United States District Court, District of Columbia
March 31, 2003
M.R. MIKKILINENI, PLAINTIFF,
GIBSON-THOMAS ENGINEERING COMPANY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge
MEMORANDUM ORDER DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
FOR A HEARING OR DEPOSITION; TRANSFERRING THE
CASE TO THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
This civil rights, contract, and tort case comes before the court on the motion to dismiss or transfer for lack of venue submitted by defendants Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co., Edward Schmitt, Mark Gera, Derry Township Municipal Authority, Indiana County Transit Authority, and Indiana County Commissioners (collectively, "the Gibson defendants").*fn1 Because the Western District of Pennsylvania has already ruled multiple times on similar claims filed by this pro se plaintiff, the court concludes that transferring this action to that district best serves the interest of justice.
The pro se plaintiff's 44-page, mostly single-spaced complaint alleges countless facts relating to his now-defunct engineering company, MRM Engineers, and the Gibson defendants' alleged breaches of 1990-91 contracts with MRM Engineers. See generally Compl. The complaint also details prior litigation, relating to the alleged contract breaches, in Pennsylvania state court, the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. E.g., id. at 19, 21, 29. In the pending complaint, the plaintiff alleges that the Gibson defendants and their attorneys committed "fraud upon the court" during the course of the prior litigation. E.g., id. Also in the pending complaint, the plaintiff sues the state and federal judges who presided over and dismissed the plaintiff's prior claims against the Gibson defendants, and the judges' law clerks. Id. at 5, 35-36. The plaintiff alleges that the judges cited incorrect facts and law and discarded evidence with malice. E.g., id. at 24-25, 28, 30, 32, 35-36, 38.
Overall, the plaintiff's counts allege breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, violations of the Federal Tort Claims Act, civil rights violations, and various other violations of the Constitution. Id. at 39-42. The plaintiff seeks monetary damages, declaratory relief, and a writ of mandamus compelling the United States Attorney General to investigate the "fraud on the courts" committed by the judges and law clerks. Id. at 42-44.
As the plaintiff himself explains, the instant action is one of many that he or his corporation have filed against the Gibson defendants. E.g., id. at 5, 24-25, 28, 30, 32, 38. The Gibson defendants describe eight of the plaintiff's prior actions against them in the Western District of Pennsylvania and 11 of his appeals relating to these actions. Gibson Defs.' Mot. at 7-11.
"For the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice," a district court may transfer a case to any other district where the plaintiff could have brought the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); McSheffrey v. Hawk-Sawyer, 2003 WL 179850, *1 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 24, 2003) (stating that transfer to the district where a number of the relevant events occurred was appropriate) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2), (e)(2)); see also In re O'Leska, 2000 WL 1946653, at *1 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 7, 2000) (adding that the interest of justice supports a transfer of the entire action rather than splitting the claims or defendants between two different venues). Generally, a strong presumption exists in favor of the plaintiff's choice of forum. Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 255-56 (1981). However, transfer away from the plaintiff's venue of choice serves the interest of justice when it would prevent a litigant from using one district as a "safe haven" from the lawful orders of another. In re Tripati, 836 F.2d 1406, 1407 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (affirming transfer of a case to the district that had heard the plaintiff's earlier cases and had barred the plaintiff from filing additional complaints without leave).
The Gibson defendants argue that the court should "either dismiss the instant case or, if it be in the interest of justice, transfer the case to a district where venue is proper, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a)." Gibson Defs.' Mem. at 11. The Gibson defendants correctly state that all of the defendants named in the complaint, except for the Attorney General, reside in the Western District of Pennsylvania and all of the relevant facts occurred there. Id. These facts are consistent with the plaintiff's complaint. See generally Compl.; see also Pl.'s Opp'n. Thus, venue is proper in the Western District of Pennsylvania pursuant to both 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) and (e).
The plaintiff argues that venue is proper in the District of Columbia pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e)(3) because he and the United States (presumably the Attorney General) reside in this district. Pl.'s. Opp'n at 9-10; Compl. at 3. The plaintiff further asserts that venue is improper in the Western District of Pennsylvania "due to the `situation that exist' there" and because he lacks the funds needed to travel there. Pl.'s Opp'n at 9; Compl. at 3.
The interest of justice supports keeping the claims in the plaintiff's pending action together and transferring the entire action to the Western District of Pennsylvania. In re Tripati, 836 F.2d at 1407; In re O'Leska, 2000 WL 1946653, *1. The court bases its decision largely on the plaintiff's admission that he is avoiding a district that has repeatedly dismissed at least some of the claims currently before this court. For example, the plaintiff states, about his litigation in the Western District of Pennsylvania, that "no court has ever decided MRM's claims on merits during the past 10-years, despite his filing/refiling of suit(s) about 8-times (involving 3-separate contracts plus a surety contract)." Pl.'s Opp'n at 3-4 (emphasis added). The plaintiff bluntly asserts why he wants the case to remain in the District of Columbia:
The venue is improper in the US Court in Pittsburgh,
due to the `situation that exist' there: record show
continuing acts of `bad faith' against Mikkilineni by
Defendants and the court officers up until the present
time. That makes it an impermissible forum for MRM to
pursue his claims there.
Pl.'s Opp'n at 9-10 (all emphasis in original); Pl.'s Mot. for Hr'g at 4; Compl. at 1-2, 24, 30-32. Contrary to the plaintiff's argument, the interest of justice supports preventing prolific plaintiffs from using new districts as "safe havens" from already existing orders. In re Tripati, 836 F.2d at 1407.
In addition, the court considers that courts generally give significant weight to a plaintiff's choice of forum. Piper Aircraft, 454 U.S. at 255-56. The court gives less weight to the plaintiff's choice of forum in this instance because the plaintiff is forum shopping. Prof'l Managers' Ass'n v. United States, 761 F.2d 740, 744 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (discussing Congress' disdain for forum shopping). Furthermore, the relevant facts occurred in Pennsylvania and all of the parties except for the plaintiff and the Attorney General reside in Pennsylvania (or did at the time of the events described in the complaint), making Pennsylvania more convenient for the witnesses and the parties. Dooley v. United Techs. Corp., 786 F. Supp. 65, 82 (D.D.C. 1992) (stating that in deciding whether to transfer an action, the court should weigh the plaintiff's choice of forum against the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interest of justice). In conclusion, the balancing of the plaintiff's forum choice, the interest of justice, and the convenience of the parties and witnesses weigh in favor of transferring the case to the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. In re Tripati, 836 F.2d at 1407; Dooley, 786 F. Supp. at 82.
Accordingly, it is this 31st day of March, 2003,
ORDERED that the plaintiff's motion for a hearing or deposition on the issues of personal jurisdiction and venue is DENIED; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk TRANSFER this action to the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.