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Chauhan v. Napolitano

October 25, 2010

DIPESH V. CHAUHAN, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JANET NAPOLITANO, SECRETARY, U.S. DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs, husband and wife Dipesh V. Chauhan and Divya D. Chauhan bring claims against the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the Attorney General of the United States, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), the Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"), the Director of USCIS' Dallas Field Office, and the Director of USCIS' Atlanta District Office, alleging that they have unreasonably delayed processing plaintiffs' applications for adjustment of their status. Pending before the Court is defendants' motion to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas ("Northern District of Texas"). Upon consideration of the motion, the response and reply thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record, the Court GRANTS defendants' motion to transfer venue.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual History

Plaintiffs, Indian nationals, have at all times relevant been residents of Irving, Texas. Compl. ¶¶ 13-14. On May 12, 2008, plaintiffs filed with the USCIS Form I-485 Applications for Adjustment of Status ("I-485 applications") to become lawful permanent residents. Compl. ¶¶ 28-29. USCIS initially processed plaintiffs' I-485 applications at its Service Center in Missouri, and then transferred plaintiffs' applications to its Dallas Field Office, located in Irving, Texas, for adjudication. Compl. ¶ 31; see also Defs.' Mem. at Ex. 1, Declaration of Alma L. Montellano ("Montellano Decl.") ¶ 1. Plaintiffs appeared at the Dallas Field Office for biometrics appointments in June 2008. Compl. ¶ 32. Plaintiffs also attended interviews at the Dallas Field Office on February 9, 2009. Compl. ¶ 33; Exs. L and M. Plaintiffs have contacted the USCIS on multiple occasions regarding the status of their applications. They have spoken with USCIS representatives by telephone and Mrs. Chauhan has met with USCIS representatives in the Dallas Field office. Compl. ¶¶ 45-46. Mrs. Chauhan alleges that during one of these meetings, on December 11, 2009, she was told that plaintiffs' files had been transferred to USCIS' Atlanta District Office for review, and the Atlanta office would "then return the[] [files] to the Dallas Office to make a final decision." Compl. Ex. B, Declaration of Divya Chauhan ("Divya Chauhan Decl.") ¶ 12.c. Plaintiffs have not yet received final decisions regarding their applications. Compl. ¶ 6.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiffs filed suit in this Court on March 24, 2010 pursuant to the Mandamus Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1361, the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, and the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 702, to compel action on their I-485 applications for adjustment of immigration status. On June 4, 2010, defendants filed a motion to transfer this case to the Northern District of Texas and for an extension of time to respond to the complaint until the Court rules on the motion to transfer venue. On June 11, 2010, the Court stayed further proceedings in this case pending resolution of defendants' motion to transfer venue. The parties completed briefing on the motion to transfer, and it is now ripe for determination by the Court.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The federal venue transfer statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), provides that "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The district court has discretion to adjudicate motions to transfer according to an "'individualized case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.'" Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that transfer of the action is proper. See Devaughn v. Inphonic, Inc., 403 F. Supp. 2d 68, 71 (D.D.C. 2005).

Defendants must make two showings to justify transfer. First, defendants must establish that the plaintiffs could have brought suit in the proposed transferee district. See id. at 71-72; Trout Unlimited v. United States Dep't of Agric., 944 F. Supp. 13, 16 (D.D.C. 1996). Second, defendants must demonstrate that considerations of convenience and the interests of justice weigh in favor of a transfer. Devaughn, 403 F. Supp. 2d at 72; Trout Unlimited, 944 F. Supp. at 16. The Court may consider materials outside the pleadings in considering a motion to transfer. See, e.g., Stearns v. McGuire, 512 F.2d 918, 933-34 (D.C. Cir. 1974).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Where the Case Could Have Been Brought

Before the Court transfers an action to another venue, the defendant must show that the plaintiff could have brought the action in the proposed transferee district. Devaughn, 403 F. Supp. 2d at 72. In an action brought against an officer of employee of the United States or its agencies venue is proper in any district where (1) a defendant resides; (2) a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred; or (3) the plaintiff resides, if no real property is involved in the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e).

The defendants argue and the plaintiffs do not contest that plaintiffs could have brought this case in the Northern District of Texas. The director of USCIS' Dallas Field Office, who has been named as a defendant, resides in that district. The plaintiffs also reside in that district. As set forth in Section I.A., a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred in the Dallas Field Office. Finally, while the plaintiffs' files may have been transferred to UCSIS' Atlanta District Office at one point, their files are currently at the Dallas Field Office, where it is undisputed that "a final decision" on their I-485 applications will be made. Compl. Ex. B, Divya Chauhan Decl. ΒΆ 12.c; see also ...


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