United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
September 8, 2005.
GLEN LAKEN, Plaintiff,
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Glen Laken, filed suit in the United States District
Court for the Northern District of Illinois against Defendant,
the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("FBP"), alleging violations of the
Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a et al. Defendant has moved to
transfer venue to the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Georgia.
A reading of Plaintiff's Complaint supports the following
summary of the alleged conduct of the parties.
In 2000, Plaintiff, an Illinois resident, was convicted by a
jury of various violations of the mail and wire and securities
fraud violations. Plaintiff was sentenced to a 63-month term of
imprisonment and a period of supervised release, in a combined
sentencing proceeding in which Plaintiff was also sentenced upon
a guilty plea to securities fraud conspiracy in a separate case.
The sentencing court recommended that Plaintiff be designated to
a federal prison camp in Elgin, Florida, and that he participate
in an intensive alcohol treatment program.
Shortly thereafter, the Regional Designator for the Northeast
Region of the FBP entered information concerning Plaintiff into
the database of the FBP. Some of the information entered into the
database indicated that Plaintiff was a member and/or associate
of a crime family and that he had been charged with or participated in a criminal conspiracy for
the solicitation of murder of a government informant. Based on
this and other erroneous information entered into the database,
Plaintiff was not eligible to be placed in a federal prison camp
or for admission to certain other programs. In March 2004,
Plaintiff was placed in a federal correctional institution in
After being placed in Coleman, Florida, Plaintiff attempted to
have his FBP records corrected through appropriate administrative
means. The United States Probation Office determined that errors
in Plaintiff's records existed as to membership with organized
crime, his participation in the solicitation of murder, and his
being a violent person. Plaintiff's probation officer met with
Plaintiff and informed him that she would submit the appropriate
paperwork to cause his immediate transfer to a prison camp. In
April 2004, the appropriate paperwork was submitted for
Plaintiff's transfer to a federal prison camp.
In May or June 2004, the Southeast Regional Designator, Kathy
Lane, received Plaintiff's transfer paperwork. Lane informed
prison officials at Coleman, Florida, that she was designating
Plaintiff to a federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia. When the
Coleman, Florida prison officials told Lane that Plaintiff needed
to be placed in a federal prison camp, she refused, relying on
the erroneous information contained in the FBP database.
Plaintiff and others on his behalf attempted to address the
placement of Plaintiff in Atlanta because that facility did not
offer programs for Plaintiff's religious and rehabilitative
needs. In June 2004, Plaintiff's case manager informed him that
Lane designated Plaintiff to a satellite prison camp in Atlanta,
Georgia. Plaintiff proceeded to file the appropriate requests to be placed in a prison camp near his home
in Illinois. In June 2004, Plaintiff was transferred to a federal
detention center in Tallahassee, Florida, and then to a prison in
In July 2004, Plaintiff was informed by prison officials in
Atlanta that the inaccurate and erroneous information was still
in the FBP database. That same month, Plaintiff's family members
told Plaintiff that the database had not been corrected. Prison
officials in Atlanta confirmed that the database still contained
the erroneous information. Plaintiff remains incarcerated in
Defendant seeks to have the present case transferred to the
United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). In general, "[f]or 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 is proper if: (1) venue is proper in
both the transferee and transferor courts; (2) it is for the
convenience of the parties or witnesses; and (3) it is in the
interest of justice. Law Bulletin Publishing Co. v. LRP
Publications, Inc., 992 F.Supp. 1014, 1017 (N.D.Ill. 1998) (Law
Bulletin). District courts have broad discretion to grant or
deny motions to transfer, and the burden is on the moving party
to establish that the transfer is warranted. Heller Financial,
Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., Inc., 883 F.2d 1286, 1293 (7th Cir.
Venue is proper in both the United States District Court for
the Northern District of Illinois (Plaintiff's residence before
incarceration) and the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Georgia. See 5 U.S.C. 552a(g)(5) (venue proper
where complainant resides, complainant's principal place of
business, where the agency records are situated or in the
District of Columbia).
When evaluating the relative convenience of the parties and
witnesses, the court considers: (i) the plaintiff's initial forum
choice, (ii) the convenience of the witnesses, (iii) the relative
ease of access to other evidence, (iv) the situs of the material
events, and (v) the relative convenience of the parties in
litigating in the respective forums. Amoco Oil Co. v. Mobil Oil
Corp., 90 F.Supp. 2d 958, 960 (N.D. Ill. 2000) (Amoco);
Georgouses v. Natec Resources, Inc., 963 F.Supp. 728, 730 (N.D.
Ill. 1997) (Georgouses).
The plaintiff's initial choice of forum is usually afforded
substantial deference, particularly when it is the plaintiff's
home forum. Kamel v. Hill-Rom Company, Inc., 108 F.3d 799, 802
(7th Cir. 1997). However, there are other factors to consider;
and the weight given to the plaintiff's choice of forum can vary,
depending on the circumstances of each individual case.
Georgouses, 963 F. Supp. at 730; Law Bulletin,
992 F.Supp. at 1017. For example, where the plaintiff's choice of forum is not
the situs of the material events, plaintiff's choice of forum is
entitled less deference. See Heller Fin., Inc. v. Riverdale Auto
Parts, Inc., 713 F. Supp. 1125, 1129 (N.D. Ill. 1989).
In the instant case, Plaintiff chose to bring suit in the
Northern District of Illinois, his place of residence before his
incarceration. However, the alleged violations of the Privacy Act
took place near Georgia; the allegedly erroneous records and the
Plaintiff are located within the Northern District of Georgia.
Deference is granted to Plaintiff's initial forum. However,
because the situs of the material events took place outside of
Illinois, deference to Plaintiff's choice of forum is diminished. The convenience of the witnesses who will testify at trial is
also a factor to consider in determining an appropriate forum.
Law Bulletin, 992 F. Supp. at 1018.
Here, most of the relevant witnesses are located within or near
the Northern District of Georgia. These witnesses include
Plaintiff, Lane, Plaintiff's case manager, Plaintiff's unit
manager, and the Regional Director of the BPF. No witnesses from
Illinois are identified or referenced in the Complaint. Thus,
this factor weighs in favor of granting the Defendant's motion.
Regarding the ease of access to other evidence, the evidence
for this litigation is likely to be found in or near the Northern
District of Georgia. Thus, this factor weighs in favor of
granting Defendant's motion.
The determination that a transfer is in the interest of justice
focuses on the efficient administration of the court system, as
opposed to the private considerations of the litigants. Amoco,
90 F.Supp.2d at 961. This includes considering: (i) the relative
familiarity of the courts with the applicable law, (ii) the
relation of the respective forums with the issue in the case, and
(iii) the relative congestion of the court dockets. Amoco,
90 F.Supp.2d at 961; Georgouses, 963 F.Supp. at 730.
Both the Northern District of Illinois and the Northern
District of Georgia are familiar with the substantive law. There
is no evidence that the relative congestion of either court
weighs in favor of nor against a transfer. Lastly, the Northern
District of Georgia may have more of an interest in providing a
forum for this lawsuit because the documents and witnesses are
located in or near the Northern District of Georgia.
Plaintiff argues that a transfer will put a financial burden on
his ability to prosecute the case and that the United States has
more funds to pay for the needed expenses for the case to proceed
in Illinois. Other than Plaintiff's conclusory statement that a
transfer will create a financial burden on his ability to
prosecute the case, Plaintiff presents no specific information
how a transfer of the suit to Georgia, where Plaintiff is
presently incarcerated, would cause a financial burden.
Furthermore, the Court can take into consideration the expense
ultimately borne by the tax-payers when a suit is filed in a
remote forum. See In re National Presto Industries, Inc.,
347 F.3d 662, 664 (7th Cir. 2003). This expense would include the
need to have Plaintiff, a federal prisoner, transferred to the
Northern District of Illinois, if the case proceeds to trial.
In sum, the above factors weigh in favor of granting
Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue to the Northern District of
Georgia. Defendant's Motion for Transfer to the Northern District
of Georgia is granted.
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