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COLEMAN v. BUCHHEIT

March 19, 2004.

CONNIE COLEMAN, and SARA LYONS, Plaintiff's,
v.
BUCHHEIT, INC., Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RONALD GUZMAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant Buchheit, Inc.'s ("Buchheit") Motion to Transfer Venue pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to the Central District of Illinois, Springfield Division. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND FACTS

  Plaintiff's Connie Coleman and Sara Lyons, residents of the Central District of Illinois, and former employees of Defendant, brought this discrimination action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e as amended. Plaintiff's allege they were subjected to continued sexual harassment by a supervisor and that Defendant condoned this harassment, failed to maintain a harassment-free work environment, failed to take corrective action against the alleged harasser, and retaliated against Plaintiff's during their employment at Defendant's retail store in Jacksonville, Illinois. Defendant's headquarters, main offices and warehouse are located in Biehle, Missouri. Defendant Buchheit now brings this motion to transfer venue from the Northern District of Illinois to the Central District of Illinois. Page 2

  DISCUSSION

  Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a district court may transfer a civil action to any other district court, where it may have been brought "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses" and "in the interest of justice." Transfer is appropriate where the moving party clearly demonstrates that (1) venue is proper in the transferor district; (2) venue and jurisdiction are proper in the transferee district; and (3) the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties, the convenience of the witnesses, and the interests of justice. Plotkin v. IP Axess, Inc., 168 F. Supp.2d 899, 901-02 (N.D. Ill. 2001). The parties do not dispute that venue is proper in both this Court and the Central District of Illinois. Therefore, this Court will only address the third prong for appropriate transfer.

 1. Convenience of the Parties and Witnesses

  When evaluating the convenience of the parties and witnesses, the Court considers: (1) the plaintiffs 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. Id. at 902.

  a. Plaintiff's choice of forum and situs of material events

  A plaintiff's choice of forum generally carries substantial weight. Schwarz v. Nat'l Van Lines, Inc., No. 03 C 7096, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2738, at *I4 (N.D. Ill, Feb. 23, 2004). However, where the plaintiffs do not reside in their chosen forum and where the plaintiffs' choice of forum is not the site of material events, the deference the court affords this choice is fundamentally minimized. Childress v. Ford Motor Co., No. 03 C 3656, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22757, at *7 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 16, 2003). Therefore, the Court analyzes these first two factors together. Page 3

  Here, Plaintiff's acknowledge they do not reside in the Northern District. They further acknowledge that none of the material events leading up to this litigation occurred within the Northern District. Therefore, Plaintiff's' choice of forum has minimal weight. When balanced with the other factors, it is insufficient to conclude that transfer to the Central District is unwarranted.

  b. Access to Proof and Convenience to the Witnesses

  Courts in this district often view the convenience of witnesses as the most important factor in the transfer balance. Brandon Apparel Group, Inc. v. Quitman Mfg Co., 42 F. Supp.2d 821, 834 (N.D. Ill. 1999). Plaintiff's are correct in their assertion that courts generally assign little weight to the location of employee witnesses, as they are under the control of the parties themselves. Applied Web Sys., Inc. v. Catalytic Combustion Corp., No. 90 C 4411, 1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5696, at *13 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 26, 1991). Rather, courts look to the nature and quality of the witnesses1 testimony with respect to the issues of the case. Schwarz, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2738, at *16. Therefore, the resolution of this issue hinges on the relative inconvenience of non-party witnesses with significant testimony, and the location of relevant documents and sources of proof. Applied Web Sys., 1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5696, at * 14. As such, this court will analyze the elements of ease of access to proof and convenience to witnesses together.

  The alleged misconduct occurred wholly in the Central District of Illinois at a company that is headquartered in Missouri. Therefore, any documents relevant to both Plaintiff's and Defendant are maintained either in the Central District or in Missouri. While the Plaintiff's do not dispute this, they claim "the Seventh Circuit has held that documents can easily be brought to the transferor district." (Pl's Resp. at 3.) Their reliance on the cases Page 4 cited is erroneous. Neither Chemical Waste Management, Inc. v. Sims, 807 F. Supp. 870 (N.D. Ill. 1994), nor Hartley v. Omarc, Inc., 6 F. Supp.2d 770 (N.D. Ill. 1998), the cases on which Plaintiff's rely, are Seventh Circuit decisions, and therefore they merely serve as persuasive authority. In addition, the courts in both of these cases ruled that relevant documents could easily be brought to the transferor district based on the facts of the case and not as a general rule. See Chem. Waste Mgmt., 807 F. Supp. at 20; ...


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