Rule 19(a) provides that an entity is a necessary party if "(1) complete relief cannot be accorded in its absence; or (2) the absentee's ability to protect its interest may be impaired by the disposition of the action; or (3) those already parties will be subject to a substantial risk of incurring inconsistent obligations because of the absence." Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners, 699 F.2d at 1278-79. The SHA has an interest in the I-270 project that would be impaired if plaintiffs obtain their requested relief and thus is a necessary party. See Stevens v. Bartholomew, 96 U.S. App. D.C. 11, 222 F.2d 804, 806 (D.C. Cir. 1955) (per curiam).
With respect to the determination whether a party is indispensable, the Supreme Court has noted "four 'interests' that must be examined in each case to determine whether, in equity and good conscience, the court should proceed without a party whose absence from the litigation is compelled." Provident Tradesmens Bank & Trust Co. v. Patterson, 390 U.S. 102, 109, 19 L. Ed. 2d 936, 88 S. Ct. 733 (1968). These four interests are the plaintiff's interest in having a forum, the defendant's interest in avoiding inconsistent relief or multiple litigation, the absent party's interest in protecting his rights, and the public interest in complete and efficient resolution of controversies. Id. at 109-11.
Plaintiffs' interest in having an adequate forum weighs against dismissal of this case. To be sure, this action could be transferred to the federal court in Maryland, where all parties presumably could be joined. The delay caused by such a transfer makes that forum unsatisfactory, however, since plaintiffs have represented to the Court that they soon will seek a preliminary injunction to prevent further action with respect to the I-270 project. See Mikulay Co. v. Urban Mass Transportation Administration, 90 F.R.D. 250, 252 (D.D.C. 1980) (noting that delay could prejudice efforts to obtain preliminary relief); see also Ilan-Gat Engineers, Ltd. v. Antigua International Bank, 212 U.S. App. D.C. 188, 659 F.2d 234, 241-42 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (noting that plaintiff may be prejudiced by delay and cost arising from dismissal). In addition, litigating in Baltimore would be more costly for plaintiffs, since plaintiffs and their counsel are based in the Washington, D.C. area. See Defenders of Wildlife v. Andrus, 77 F.R.D. 448, 451 (D.D.C. 1978) (noting potential financial hardship to plaintiffs).
The second interest is not at issue in this case. There is no indication that allowing this case to proceed without Kassoff and the SHA will result in multiple litigation or inconsistent obligations on the part of the federal defendants.
The third interest also weighs against dismissal. It is clear that Kassoff and the SHA have an interest in protecting Maryland's rights, which undoubtedly will be affected to some extent if plaintiffs prevail. As courts have noted, however, simply because an entity "has an interest in this suit and may be affected by it . . . [is] not sufficient to qualify a party as indispensable." Swomley v. Watt, 526 F. Supp. 1271, 1273 (D.D.C. 1981); see also Defenders of Wildlife, 77 F.R.D. at 452.
The interests of Kassoff and the SHA will be adequately protected for two reasons. First, there is substantial identity of interests among the federal defendants and the state entities; all seek defeat of plaintiffs' claims and prompt completion of the I-270 project as it is currently planned. This identity of interests "obviates any serious possibility of prejudice" to Maryland's interests. Envirotech Corp. v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 729 F.2d 70, 73 (2d Cir. 1984); see also Mikulay Co., 90 F.R.D. at 253; Defenders of Wildlife, 77 F.R.D. at 452. In addition, if Kassoff and the SHA conclude that their interests will be prejudiced, they may protect those interests by intervening. See Samaha v. Presbyterian Hospital, 757 F.2d 529, 531 (2d Cir. 1985); Student Public Interest Research Group v. Monsanto Co., 600 F. Supp. 1479, 1484 (D.N.J. 1985); Defenders of Wildlife, 77 F.R.D. at 452; see also Advisory Committee Notes to 1966 Amendments to Rule 19.
The Court also believes that proceeding without Kassoff and the SHA will not disserve the public interest in complete, consistent, and efficient settlement of disputes. There is no potential for duplicative litigation and, should plaintiffs receive the relief requested, any order issued by this Court against the federal defendants would fully satisfy plaintiffs' claims. See Bermudez v. United States Department of Agriculture, 160 U.S. App. D.C. 150, 490 F.2d 718, 724 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1104, 38 L. Ed. 2d 559, 94 S. Ct. 737 (1973).
The conclusion that the state entities are not indispensable parties is consistent with past decisions in this circuit. In cases where plaintiffs have challenged the propriety of decisionmaking by federal administrative agencies, courts frequently have concluded that states and municipalities affected by that decisionmaking are not indispensable parties. See, e.g., Bermudez, 490 F.2d at 718; Mikulay Co., 90 F.R.D. at 250; Defenders of Wildlife, 77 F.R.D. at 448. Cf. Illinois v. City of Milwaukee, 406 U.S. 91, 97, 31 L. Ed. 2d 712, 92 S. Ct. 1385 (1972) (in case challenging water pollution caused by four Wisconsin cities, joinder of Wisconsin "is not mandatory"); Utz v. Cullinane, 172 U.S. App. D.C. 67, 520 F.2d 467, 472 n.9 (D.C. Cir. 1975) (in case challenging D.C. Police Department's routine transmittal of arrest records to FBI and national dissemination of those records by FBI, FBI not an indispensable party); State Water Control Board v. Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, 61 F.R.D. 588, 591 (D.D.C. 1974) (Maryland held not indispensable party to suit challenging discharge of sewage into Potomac and Anacostia Rivers).
In sum, the Court's review of the interests identified by Rule 19(b) leads it to conclude that Kassoff and the SHA are not indispensable parties.
As such, dismissal of this case under Rule 19(b) is not warranted.
C. Federal Defendants' Motion to Transfer
The federal defendants argue that the Court should transfer this case to the federal district court in Maryland under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) (1982). They assert that Maryland is a more convenient forum because it was the site of most of the acts and decisions concerning the I-270 project and because I-270 lies wholly in Maryland.
Under Section 1404(a), the parties moving for transfer have the burden of persuasion, and the court must accord weight to the plaintiff's choice of forum. SEC v. Savoy Industries, Inc., 190 U.S. App. D.C. 252, 587 F.2d 1149, 1154 (D.C. Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 440 U.S. 913, 99 S. Ct. 1227, 59 L. Ed. 2d 462 (1979). Generally, "unless the balance is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed." Gulf Oil Co. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508, 91 L. Ed. 1055, 67 S. Ct. 839 (1947).
This Court has broad discretion in making the transfer determination. See Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 253, 70 L. Ed. 2d 419, 102 S. Ct. 252 (1981); Norwood v. Kirkpatrick, 349 U.S. 29, 32, 99 L. Ed. 789, 75 S. Ct. 544 (1955). The Court must make "an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness," Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622, 11 L. Ed. 2d 945, 84 S. Ct. 805 (1964), in an effort to avoid "unnecessary inconvenience and expense to parties, witnesses, and the public." Continental Grain Co. v. Barge FBL-585, 364 U.S. 19, 21, 80 S. Ct. 1470, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1540 (1960). In addition, "in cases which touch the affairs of many persons, there is reason for holding the trial in their view and reach rather than in remote parts of the country where they can learn of it by report only. There is a local interest in having localized controversies decided at home." Gulf Oil Co., 330 U.S. at 509.
Here, plaintiffs and their members are located in the Washington, D.C. area, so this forum clearly is more convenient for them. In addition, the dismissal of Kassoff means that all defendants are located in this forum. Moreover, the administrative record of the I-270 project, which will be the focus of this Court's decision on the merits, is in this forum. Considerations of convenience and fairness thus oppose transfer.
The "localized controversy" consideration also favors retention of the case by this Court. Traffic patterns on I-270, and the use of parkland along I-270, clearly are matters of considerable importance to commuters and other residents of the District and communities along the I-270 corridor. While all Maryland residents may have an interest in the controversy over the I-270 project, the focus of that interest is with residents of this area. Those residents have a strong interest in keeping this case in this Court, where it can be decided "in their view."
Because the federal defendants have not made the strong showing required to upset plaintiffs' choice of forum, the motion to transfer must be denied.
Oliver Gasch, Judge