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Jose Quiroz v. Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Robert Hall

April 23, 2012

JOSE QUIROZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION AGENT ROBERT HALL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. Manning United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Jose Quiroz was indicted on drug trafficking charges and arrested in Chicago in April of 2009 pursuant to a warrant issued by a federal court in the Northern District of Indiana. From the beginning, Mr. Quiroz insisted that he was not the individual sought in the indictment. After the government voluntarily dismissed the charges without prejudice in October of 2010, Mr. Quiroz filed this action against nine federal agents (Robert Hall, Lana Sabata, Jessica Salley, Daniel Mitten, Mickey French, David Coulson, Roger Crafton, Larry Robertson, and Justin Illyes) and the United States contending that his arrest violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment constitutional rights as well as Indiana law. The defendants have filed a motion to transfer this action to the Northern District of Indiana pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1404(a). Alternatively, they seek to dismiss this action pursuant to Rules 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, the motion to transfer is granted. The court, therefore, will not consider the motion to dismiss.

I. Background

The following facts are drawn from the complaint. The court also takes judicial notice of the docket in United States v. Crawford, et al., No. 2:08-CR-214-JTM-APR (N.D. Ind.). On April 22, 2009, after conducting surveillance and investigation regarding a man whose nick-name was "Chu," Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") agents arrived at Mr. Quiroz's home, where Mr. Quiroz, his wife, and his four year old son were present. The agents searched the house but did not find any drugs. They nevertheless arrested Mr. Quiroz, who was ultimately charged with one count of drug conspiracy and four counts of using a telephone to facilitate a drug felony. See United States v. Crawford, et al., No. 2:08-CR-214-JTM-APR (N.D. Ind.). After a hearing before a magistrate judge on the day of his arrest, Mr. Quiroz was ordered detained, but the following day, the magistrate judge appointed counsel for Mr. Quiroz and released him on his own recognizance.

Following his arrest, Mr. Quiroz learned that the agents were looking for Chu, whom they believed had tattoos on his back. The agents had heard Chu on intercepted telephone calls and observed him on surveillance footage. In addition, several days before the arrest, agents saw Chu drive down the street where Mr. Quiroz lives, turn around in his driveway, park on the street, and go into a nearby house. When agents asked Mr. Quiroz if he was Chu, he signed a Miranda waiver and told the agents that he was not Chu, did not have any tattoos, and was a construction worker who lived in Chicago.

In October of 2009 the grand jury returned a second superseding indictment that realleged the same charges against Mr. Quiroz/Chu. In October of 2010, the government moved to dismiss the charges against Mr. Quiroz without prejudice. That motion was granted on November 1, 2010.

On March 25, 2011, Mr. Quiroz filed this federal civil rights suit against "Federal Agent Robert Hall and Unknown Federal Agents." He filed an amended complaint on April 19, 2011, naming the nine federal agents who are currently defendants in this case: (1) Robert Hall, Lana Sabata , Jessica Salley and Daniel Mitten, FBI or ATF agents responsible for "the investigation and participated in major decisions related to the arrest and prosecution" of Mr. Quiroz, who all allegedly obtained a search warrant for the Quiroz home even though they knew there was no probable cause, Complaint at ¶¶ 8. 19; (2) Mickey French, David Coulson, and Roger Crafton (ATF agents who conducted surveillance of a car believed to be driven by Chu and were allegedly aware that Mr. Quiroz was not Chu); (4) Larry Robertson (an officer with the Gary, Indiana, Police Department who served as the Task Force agent to the ATF and also allegedly reviewed the car surveillance of a car believed to be driven by Chu, allegedly knew that Mr. Quiroz was not Chu, and conducted the custodial interview after Mr. Quiroz was arrested); (5) Justin Illyes (a member of the Gary Indiana Police Department who reviewed surveillance of a car believed to be driven by Chu and allegedly knew that Mr. Quiroz was not Chu); and (6) the United States.

In his second amended complaint, Mr. Quiroz contends that the individual defendants falsely arrested him (Count I), violated his right to due process by withholding exculpatory evidence (Count II), failed to intervene to prevent a violation of his constitutional rights (Count III), and conspired to violate his constitutional rights (Count IV). He also asserts that the United States is liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for the individual defendants' malicious prosecution of him in violation of Indiana law (Count V). The defendants' motions to transfer and dismiss are presently before the court.

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Transfer

The defendants seek to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1404(a), which provides that, "[f]or the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interests of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." Under § 1404(a), the party seeking transfer must demonstrate that: (1) venue is proper in the transferor court; (2) venue would be proper in the transferee court; and (3) transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the interests of justice. See, e.g., Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964). The party seeking transfer "has the burden of establishing, by reference to particular circumstances, that the transferee forum is clearly more convenient." Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-20 (7th Cir. 1986); see also Research Automation, Inc. v. Schrader Bridgeport Intern., Inc., 627 F.3d 973, 981 (7th Cir. 2010).

In this case, the parties agree that the first two prongs of §1404(a) are satisfied as venue is proper in both this district and the proposed transferee district. Thus, the court will focus on the private interest factors (the convenience of the parties and witnesses) and the public interest factor (the interests of justice).

1. Convenience of the Parties and Witnesses

When evaluating the private interest factors, the court considers: (1) the plaintiffs' choice of forum; (2) the situs of material events; (3) the availability of evidence in each forum; (4) the convenience of the witnesses; and (5) the convenience of the parties litigating in the respective forums. Research Automation, 526 F.3d at 978. The court also considers whether the parties have met their burden of specifically identifying the witnesses they intend to call, as well as the general content of the witnesses' proposed ...


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