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Tuttle v. Jewell

United States District Court, District Circuit

July 9, 2013

WILLIAM C. TUTTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
SALLY JEWELL, [1] Secretary of the Interior, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROSEMARY M. COLLYER United States District Judge

William B. Tuttle had a fifty-year lease with the Colorado River Indian Tribes on some tribal land in the County of Riverside, California. In 2010, the Superintendent of the Colorado River Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, terminated the lease after finding that Mr. Tuttle had violated several of its provisions. Following the affirmance of that decision in the administrative appeals process, Mr. Tuttle filed suit in this Court. Defendants have moved to transfer this case to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Mr. Tuttle opposes. The Court will deny the motion.

I. FACTS

The Colorado River Indian Tribes have leased land in Riverside County, California to Mr. Tuttle since 1977. Compl. [Dkt. 1] ¶ 13. Under the terms of the fifty-year lease, Mr. Tuttle was permitted to reside on the property and conduct business there. Id. ¶¶ 2, 14, 21. In turn, he was required, among other obligations, to pay rent to the Tribes, maintain public liability insurance, and pay a percentage of his business’s gross receipts to the Tribes. Id. ¶¶ 19, 21.

On March 2, 2010, the Superintendent of the Colorado River Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (“BIA”) terminated the lease for alleged violations of its terms by Mr. Tuttle. Id. ¶ 38. This decision was affirmed on appeal by BIA’s Acting Western Regional Director on July 19, 2010. Id. ¶ 47. Nearly two and a half years later, on December 18, 2012, the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (“IBIA”) sustained that decision. Id. ¶¶ 49-50.

Mr. Tuttle sued Sally Jewel (Secretary of the Department of the Interior), Kevin Washburn (Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs), and the Department of the Interior (collectively, “Interior”). See Compl. [Dkt. 1]. Challenging the IBIA’s decision, Mr. Tuttle argues that Interior’s termination of the lease was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq. Id. ¶¶ 55-63. Among other things, he seeks a judgment declaring that termination of the lease was void ab initio and an order that directs Interior to restore the lease retroactively to the date of its termination.[2] Id. ¶¶ 59, 61, 63.

On May 23, 2013, Interior moved to transfer venue to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the district where the land is located. See Transfer Mot. [Dkt. 4]. Mr. Tuttle opposed, see Opp. [Dkt. 6], and Interior filed a Reply, see Dkt. 7.[3]

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Interior’s venue transfer motion is made pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which provides: “For 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.” The decision whether to transfer a matter is discretionary and factually-dependent. Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (“Section 1404(a) is intended to place discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions to transfer according to an ‘individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.’” (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964))); Smiths Indus. Med. Sys., Inc. v. Ballard Med. Prods., Inc., 728 F.Supp. 6, 7 (D.D.C. 1989) (“The decision whether to transfer under § 1404(a) is left largely to the district court’s discretion, and of necessity depends on the facts of each case.”). Generally, a plaintiff’s choice of forum receives considerable deference, Air Line Pilots Ass’n v. E. Air Lines, 672 F.Supp. 525, 526 (D.D.C. 1987), and the moving party “bears the burden of establishing that the transfer of [the] action is proper.” Trout Unlimited v. U.S. Dep’t of Agriculture, 944 F.Supp. 13, 16 (D.D.C. 1996).

The party seeking transfer thus must make two showings: (1) the plaintiff could have brought the action in the proposed transferee district originally; and (2) considerations of convenience and the interest of justice weigh in favor of transfer. See Van Dusen, 376 U.S. at 622-23; Trout Unlimited, 944 F.Supp. at 16. In evaluating this latter showing, courts balance a number of case-specific private and public interest factors, including (1) plaintiff’s forum choice; (2) defendant’s forum choice; (3) whether the claim arose elsewhere; (4) convenience of the parties; (5) convenience of the witnesses; (6) ease of access to the proof; (7) transferee court’s familiarity with the laws at issue; (8) congestion of both courts; and (9) local interest in deciding local controversies at home. See Stewart Org., 487 U.S. at 29-30; Trout Unlimited, 944 F.Supp. at 16.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Venue Is Proper in the Central District of California

The threshold question under § 1404(a) is whether Mr. Tuttle could have brought his action in the Central District of California, the transferee court proposed by Interior. Section 1391(e)(1) of Title 28 governs venue in cases “in which a defendant is an officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof acting in his official capacity or under color of legal authority, or an agency of the United States, or the United States . . . .” Such matters may be brought in any judicial district in which: “(A) a defendant in the action resides, (B) 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 (C) the plaintiff resides if no real property is involved in the action.” Id.

Interior argues that venue would be proper in the Central District of California under § 1391(e)(1) because both the property affected by the lease and Mr. Tuttle are located there. Transfer Mot. at 5. In his opposition, Mr. Tuttle addresses only whether transfer is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) and does not argue that venue would be improper in the Central District of California. He has thus waived any argument on the latter point. See CSX Transp., Inc. v. Commercial Union Ins., Co., 82 F.3d ...


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