The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICARDO URBINA, District Judge
GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO TRANSFER
This case comes before the court on the defendants' motion to transfer.
The plaintiff alleges that the defendants discriminated against her due
to her familial status in violation of the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"),
42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., as well as the District of Columbia
Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), D.C. Code Ann. §§ 2-1401 et seq.
Because the plaintiff originally could have brought her case in the
proposed transferee forum and the considerations of convenience and the
interest of justice weigh in favor of transfer, the court grants the
Defendant Churchey Group II, L.L.C. ("the Churchey Group") is a
real-estate development, marketing and management company, incorporated
in Maryland. Compl. ¶ 5. One of the Churchey Group's properties is
Greenwich Village, a development of new, single-family homes in
Hagerstown, Maryland. Id. In July of 2002, the plaintiff, a
Maryland resident and the mother of three children, read the defendants'
advertisement in the Washington Post, which stated that Greenwich Village
consisted of "Gracious Homes for the Empty Nester." Id. ¶¶ 4,
9-10. The plaintiff also accessed the Greenwich Park website, which
displayed the same statement. Id. ¶ 11.
On July 18, 2002 the plaintiff and her children traveled to Greenwich
Park to inquire about available homes. Id. ¶ 12. At
Greenwich Park, the plaintiff alleges that defendant Tricia Churchey
("Churchey"), the sales manager and a principal of the Churchey Group,
told the plaintiff that Greenwich Park was designed for "empty nesters."
The plaintiff claims that Churchey further explained that an "empty
nester" was a person who did not have children or whose children no
longer lived at home, and that Greenwich Park was not well-suited to
families with children. Id. ¶ 13. The plaintiff alleges that
Churchey then explained that the vision for Greenwich Park was that of a
retirement community for seniors and couples who no longer had children
living at home. Id. The plaintiff claims that Churchey then
showed her model home to the plaintiff, reiterating throughout the tour
that Greenwich Park was intended to be a retirement community and that
there would be no place in Greenwich Park for the plaintiff's children to
play. Id. ¶ 18. The next day, the plaintiff called Churchey
with some follow-up questions
regarding the purchase of a lot in Greenwich Park. Id.
¶ 22. The plaintiff claims that Churchey did not know the answers to
any of her questions, and that Churchey did not offer to obtain the
information for the plaintiff. Id.
On February 13, 2003, the plaintiff filed suit in this court, alleging
violations of the FHA and the DCHRA. On March 7, 2003 the defendants
filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer the action
to the District of Maryland. The court now turns to that motion.
A. Legal Standard for Venue and Transfer to Another
When federal jurisdiction is premised on a federal question,
28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) controls venue, establishing three places where venue is
(1) a judicial district where any defendant
resides, if all defendants reside in the same
State, (2) a judicial district in which a
substantial part of the events or omissions giving
rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part
of property that is the subject of the action is
situated, or (3) a judicial district in which any
defendant may be found, if there is no district in
which the action may otherwise be brought.
28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).
Section 1404(a) authorizes a court to transfer a civil action to any
other district where it could have been brought "for the convenience of
parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice [.]"
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Section 1404(a) vests "discretion in the district court
motions to transfer according to individualized, case-by-case
consideration of convenience and fairness." Stewart Org., Inc. v.
Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 27 (1988) (quoting Van Dusen v.
Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)). Under this statute, the moving
party bears the burden of establishing that transfer is proper. Trout
Unlimited v. Dep't. of Agric., 944 F. Supp. 13, 16 (D.D.C. 1996).
Accordingly, the defendants must make two showings to justify transfer.
First, the defendants must establish that the plaintiff originally could
have brought the action in the proposed transferee district. Van
Dusen, 376 U.S. at 622. Second, the defendants must demonstrate that
considerations of convenience and the interest of justice weigh in favor
of transfer to that court. Trout Unlimited, 944 F. Supp. at 16.
As to the second showing, the statute calls on the court to weigh a
number of case-specific private and public interest factors. Stewart
Org., 487 U.S. at 29. The private interest considerations include:
(1) the plaintiff's choice of forum, unless the balance of convenience is
strongly in favor of the defendants; (2) the defendants' choice of forum;
(3) whether the claim arose elsewhere; (4) the convenience of the
parties; (5) the convenience of the witnesses, but only to the extent
that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the
fora; and (6) the ease of access to sources of proof. Trout
Unlimited, 944 F. Supp. at 16 (citing Jumara v. State Farm Ins.
Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d. Cir. 1995); Heller Fin., Inc. v.
Riverdale Auto Parts, Inc., 713 F. Supp. 1125, 1129 (N.D. Ill.
1989); 15 FED. PRAC. & PROC. § 3848 at 385 (2d ed. 1986)). The
public interest considerations include: (1) the transferee's familiarity
with the governing laws; (2) the relative congestion of the calendars of
the potential transferee and transferor courts; and (3) the local
interest in deciding local controversies at home. Id.
B. The Court Grants the Defendants' Motion to Transfer
the Action to the District of Maryland
The defendants argue that the interest of justice favors transfer to
the District of Maryland because all of parties are Maryland residents,
the Churchey Group is incorporated in Maryland, the housing development
at issue is located in Maryland, almost all the complained of actions by
the defendants occurred in Maryland, and documentary evidence and
witnesses are in Maryland. Defs.' Mot. at 13. The plaintiff counters by
first pointing out that the defendants reside in Hagerstown, Maryland,
which is closer to the District of Columbia than to the federal district
court in Baltimore. Pl.'s Opp'n at 22 Second, the plaintiff notes that
she works in the District of Columbia, resides near the District of
Columbia border and has ...