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Miller v. Insulation Contractors

April 21, 2009

VAN MILLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INSULATION CONTRACTORS, INC. ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard W. Roberts United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Van Miller brings claims of racial discrimination in employment under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA") and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against defendants Insulation Contractors, Inc., doing business as Capitol Insulation Services of Maryland ("Capitol"), and Gregory Mauk. The defendants have moved to dismiss Miller's DCHRA claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and to transfer venue. Because the complaint alleges discriminatory acts within the District of Columbia, the allegations pled do not clearly indicate that the DCHRA claim is barred by the statute of limitations, and the defendants have not shown that transferring venue to the District of Maryland is in the interest of justice, the defendants' motion to transfer and for partial dismissal will be denied.

BACKGROUND

Miller worked as a carpenter for Capitol on projects in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland from 1993 to 2008. (Compl. ¶ 3.) Mauk became his supervisor in 2001 when Miller was working in Virginia. From 2004 to late 2007, Miller worked on job sites mostly in the District of Columbia. (Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Partially Dismiss Pl.'s Compl. & Transfer Venue ("Pl.'s Opp'n"), Decl. of Van Miller ("Miller Decl.") ¶ 3.) In 2008, Miller worked for several weeks on projects in Maryland until he was laid off in February of 2008. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 4.) Beginning in 2001 and continuing throughout Miller's employment, Mauk allegedly threatened to fire Miller and made racist comments and death threats to Miller in person when visiting job sites or communicating over Capitol's radio system. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 3, 7; Compl. ¶¶ 7-9.) Paul Adams, an operations manager at Capitol's Maryland office, decided to lay Miller off based on input from Mauk. (Defs.' Errata to Defs.' Mot. to Partially Dismiss Pl.'s Compl. & Transfer Venue, Ex. A, Decl. of Paul Adams ("Adams Decl.") ¶ 4.) Mauk informed Miller of his termination while Miller was working on a project in Maryland. (Defs.' Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. to Partially Dismiss Pl.'s Compl. & Transfer Venue ("Defs.' Mem."), Ex. B, Decl. of Gregory Mauk ("Mauk Decl.") ¶ 6.) Miller and Mauk reside in Maryland and Capitol's only office is located in Maryland. (Id. ¶ 2; Adams Decl. ¶ 5; Compl. ¶ 3.)

On July 10, 2008, Miller filed his complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia bringing DCHRA and § 1981 claims alleging that the defendants harassed him, removed him from his position as a foreman, and laid him off because of his race. (Compl. ¶¶ 8, 11, 12.) The defendants removed the action to this court, and have moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) to dismiss Miller's DCHRA claim and to transfer the action to the District of Maryland under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

DISCUSSION

I. VENUE

A case may be transferred to another venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice[.]"*fn1 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); see Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 253 (1981). The moving party has the burden of establishing that a transfer is proper, Onyeneho v. Allstate Ins. Co., 466 F. Supp. 2d 1, 3 (D.D.C. 2006), "and the motion must not be lightly granted." 15 Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice & Procedure: Jurisdiction § 3848 at 163 (3d ed. 2007). As a threshold requirement, the transferee court must be in a district where the action "might have been brought." See 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). If it is, then a court has broad discretion to balance case-specific factors related to the public interest of justice and the private interests of the parties and witnesses. Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29-30 (1988); Demery v. Montgomery County, MD, Civil Action No. 08-1304 (RWR), 2009 WL 692604, at *3 (D.D.C. Mar. 18, 2009). Ultimately, if the balance of private and public interests favors a transfer of venue, then a court may order a transfer.

A. Venue in the District of Maryland

A civil action such as this one in which jurisdiction is not founded solely on diversity of citizenship may be brought only in (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). Capitol has its only office in Maryland (Adams Decl. ¶ 5), and Mauk resides in Maryland. (Mauk Decl. ¶ 2.) Moreover, Capitol made the decision to terminate Miller's employment in Maryland and Mauk worked out of Capitol's office in Maryland. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 5.) Miller also learned of his termination while working on a construction site in Maryland. (Id. ¶ 6.) Because all defendants reside in Maryland and a substantial adverse employment action complained of occurred in Maryland, this action could have been brought, then, in the transferee district.

B. Private interests

The private interest factors typically considered include:

1) the plaintiff's choice of forum, 2) the defendant's choice of forum, 3) where the claim arose, 4) the convenience of the parties, 5) the convenience of the witnesses, particularly if important witnesses may actually be unavailable to give live trial testimony in one of the districts, and 6) the ease of access to ...


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