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Davis v. American Society of Civil Engineers

November 4, 2003

JAMES DAVIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CIVIL ENGINEERS ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



Document Nos. 8, 11

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A SUR-REPLY AND TRANSFERRING THE ACTION TO THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA

I. INTRODUCTION

After more than 13 years of employment with defendant American Society of Civil Engineers ("ASCE"), the plaintiff lost his job. Contending that various ASCE officers ("individual defendants"), motivated by "racial animus," strategically interfered with his employment contract and secured his termination, the plaintiff brings federal discrimination claims along with various non-federal claims. In response, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss or to transfer venue, asserting, inter alia, that venue is improper in this district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) and that the court therefore should transfer the matter to the Eastern District of Virginia. After the parties completed briefing on the question of venue, the plaintiff sought leave to file a sur-reply. While the defendants' reply contains a new argument, the court denies the plaintiff's motion because that new argument does not affect the court's resolution of the defendants' venue motion. With respect to venue, the plaintiff fails to establish the necessary nexus between this district and the facts giving rise to his claims. Because venue indeed is improper in this district with respect to the plaintiff's federal claims, the court transfers those claims to the Eastern District of Virginia with the pendent non-federal claims in tow.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Defendant ASCE is a non-profit New York corporation with its headquarters and principal place of business in Reston, Virginia and offices in New York City and Washington, D.C. Pl.'s Am. Compl. ("Compl.") ¶ 3; Defs.' Mot. at 1 & Ex. A (Natale Aff.). In March 1989, the plaintiff, an African American male, began working for defendant ASCE as its Assistant Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer. Compl. ¶ 9. In 1994, the plaintiff achieved the position of Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer ("CEO"). Id. ¶ 10. Defendant ASCE's corporate structure includes a "Board of Direction" ("the Board"), to which the CEO reports, and an Executive Committee ("the Committee") that exercises the Board's delegated authority. Id. ¶ 8.

The plaintiff's written employment contract provided him an initial term as CEO that would automatically renew for one-year terms subject to annual review by the Board. Id. ¶ 11. In 1996, the Committee unanimously extended the plaintiff's employment for two years, through October 31, 1998. Id. ¶ 12. In July 1997, the Committee again extended his employment, this time until October 31, 2000, and modified his contract to provide for automatic renewals every two years. Id. ¶ 13. On November 1, 1999, absent notice of non-renewal, the plaintiff's contract automatically extended through October 31, 2002. Id. ¶ 14.

The plaintiff alleges that beginning in 1999, "racial animus" motivated the three individual defendants and other ASCE officers to orchestrate the plaintiff's termination. Id. ¶ 19. The plaintiff claims that the individual defendants made false public statements about the plaintiff. Id. ¶ 25. On April 27, 2000 in Reston, Virginia, this alleged "defamatory campaign" materialized in a Committee vote by the individual defendants not to renew the plaintiff's contract. Id. ¶¶ 34-39, 49; Defs.' Mot. at 8. After the vote, one of the individual defendants attempted to deliver a termination notice to the plaintiff at an international conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. Compl. ¶¶ 58-59. After the plaintiff refused to accept the letter, it was later sent to him at defendant ASCE's headquarters in Reston. Id. ¶ 59.
In October 2000, the Board met in Seattle, Washington to consider the Committee's decision against renewal of the plaintiff's contract. Id. ¶ 60. At this meeting, the Board voted 15 to 10 in support of the Committee's non-renewal of the plaintiff's contract. Id. ¶ 72. In February 2002, while at defendant ASCE's Washington, D.C. office, one of the individual defendants presented the plaintiff with a severance offer requiring him to forego any claims against defendant ASCE. Id. ¶ 82. The plaintiff refused the offer. Id. Later that fall in Washington, D.C., allegedly without notice, defendant ASCE declined to provide the plaintiff with severance and other alleged contractually-guaranteed benefits. Id. In October 2002, defendant ASCE officially terminated the plaintiff at a meeting in Houston, Texas. Id. ¶ 83.

B. Procedural Background

On May 6, 2003, the plaintiff filed his original complaint. On June 9, 2003, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint asserting federal discrimination and civil-rights claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1985(3) against all the defendants, a non-federal breach-of-contract claim against defendant ASCE, and non-federal claims of tortious interference with business and contractual relations against certain individual defendants. Id. at 23-29.

On June 30, 2003, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer venue. They argue, inter alia, that venue is improper in this district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) and that the court therefore should transfer the action to the Eastern District of Virginia. See generally Defs.' Mot. On July 28, 2003, after the plaintiff filed his opposition and the defendants filed their reply, the plaintiff sought leave to file a sur-reply. See generally Pl.'s Mot. The court now addresses these motions.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal ...


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