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Meanith Huon v. William Mudge et al

February 9, 2012

MEANITH HUON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLIAM MUDGE ET AL.,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court are Defendants' motion to transfer [34] pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), and Defendants' motion to supplement the record on their motion to transfer venue [76]. For the reasons below, both motions [34, 76] are granted. The Clerk is directed to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, East St. Louis Division.

I. Background

On May 6, 2011, Plaintiff Meanith Huon filed a nineteen count complaint against the Defendants William Mudge, Thomas Gibbons, Chris Hoell, Amy Chapmas, Madison County State's Attorney's Office, William Marconi, David Vucich, Brad Wells, Sheriff Robert Hertz, Madison County Sheriff's Department and Madison County (collectively "Madison County Defendants" or "Defendants"), Chicago Police Officer Brian McKendry, and the City of Chicago ("Chicago Defendants"). Plaintiff's complaint arises out of a criminal investigation, arrest, and criminal proceedings which primarily took place in Madison County, Illinois in 2009. On August 25, 2011, the Madison County Defendants filed a motion to transfer the case to the Southern District of Illinois, arguing that only two of the listed parties resided outside of the Southern District of Illinois and a majority of the relevant events occurred in the Southern District. Plaintiff then filed a twenty-seven count first amended complaint in which he added two Defendants located in the Northern District as well as several defendants in the Southern District.*fn1 In his first amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that "as a result of egregious misconduct by law enforcement and prosecutors" he was "wrongfully arrested in Chicago in 2008 and was prosecuted for alleged evil crimes that he did not commit."

The Madison County Defendants argue that this case should be transferred to the Southern District of Illinois because a vast majority of the events set forth in Plaintiff's complaint took place in the Southern District, a majority of the party Defendants are located within the Southern District, and a majority of the non-party witnesses are located in or nearby the Southern District of Illinois. In other words, they argue that the Southern District is the more appropriate venue. Plaintiff, on the other hand, contends that the Northern District is the only proper venue for his claims.

II. Legal Standards Governing Section 1404(a) Motions

A district court, "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, * * * may transfer any civil action to any other district court where" jurisdiction and venue would have been proper at the time the suit was initiated. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); Hoffman v. Blaski, 363 U.S. 335, 344 (1960) (situation at the initiation of the suit affords the critical timeframe). The moving party has the burden of establishing "that the transferee forum is clearly more convenient," based on the particular facts of the case. Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-20 (7th Cir. 1986). The district court has the authority to "make whatever factual findings are necessary * * * to determin[e] where venue properly lies." In re LimitNone, LLC, 551 F.3d 572, 577 (7th Cir. 2008).

In evaluating motions brought pursuant to Section 1404(a), the Court considers: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (2) the convenience of the parties, (3) the convenience of witnesses, (4) the interests of justice, and (5) the location of the material events giving rise to the case. Roberts & Schaefer Co. v. Merit Contracting, Inc., 99 F.3d 248, 254 (7th Cir. 1996) (listing the first four statutory factors); Continental Cas. Co. v. Staffing Concepts, Inc., 2009 WL 3055374, *2-3 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 18, 2009) (same; elaborating on private- and public-interest sub-factors).*fn2

Although the statute itself lists only the first four factors, considering additional factors, such as location of the material events, is appropriate. The Seventh Circuit teaches that the specified statutory "factors are best viewed as placeholders for a broader set of considerations, the contours of which turn upon the particular facts of each case." Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219 n.3; see also Cote v. Wadel, 796 F.2d 981, 985 (7th Cir. 1986) (explaining that the broad discretion accorded the trial court is a product of the "in the interest of justice" language of the statute); Am. Commercial Lines, LLC v. Northeast Maritime Institute, Inc., 588 F. Supp. 2d 935, 945 (S.D. Ind. 2008) (observing that courts "entertain a wide variety of factors" in evaluating venue transfer motions).

The first factor, the plaintiff's choice of forum, typically is accorded significant weight. "[U]nless the balance is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed." In re Nat'l Presto Indus., Inc., 347 F.3d 662, 664 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting Gulf Oil Corp v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508 (1947)). The Seventh Circuit has stated, however, that the Plaintiff's choice of forum has only "minimal value where none of the conduct occurred in the forum selected by the plaintiff." Chicago, Rock Island, & Pac. R.R. Co. v. Igoe, 220 F.2d 299, 304 (7th Cir. 1955).

With regard to the second factor, courts consider the residences and resources of the parties-in essence, their "abilit[y] to bear the expense of trial in a particular forum." Von Holdt v. Husky Injection Molding Sys. Ltd., 887 F. Supp. 185, 188 (N.D. Ill. 1995). Examination of the third factor, the convenience of witnesses, emphasizes not just the raw number but "the nature and quality of the witnesses' testimony." Gueorguiev v. Max Rave, LLC, 526 F. Supp. 2d 853, 858 (N.D. Ill. 2007). Many courts state that, all other things being equal, the convenience of non-party witnesses is accorded greater weight than the convenience of party witnesses, the latter of whom have to participate (or rather, whose non-participation brings more easily administered consequences). See, e.g., First Nat'l Bank v. El Camino Resources, Ltd., 447 F. Supp. 2d 902, 913 (N.D. Ill. 2006). At the same time, a movant cannot meet its burden with only vague statements about the inconvenience imposed by the litigation on non-party witnesses: "The party seeking transfer must specify the key witnesses to be called and make a generalized statement of their testimony." Id. (citing Federated Dept. Stores, Inc. v. U.S. Bank Nat'l Assoc.,, 2001 WL 503039, *4 (N.D. Ill. May 11, 2001)); see also Am. Family Ins. ex rel. Suddarth v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2003 WL 1895390, *2 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 17, 2003) (defendant must show that the testimony of the particular witnesses is necessary to its case).

The broadly worded fourth factor, "the interest of justice," captures several considerations, including relative ease of access to sources of proofs; availability of compulsory process for attendance of unwilling, and the cost of obtaining attendance of willing witnesses; the possibility of a view of the premises; and the state of the court calendar both in the District where the case is pending, and in the District to which it is sought to have the case transferred.

Igoe, 220 F.2d at 303; see also In re Nat'l Presto Indus., Inc., 347 F.3d at 664 (discussing the "subpoena range" of the district court). Courts also consider their familiarity with the applicable law and "the desirability of resolving controversies in their locale." Rabbit Tanaka Corp. USA v. Paradise Shops, Inc., 598 F. Supp. 2d 836, 841 (N.D. Ill. 2009).

The fifth factor, the location of the material events giving rise to the case, becomes comparably more important when it differs from the plaintiff's choice of forum. Amorose v. C.H. Robinson ...


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