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; ...