United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
FEINERMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Carter, at all relevant times an inmate at Dixon Correctional
Center in Dixon, Illinois, alleges violations of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 12101 et seq., the Rehabilitation Act, 29
U.S.C. § 701 et seq., and state law. Doc. 1.
Carter's attorneys, whose offices are located in Chicago
and who deserve great commendation for undertaking this
representation on a pro bono basis, filed the suit
in this District's Eastern Division. Certain defendants
have moved under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to transfer the
suit to the Western Division, where Dixon is located, Doc.
17, and the other defendants expressed support for the motion
at the most recent hearing, Doc. 29. The motion is granted.
resolve a motion to transfer, the court draws the facts from
the complaint, as supplemented by affidavits and other
evidence, and makes all reasonable inferences in Carter's
favor. See Faulkenberg v. CB Tax Franchise Sys., LP,
637 F.3d 801, 809-10 (7th Cir. 2011); Kuvedina, LLC v.
Pai, 2011 WL 5403717, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 8, 2011).
was incarcerated at Dixon from mid-2015 through January 2017.
Doc. 1 at ¶ 3. He is deaf and mute, and communicates
best through American Sign Language (“ASL”).
Id. at ¶ 1. He also suffers from sickle cell
disease. Id. at ¶ 2. In May 2016, Carter told
Dixon medical staff that he was experiencing pain and
worsening sickle cell symptoms, but was ignored. Id.
at ¶ 5. He was eventually transferred to the University
of Illinois at Chicago (“UIC”) medical center,
and he remained there for more than a week. Ibid. In
November 2016, Carter was again hospitalized at UIC.
Ibid.; Doc. 24 at 7.
alleges that Defendants' failure to provide him with an
ASL interpreter exacerbated his medical situation. Carter
wrote in various grievances that he needed an ASL interpreter
because the nurses, with whom he could not communicate,
dressed his wounds in a way that caused him pain. Doc. 1 at
¶¶ 28-34. Despite his requests, Carter rarely was
provided an ASL interpreter during treatment. Id. at
¶ 36. At other times, Carter's treatment was delayed
due to the lack of an interpreter. Id. at
¶¶ 39-41. The complaint names as defendants John
Baldwin, the Acting Director of the Illinois Department of
Corrections (“IDOC”); Wexford Health Sources,
Inc., a contractor providing medical services at Dixon; and
several IDOC and Wexford employees who worked at Dixon.
1404(a) states: “For the convenience of 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) (emphasis added). The
moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that a
transfer is clearly warranted. See Heller Fin., Inc. v.
Midwhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1293 (7th Cir. 1989);
Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-20
(7th Cir. 1986). Transfer “is appropriate if: (1) venue
is proper in both the transferor and transferee court; (2)
transfer is for the convenience of the parties and witnesses;
and (3) transfer is in the interest of justice.”
Law Bulletin Publ'g Co. v. LRP Publ'ns,
Inc., 992 F.Supp. 1014, 1017 (N.D. Ill. 1998); see
also Atl. Marine Const. Co., Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Ct. for the
W. Dist. of Tex., 134 S.Ct. 568, 581 (2013) (“In
the typical case …, a district court considering a
§ 1404(a) motion … must evaluate both the
convenience of the parties and various public-interest
considerations.”); Research Automation, Inc. v.
Schrader-Bridgeport Int'l, Inc., 626 F.3d 973, 978
(7th Cir. 2010) (“The statutory language … is
broad enough to allow the court to take into account all
factors relevant to convenience and/or the interests of
justice.”). The parties do not dispute that venue is
proper both in both divisions of the Northern District of
Illinois, so only convenience and the interest of justice
require consideration. “The weighing of factors for and
against transfer necessarily involves a large degree of
subtlety and latitude, and, therefore, is committed to the
sound discretion of the trial judge.” Coffey,
796 F.2d at 219.
convenience factors include: “(1) the plaintiff's
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 [of]
the parties.” Law Bulletin Publ'g, 992
F.Supp. at 1017.
the first factor, although a plaintiff's choice of forum
generally deserves deference, see FDIC v. Citizens Bank
& Trust Co. of Park Ridge, 592 F.2d 364, 368 (7th
Cir. 1979), little deference is owed here. Carter does not
reside in the Eastern Division; he is presently incarcerated
at the Western Illinois Correctional Center
(“WICC”) in Mount Sterling, which is located in
the Central District of Illinois, with a release date of
January 10, 2020. Doc. 24 at 3; Illinois Department of
Corrections Inmate Search,
(last visited July 31, 2017). Where a plaintiff does not
reside in his chosen forum, the deference owed his choice is
“substantially reduced.” Johnson v. United
Airlines, Inc., 2013 WL 323404, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Jan.
25, 2013); see also C. Int'l, Inc. v. Turner Constr.
Co., 2005 WL 2171178, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 30, 2005)
(“Where the plaintiff does not reside in the chosen
forum, the plaintiff's choice of forum is still accorded
some weight, but not as much as otherwise.”)
(collecting cases); 15 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller,
Edward H. Cooper, & Richard D. Freer, Federal
Practice and Procedure § 3848, at 181-82 (4th ed.
2013) (“If the plaintiff is not a resident of the
forum, the plaintiff's forum choice may be entitled to
relatively little deference.”). Moreover, a
plaintiff's choice of forum merits less deference where
the events giving rise to the suit did not occur there.
See Dunn v. Soo Line R. Co., 864 F.Supp. 64, 65
(N.D. Ill. 1994). That is true in this case because
Carter's rights were allegedly violated at Dixon, which
is located in Lee County, which in turn is located in the
Western Division, see 28 U.S.C. § 93(a)(2);
Defendants are not alleged to have violated Carter's
rights in the Eastern Division.
second factor, the situs of material events, favors transfer.
As just noted, the events giving rise to this suit occurred
at Dixon. Carter asserts that Benton's alleged misconduct
occurred at his office in Springfield and that Wexford's
occurred at its corporate offices in Pittsburgh, Doc. 24 at
7-8, but Carter was injured as a result of that alleged
misconduct in the Western Division, at Dixon, and not in the
Eastern Division. See Boyd v. Snyder, 44 F.Supp.2d
966, 970-71 (N.D. Ill. 1999) (holding that even where prison
policies had been developed elsewhere, because “the
locus of policy implementation is more relevant than the
locus of policy creation, ” the situs of material
events was the prison).
third factor, the ease of access to proof, is neutral.
“When documents are easily transferable, access to
proof is a neutral factor.” Johnson, 2013 WL
323404, at *5; see also Sojka v. DirectBuy, Inc.,
2014 WL 1089072, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 18 2014) (collecting
cases). That is especially true where, as here, relevant
documents likely exist in both the transferor and transferee
divisions; although documents certainly are located at Dixon,
Carter was treated at UIC, so there is likely documentary
evidence in the Eastern Division as well. The volume of
documents located at each location matters little, as there
is no reason to think that in this day and age documents
could not easily be transferred from the Eastern to the
Western Division, or vice versa. See Sojka, 2014 WL
1089072, at *3 (“There is every reason to believe that
all relevant documents can easily be transported,
electronically or otherwise, to Chicago or Hammond …
.”); Johnson, 2013 WL 323404, at *5
(“documents are easily transferrable”); Nero
v. Am. Fam. Mut. Ins. Co., 2011 WL 2938138, at *3 (N.D.
Ill. July 19, 2011) (same); Digan v. Euro-Am.
Brands, LLC, 2010 WL 3385476, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 19,
2010) (“[D]ocuments now are easily scanned, stored, and
electronically transmitted … [and] moving them no
longer creates the onerous burden it may once have
fourth factor, the location and convenience of non-party
witnesses, slightly favors transfer. Convenience of non-party
witnesses is often “the most important factor, ”
Nathan v. Morgan Stanley Renewable Development Fund,
LLC, 2012 WL 1886440, at *20 (N.D. Ill. May 22, 2012),
“as the § 1404 calculus is generally less
concerned about the burden that appearing at trial might
impose on witnesses who are either employees of parties or
paid experts because it is presumed that such witnesses will
appear voluntarily, ” Sojka, 2014 WL 1089072,
at *3 (internal quotation marks omitted). Here, it is likely
that most non-party witnesses-including non-party prison and
medical staff at Dixon-are located in the Western Division.
As Carter notes, there will also be non-party witnesses from
UIC, given Carter's medical treatment there. But the UIC
witnesses will testify largely if not exclusively to damages,
and if they do not attend trial in the Western Division,
presenting their testimony by video deposition would be an
acceptable substitute. See Household Fin. Servs., Inc. v.
Northern Trade Mortg. Corp., 1999 WL 782072, at *5 (N.D.
Ill. Sept. 27, 1999) (holding that the presence of non-party
witnesses did not compel transfer where there were not a
“significant number” and their depositions could
have been taken and presented at trial). In the court's
experience, it is far more important that liability witnesses
testify live at trial.
fifth factor, the convenience of the parties, requires the
court to consider their “residences and their ability
to bear the expenses of litigating in a particular
forum.” Brandon Apparel Grp., Inc. v. Quitman Mfg.
Co., 42 F.Supp.2d 821, 834 (N.D. Ill. 1999).
“Transfer is inappropriate if it merely transforms an
inconvenience for one party into an inconvenience for the
other party.” Ibid. (internal quotation marks
omitted). Here, most of the individual defendants are located
in the Western Division. Carter is currently incarcerated at
WICC, which is 251 miles from the Eastern Division courthouse
in Chicago and 233 miles from the Western Division courthouse
in Rockford. (The court takes judicial notice of those
distances, see Lowrance v. Pflueger, 878 F.2d 1014,
1018 (7th Cir. 1989), by consulting driving directions from
Google Maps, see Cloe v. City of Indianapolis, 712
F.3d 1171, 1177 n.3 (7th Cir. 2013), overruled on other
grounds by Ortiz v. Werner Enters., Inc., 834 F.3d 760,
764-65 (7th Cir. 2016).) Because Carter will have to be