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Roman-Salgado v. Holder

August 11, 2010

LAMBERTO ROMAN-SALGADO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ERIC HOLDER, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document No. 8

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS'MOTION TO DISMISS FOR IMPROPER VENUE

I. INTRODUCTION

The pro se plaintiff, an inmate at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Beaumont, Texas, filed this action against the Attorney General of the United States and the Department of Justice, seeking a declaratory judgment that he is a citizen or a national of the United States. The matter is now before the court on the defendants' motion to dismiss for improper venue and failure to state a claim. Because this court is an improper venue for the plaintiff's claim and that the interest of justice favors dismissal without prejudice over transfer, the court grants the defendants' motion to dismiss for improper venue.*fn1

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The plaintiff, who was born in Mexico, alleges that he has lived in the United States for the past twenty-eight years, residing in Highland Park, Illinois. Compl. at 2-3. He asserts that he applied for United States citizenship in 1995 but never received any response to his application. Id. at 3. Since August 2006, the plaintiff has been incarcerated at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Beaumont, Texas, serving a sentence of 120 months. Id., Ex. E. The plaintiff alleges that an immigration detainer has been placed on his record, subjecting him to likely deportation to Mexico upon the completion of his sentence. Id. at 3. More pressingly, he asserts that because of the detainer, he has been denied certain privileges while incarcerated, such as reductions in his sentence and the possibility of release to a halfway house. Pl.'s Opp'n at 3. The plaintiff alleges that the detainer was wrongfully placed on his record because he is not an alien but is instead a national of the United States. Compl. at 4.

The plaintiff initially sought review of the immigration detainer in the Executive Office for Immigration Review. See Compl., Ex. F. The petition he filed in that office was rejected, however, because there were no active removal proceedings against him. See Compl., Ex. G. The plaintiff then commenced this action, filing a complaint in August 2009 alleging that the detainer placed on his record violated his constitutional rights. See generally Compl. Styling his action as a Bivens claim, the plaintiff seeks a determination that he is a naturalized citizen of the United States. Id. at 1, 5.

In December 2009, the defendants filed the motion to dismiss for improper venue or for failure to state a claim that is presently before the court. See generally Defs.' Mot. The defendants argue that although the plaintiff's allegations fail to state a Bivens claim, the relief sought by the plaintiff is specifically provided for in 8 U.S.C. § 1503(a), a provision of the immigration code authorizing actions for declaratory judgment of national status. Id. at 9. The defendants argue, however, that this court is an improper venue for a claim under § 1503(a) and that the complaint fails to state a claim under that section. See id. at 10-11. In response, the plaintiff abandons the constitutional Bivens theories articulated in his complaint, acknowledges that his claims are properly understood as arising under § 1503(a) and requests that the court construe them in that way. See Pl.'s Opp'n at 3. The plaintiff also maintains that venue is proper in this court. Id. at 10-11; Pl.'s Supplemental Opp'n ("Pl.'s Suppl. Opp'n") at 2-4.*fn2 With the defendants' motion fully briefed, the court turns to the applicable legal standard and the parties' arguments.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for a Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue

Rule 12(b)(3) instructs the court to dismiss or transfer a case if venue is improper or inconvenient in the plaintiff's chosen forum. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(3). If the district in which the action is brought is not a proper venue, then that district court may either dismiss, "or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or division in which it could have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). The decision of whether dismissal or transfer is "in the interest of justice" is committed to the sound discretion of the district court. Naartex Consulting Corp. v. Watt, 722 F.2d 779, 789 (D.C. Cir. 1983). Generally, the interest of justice requires transferring such cases to the appropriate judicial district rather than dismissing them. Goldlawr, Inc. v. Heiman, 369 U.S. 463, 466-67 (1962); James v. Booz-Allen, 227 F. Supp. 2d 16, 20 (D.D.C. 2002).

To transfer the action, the court must ensure as a preliminary matter that venue is proper and that the defendants are subject to personal jurisdiction in the transferee forum. Sharp Elecs. Corp. v. Hayman Cash Register Co., 655 F.2d 1228, 1230 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (per curiam); Crisler v. Schmeltzer, 1990 WL 113887, at *2 (D.D.C. July 24, 1990). The decision regarding transfer rests within the court's sound discretion. Naartex, 722 F.2d at 789. This Circuit favors transfer under section 1406(a) "when procedural obstacles [such as lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and ...


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