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Greene v. National Head Start Association

April 28, 2009

SARAH M. GREENE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL HEAD START ASSOCIATION, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Sarah M. Greene brings this diversity action against the National Head Start Association ("NHSA") for damages based on claims of breach of employment contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, promissory estoppel, retaliatory discharge and defamation, arising out of the termination of her employment as the President and Chief Executive Officer of NHSA. NHSA moves to transfer venue. Because a transfer of venue to the Eastern District of Virginia is in the interest of justice, the motion to transfer will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Greene was associated with NHSA from 1968 to 2007. During that time, she lived in Virginia, although she now lives in Florida. (Compl. ¶ 1.) She was the President of NHSA's Board of Directors ("Board") between 1982 and 1986. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 9.) In 1991, NHSA's Board chose Greene to become NHSA's executive director. Her title changed to President and Chief Executive Officer in 2000. Greene's written employment agreement with NHSA was issued and agreed to in Virginia. (Compl. ¶¶ 11, 14; Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Transfer Venue ("Def.'s Mem.") at 2.) NHSA's sole corporate office is in Alexandria, Virginia. (Def.'s Mem. at 2.)

In 2007, a member of the Board had his personal accountant review NHSA's financial records. That Board member alleged that NHSA was improperly spending grant money under Greene's leadership. (Compl. ¶¶ 43-45.) NHSA's Board informed Greene that they hired the law firm of Holland & Knight, LLP to investigate improper spending of grant money under Greene's leadership. (Compl. ¶ 51.) At a meeting held in this district, Holland & Knight reported its findings to the Board, which then created an evaluation committee that collected here evaluations of Greene's performance as President and Chief Executive Officer. (Compl. ¶¶ 51-55; Pl.'s Opp'n at 3.) The Board's Executive Committee later asked Greene to resign, which she refused to do. On December 5, 2007, the Board terminated Greene's employment. (Compl. ¶¶ 15, 56-63.)

The defendants move to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. (See Defs.' Mem. at 1.) Greene opposes the motion to transfer. (See Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Transfer Venue ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 1-2.)

DISCUSSION

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[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). See also Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 253 (1981). The moving party carries the burden of demonstrating that a transfer is warranted. Montgomery v. SGT Int'l, Inc., 532 F. Supp. 2d 29, 32 (D.D.C. 2008); Onyeneho v. Allstate Ins. Co., 466 F. Supp. 2d 1, 3 (D.D.C. 2006). Because "it is perhaps impossible to develop any fixed general rules on when cases should be transferred[,] . . . the proper technique to be employed is a factually analytical, case-by-case determination of convenience and fairness." SEC v. Savoy Indus. Inc., 587 F.2d 1149, 1154 (D.C. Cir. 1978) (quoting Starnes v. McGuire, 512 F.2d 918, 925 (1974)).

"Any transfer under § 1404(a) is restricted to a venue where the action 'might have been brought.'" See 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); Robinson v. Eli Lilly Co., 535 F. Supp. 2d 49, 51 (D.D.C. 2008). When, as here, jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, [a] civil action . . . may, except as otherwise provided by law, 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 is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced, if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be brought.

28 U.S.C. § 1391(a). A court must also "weigh in the balance the convenience of the witnesses and those public-interest factors of systemic integrity and fairness that, in addition to [the] private concerns [of the parties], come under the heading of 'the interest of justice.'" Stewart Org. Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 30 (1988). "The private interest factors that are 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,*fn1 and 6) the ease of access to sources of proof." Demery v. Montgomery County, Civil Action No. 08-1364 (RWR), 2009 WL 692604, at *3 (D.D.C. March 18, 2009). "Public interest factors include 1) the local interest in making local decisions about local controversies, 2) the potential transferee court's familiarity with the applicable law, and 3) the congestion of the transferee court compared to that of the transferor court." Demery, 2009 WL at *3 (citing Akiachak Native Community v. Dep't of the Interior, 502 F. Supp. 2d 64, 67 (D.D.C. 2007)).

Ultimately, if the balance of private and public interests favors a transfer of venue, then a court may order a transfer.

I. VENUE IN VIRGINIA

NHSA asserts that a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claim occurred the Eastern District of Virginia where NHSA has its sole corporate office, and Greene concedes that this action could have been brought in the Eastern District of Virginia. (See Defs.' Mem. at 2; Pl.'s Opp'n at 2.) Therefore, ...


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