United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
March 19, 2004.
CONNIE COLEMAN, and SARA LYONS, Plaintiff's,
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.
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.
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
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
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; Hartley, 6 F. Supp. at 775. In
addition, Plaintiff's do not present any arguments that the parties would
be in any better position to obtain access to documents if the case were
to remain in this District. See Childress, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22757,
Plaintiff's further claim that "[n]o matter where this trial will be
held both parties will be inconvenienced" because of the location of
personnel files and records of the alleged investigations. (Pl.'s Resp. at
4.) This is simply not true. Trying this case in the Central District
would inconvenience only Plaintiff's' counsel, who themselves have
acknowledged that courts in this district do not consider the
inconvenience of counsel as a factor. (Id.) Accordingly, the access to
sources of proof factor regarding relevant documents favors neither
In light of the significant testimony that will be provided by the
non-party witnesses, "it is important to consider which forum will be
more convenient for those individuals." Childress, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
22757, at *12. Defendant has named a number of non-party witnesses who
reside in the Central District. This list includes the alleged harasser,
a former employee, whom Plaintiff's may call to corroborate their claims
and Defendant may call to rebut them. This list also includes a former
supervisor, to whom Plaintiff's allege they complained about the
harassment. Defendant claims this former supervisor has "personal
knowledge concerning Buchheit management's knowledge of and response to
allegations of sexual harassment." This testimony goes to the heart of
Plaintiff's' complaint and therefore has the significance that the Court
looks to in determining convenience. Plaintiff's, on the other hand, have
neither named a single witness who resides in the Northern District nor
presented facts to suggest it would be more convenient for any witnesses
to testify in this district rather than the Central District. See id. In
sum, the Central District is naturally more convenient for both parties'
witnesses, and this factor strongly favors transfer.
c. Convenience to the Parties
The Central District is clearly more convenient for Defendant. However,
a defendant cannot use a motion to transfer simply to "shift the one
party's inconvenience onto another party." IP Innovation L.L.C. v.
Lexmark Int'l, Inc., 289 F. Supp.2d 952, 955 (N.D. Ill. 2003). A
shift of inconvenience is not likely in this case. Plaintiff's live in
the Central District. Litigating in their home forum would save the
Plaintiff's the time and expense required to travel to the Northern
District, Therefore, the Central District appears to be more convenient
for Plaintiff's as well.
Because there is no shift of inconvenience here, Plaintiff's' reliance
on Applied Web Systems, 1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5696, at *10, and Certain
v. Aegon USA Inv. Mgmt., Inc., 98 C3015, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 500, at*
11 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 12, 1999), is misguided. (Pl.'s Resp. at 7.) In each
case, the court did not use the distance between two courthouses as
evidence justifying denial of a motion to transfer and, rather, compares
the distance merely to show that an "insignificant" mileage difference
lessens the weight of the component. Certain, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 500,
at * 11; Applied Web Sys., 1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5696, at *10. However,
because transfer is convenient for both parties here, the significance of
mileage difference holds no consideration.
Plaintiff's' claim that Defendant is "fully capable of litigating in
this forum with out [sic] significant inconvenience" also is
unpersuasive. (Pl's Resp. at 8.) Plaintiff's argue Defendant has
demonstrated its ability to litigate in this court because it has
acquired the services of local counsel and has attended a number of
hearings. (Id.) Although Plaintiff's are correct, Defendant's actions are
not determinative with regard to this factor because Defendant is
required to retain local counsel in the Northern District. LR83.15.
Accordingly, Defendant should not be penalized for its decision to follow
the rules of this District, Because the Central District would be a more
convenient forum for both parties, this element weighs in favor of
2. Interest of Justice
The Court must also examine whether transfer to the Central District is
in the interest of justice. Factors for this determination include: (1)
the speed at which the case will proceed to trial; (2) the court's
familiarity with applicable law; (3) the desirability of resolving
controversies in each locale; and (4) the relation of each community to
the occurrence at issue. Childress, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22757, at *
15-16; Doage v. Bd. of Regents, 950 F. Supp. 258, 262 (N.D. Ill. 1997). In
this case, the first two factors do not weigh in favor of or against
transfer. However, the Court finds that the last two factors weigh
heavily in favor of transfer.
The time difference between filing to disposition between the two
districts> is less than three months in favor of the Northern District.
The time difference between filing to trial is two-and-a-half months in
favor of the Central District, The Court is satisfied these
differences would not greatly affect the speed at which the case
would proceed to trial. In addition, there is no question that the
Central District is equally familiar with the applicable law. Therefore,
these factors do not weigh in either party's favor.
It is a goal of the federal court system "to allow members of the
community from which the controversy arose to sit on the jury panel and
decide the community-related case " Doage, 950 F. Supp. at 260. This case
revolves involves alleged incidents committed by an employer located in
the Central District against former employees who also reside in the
Central District. Clearly, the members of the Central District community
are entitled to decide this dispute between fellow members of the
Plaintiff's claim Doage is distinguishable here because it involved
Illinois State University ("ISU"), a major employer and attraction of the
Central District, and this case involves an employer with only two retail
stores in the community Id The Doage court granted transfer based on
details nearly identical to those of the case at hand The dispute
involved an employee and employer residing in the Central District of
Illinois, and all relevant alleged acts occurred within the district. See
id at 262. The fact that ISU is a larger employer than Defendant does not
minimize the community's right to decide a discrimination action
involving one of its employers and two of its residents. Plaintiff's'
understanding of the Doage court reasoning is simply too narrow
Litigating in the Central District will serve the interest of justice by
allowing members of the community from which the controversy arose to
decide this case Therefore, this element strongly favors transfer.
In sum, after weighing all of the factors, the Court finds that a
transfer to the Central District is proper The Court thus grants
defendant's motion to transfer.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants Defendant's motion to
transfer venue [doc. no. 8-1]. This case is hereby transferred to the
Central District of Illinois.
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