D.C. Del. 1978). *fn1"

 Despite this Court's great respect for its colleague Judge Nordberg, it disagrees with the principle of law that appears to be suggested in Peterson. Instead this Court views the contiguousness of the transferor and transferee districts as a possibly significant (but surely not controlling) relevant factor in the Section 1404(a) balancing process, the task to which this opinion now turns.

 As already stated, Chapman emphasizes the short distance between the two courthouses as though that somehow forecloses any consideration of a transfer. But that has some of the flavor of the song "If I Were a Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof, in which Tevye sings of a long staircase going up and an even longer staircase coming down:

 
1. Of course the distance from Chicago to Hammond is identical to that from Hammond to Chicago.
 
2. It appears that all the prospective witnesses are subject to subpoena for trial in each district under the 100-mile rule established by Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 45(e)(1), and the taking of depositions poses no problem in either district.
 
3. All of Chapman's indicated witnesses are its own employees, subject to its control and to no defined inconvenience in trial attendance.
 
4. And in these days of photocopying or fax duplication, the physical location of documents (and this is in no event a massive document case) is really an irrelevancy.

 In short, every argument that seeks to minimize the inconvenience to Justaks of having to try the lawsuit in this district generates an argument of equal force that minimizes the inconvenience to Chapman if it is required to try the lawsuit in the neighboring Indiana district.

 Only two factors enter the equation, as this Court perceives it, as potential counterweights against the normal preference that may be given to a plaintiff's choice of forum for Section 1404(a) purposes. And on that latter subject, Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 253, 70 L. Ed. 2d 419, 102 S. Ct. 252 (1981) has reconfirmed that Section 1404(a) does not codify the principles first articulated in the forum non conveniens cases. Instead district courts are given considerably more discretion to transfer under Section 1404(a) than to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds (in ...


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