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April 13, 1999


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


Plaintiffs Robert Boyd, Ashoor Rasho, Faygie Fields, and Brian Nelson, inmates at Tamms Correctional Center ("Tamms"), have brought a six-count amended complaint against defendants Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), IDOC Director Donald Snyder ("Snyder"), Ronald Shansky, M.D. ("Dr.Shansky"), Marion E. Page, M.D. ("Dr.Page"), IDOC Deputy Director George E. DeTella ("DeTella"), Tamms Warden George Welborn ("Welborn"), Tamms Assistant Warden Charles L. Hinsley, Captain Steven Hoepker, Tamms Medical Director Marvin Powers, M.D., and Tamms Supervising Clinical Psychologist Kelly Rhodes, Ph.D. Plaintiffs allege: (1) deliberate indifference to the inmates' mental health needs in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; (2) living conditions for mentally ill inmates that violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; (3) violation of the state Mental Health Code, which creates a liberty or property interest under the Fourteenth Amendment; (4) violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; and (5) violation of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 504. Plaintiffs request class certification and injunctive relief.

Defendants have filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to transfer venue from the Northern District to the Southern District, where Tamms is located, arguing that transfer serves the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interests of justice.


Plaintiffs are seriously mentally ill inmates incarcerated at a "super maximum" security facility. Defendant Dr. Shansky, Medical Director of IDOC, has overall responsibility for providing Tamms inmates with health care, while defendant Dr. Page, Chief Psychiatrist for IDOC, has overall responsibility for the inmates' psychiatric care. Plaintiffs allege that they are subjected to extreme isolation, severely restricted movement, harsh punishments, and other psychologically harmful practices that exacerbate their mental illnesses. According to plaintiffs, the policies and practices at Tamms create a destructive cycle. Inmates respond to the harsh conditions by acting destructively towards themselves, others, and their environment. Defendants punish the inmates for this behavior, increasing their pain and making them more destructive. Some of the responses include violently removing an inmate from his cell, stripping him of all clothing and his cell of all property, and requiring him to live for days, naked and without the barest of essentials. Plaintiffs also allege that defendants forcibly sedate inmates and subject them to frequent full body cavity searches in an attempt to discover concealed weapons. Indignities such as these inflict severe physical and psychological pain, making comparatively stable inmates unstable and rendering already mentally ill inmates even sicker.


I. Standard for Venue Transfer

A transfer is appropriate under § 1404(a) where the moving party demonstrates: (1) venue is proper in both the transferor and transferee court; (2) the transfer is for the convenience of parties and witnesses; and (3) the transfer is in the interest of justice. See Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 (7th Cir. 1986). "The weighing of factors for and against transfer necessarily involves a large degree of subtlety and latitude, and therefore, is committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge." Id.

II. Venue

In a case where jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, venue is proper in: (1) a judicial district where any defendants resides, if all defendants reside in the same state; (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred; or (3) a judicial district in which any defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action commenced, if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be brought. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a).

Venue is proper in the Northern District of Illinois under § 1391(a)(1) because two of the defendants reside in this district and all defendants reside in Illinois. Venue is also proper in the Southern District of Illinois under § 1391(a)(1) because four of the defendants reside there. Accordingly, venue is proper in both the proposed transferor and transferee court, and the court has power to transfer this case.

III. Convenience of the Parties and Witnesses

The court must also consider the relevant private and public interests in evaluating the convenience and fairness of a transfer of venue. The private interests include: the plaintiff's initial choice of forum; the situs of material events; the ease of access to sources of proof; the availability of compulsory process for the attendance of unwilling witnesses and the cost of obtaining the attendance of the witnesses; and the convenience to the parties, specifically their respective residences and their ability ...

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