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LAW BULLETIN PUBL. CO. v. LRP PUBLS.

January 30, 1998

LAW BULLETIN PUBLISHING COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
LRP PUBLICATIONS, INC., et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ALESIA

 Before the court is defendants LRP Publications, Inc. and Joanne Fiore's motion to transfer venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons that follow, the court grants defendants' motion and transfers this case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, West Palm Beach Division.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Law Bulletin Publishing Company ("LBPC") is an Illinois corporation whose principal place of business is in Chicago, Illinois. LBPC owns and publishes various legal publications, including the Illinois Jury Verdict Reporter, the Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter, and related search services (collectively referred to as "LBPC's publications"). LPBC's publications provide information to subscribers about events, developments, and trends concerning legal activities in Illinois state and federal courts.

 Defendant LRP Publications, Inc. ("LRP") is a Pennsylvania corporation whose principal place of business is in Pennsylvania. LRP is in the process of moving its corporate headquarters to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. LRP publishes various legal publications, which are national, not local, in scope. LRP also maintains a Jury Verdict Research Database.

 Defendant Joanne Fiore ("Fiore"), a resident of West Palm Beach, Florida, is a Vice President of defendant LRP. On behalf of LRP, Fiore subscribed to LBPC's publications by signing a subscription agreement. She requested the subscription agreement from Florida. The subscription agreement is a pre-printed form that does not contain a forum selection clause or a choice-of-law provision. The parties did not negotiate the three terms of the subscription agreement. The third term of subscription agreement provides as follows:

 
We will not make any copies of any reports or disks for which this subscription is for, recognizing that the Law Bulletin Publishing Company has copyright interest in each. Under no circumstances will we furnish any copies, or any of the information contained therein, in bulk form to any third-party, and we will not computerize, record, reproduce or re-market any portion of the publication or the selected material which it contains. Upon the termination of this subscription, we may keep the original issues of the publication for our own use, subject to continued restrictions as if the subscription were ongoing.

 On November 12, 1997, LBPC filed a complaint against defendants LRP and Fiore in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, County Department, Law division. LBPC's complaint contains four counts: Count I alleges breach of contract; Count II alleges violations of Illinois statutory law; Count III alleges violations of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125; and Count IV alleges common law unfair competition. These counts are based on LBPC's allegations that (1) Fiore has been "copying or otherwise conveying to LRP the content of [LBPC's publications] for the purpose of including such information in original and derivative form in the LRP database" in violation of the subscription agreement; (2) LRP has been conveying the information in bulk form to third parties; and (3) LRP has promoted its database by falsely claiming that the database contains information certified by all participating attorneys, but has failed to disclose that its material is taken from LBPC's publications.

 On December 1, 1997, defendants LRP and Fiore filed a notice of removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446, based on the fact that this court had original jurisdiction over the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because Count III of LBPC's complaint is a Lanham Act claim. *fn1" On December 15, 1997, defendants LRP and Fiore filed a motion to transfer the case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, West Palm Beach Division, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). On that same day, defendant LRP filed a motion to dismiss LBPC's complaint, and defendant Fiore filed a motion to dismiss LBPC's complaint against her for lack of personal jurisdiction.

 II. DISCUSSION

 Section 1404(a), which governs the transfer of an action from one federal district court to another, provides: "For the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). A transfer under § 1404(a) is appropriate if: (1) venue is proper in both the transferor and transferee court; (2) transfer is for the convenience of the parties and witnesses; and (3) transfer is in the interest of justice. Vandeveld v. Christoph, 877 F. Supp. 1160, 1167 (N.D. Ill. 1995). In determining whether a motion under § 1404(a) should be granted, the court must seek to promote the efficient administration of justice and not merely the private interests of the parties. North Shore Gas Co. v. Salomon, Inc., 896 F. Supp. 786, 791 (N.D. Ill. 1995). The determination of whether a case should be transferred pursuant to § 1404(a) is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1293 (7th Cir. 1989); Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 (7th Cir. 1986).

 In this case, defendants LRP and Fiore assert, and LBPC does not contest, that venue is proper in both the transferee and the transferor court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). What the parties dispute is whether the convenience of parties and witnesses and the interest of justice factors weigh in favor of transfer. It is those two factors, therefore, that the court addresses.

 A. Convenience of the parties and witnesses

 First, the court must consider the convenience of the parties and witnesses. When evaluating the convenience of the parties and witnesses, the court should consider: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the situs of material events; (3) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (4) the convenience of the witnesses; and (5) the convenience to the parties of litigating in the respective forums. North Shore Gas Co., 896 F. Supp. at 791; College Craft Co., Ltd. v. Perry, 889 F. Supp. 1052, 1054 (N.D. Ill. 1995). The moving party bears the burden of showing that the transferee forum is more convenient. Chemical Waste Management, Inc. v. Sims, 870 F. Supp. 870, 876 (N.D. Ill. 1994).

 1. Plaintiff's choice of forum

 A plaintiff's chosen forum is entitled to substantial deference, particularly where the chosen forum is the plaintiff's home forum. Vandeveld, 877 F. Supp. at 1167. However, where the plaintiff's chosen forum is not the situs of material events, plaintiff's chosen forum is entitled to less deference. Heller Fin., Inc., 713 F. Supp. 1125 at 1129. Further, while a plaintiff's choice of forum is an important consideration in determining whether a motion to transfer should be granted, it is not absolute and will not defeat a well-founded motion to transfer. Applied Web Sys., Inc. v. Catalytic Combustion Corp., 1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5696, No. 90 C 4411, 1991 WL 70893, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 29, 1991).

 In this case, Illinois is both LBPC's home forum and chosen forum. However, while the case does have some connection to Illinois, as discussed below, Florida is the situs of the overwhelming majority of material events. ...


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