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Brodt v. County of Harford

United States District Court, D. Columbia

January 31, 2014

RONALD HOWARD BRODT, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF HARFORD, et al., Defendants

RONALD HOWARD BRODT, SR., Private Attorney General, Plaintiff, Pro se, Churchville, MD.

For HARFORD COUNTY DISTRICT COURT, HARFORD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, L. JESSE BANE, in his official and private capacity, also known as L. JESSE BANE, HARFORD COUNTY OFFICE OF THE SHERIFF, also known as HARFORD COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, Defendants: Michele J. McDonald, LEAD ATTORNEY, MARYLAND OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Courts and Judicial Affairs Division, Baltimore, MD.

Page 199

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Ronald Brodt, Sr., proceeding pro se, brings this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Harford County, Harford County District Court, Harford County Circuit Court, L. Jesse Bane, Harford County Office of the Sheriff, and " DOES 1-20." [1] Brodt seeks injunctive and monetary relief for purported violations of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, for false arrest and false imprisonment, and for a defective arrest warrant that purportedly violated the Fourth Amendment and the federal False Claims Act. Pl.'s Compl. [ECF No. 1] ¶ ¶ 46-66. He alleges that he was improperly arrested, that he was improperly detained, and that the warrant for his arrest was deficient. Id. ¶ ¶ 3, 10, 11. Defendants have moved to dismiss his complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, on several grounds. Brodt filed a late opposition to defendants' motion, and defendants did not file a reply brief. Because the Court concludes that venue is improper in the District of Columbia, but that venue is proper in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, the Court will transfer the case to the District of Maryland.

STANDARDS OF REVIEW

Federal courts have leeway to " choose among threshold grounds for denying audience

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to a case on the merits." Sinochem Int'l Co. v. Malay. Int'l Shipping Corp., 549 U.S. 422, 431, 127 S.Ct. 1184, 167 L.Ed.2d 15 (2007) (quoting Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 585, 119 S.Ct. 1563, 143 L.Ed.2d 760 (1999)). " [C]ertain nonmerits, nonjurisdictional issues may be addressed preliminarily, because '[j]urisdiction is vital only if the court proposes to issue a judgment on the merits.'" Pub. Citizen v. U.S. Dist. Court for D.C., 486 F.3d 1342, 1348, 376 U.S.App.D.C. 222 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (alterations in original) (quoting Sinochem, 549 U.S. at 431) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, it is appropriate for this Court to decide defendants' challenge to venue before addressing the challenge to subject-matter jurisdiction. See Shay v. Sight & Sound Sys., Inc., 668 F.Supp.2d 80, 82 (D.D.C. 2009) (" [A] court may decide questions of venue before addressing issues of personal or subject matter jurisdiction." ); Aftab v. Gonzalez, 597 F.Supp.2d 76, 79 (D.D.C. 2009) (" Adjudicative efficiency favors resolving the venue issue before addressing whether subject matter jurisdiction exists." ).

In ruling on a motion to dismiss for improper venue, the Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Darby v. U.S. Dep't of Energy, 231 F.Supp.2d 274, 277 (D.D.C. 2002); 2215 Fifth St. Assocs. v. U-Haul Int'l, Inc., 148 F.Supp.2d 50, 54 (D.D.C. 2001). But the Court need not accept as true inferences that are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint. Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193, 372 U.S.App.D.C. 335 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986)). It may, however, consider material outside of the pleadings. Cooper v. Farmers New Century Ins. Co., 593 F.Supp.2d 14, 18 (D.D.C. 2008) (noting that " [w]hen deciding a Rule 12(b)(3) motion to dismiss for lack of venue, the court may consider extrinsic evidence" ); Artis v. Greenspan, 223 F.Supp.2d 149, 152 (D.D.C. 2002) (" A court may consider material outside of the pleadings in ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of venue, personal jurisdiction or subject-matter jurisdiction." ) (citing Land v. Dollar, 330 U.S. 731, 735 n.4, 67 S.Ct. 1009, 91 L.Ed. 1209 (1947)). " Because it is the plaintiff's obligation to institute the action in a permissible forum, the plaintiff usually bears the burden of establishing that venue is proper." Williams v. GEICO Corp., 792 F.Supp.2d 58, 62 (D.D.C. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also 15 Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 3826, at 258 (2d ed. 1986 & Supp. 2006) (" [W]hen [an] objection has been raised, the burden is on the plaintiff to establish that the district he chose is a proper venue." ). To prevail on a motion to dismiss for improper venue, " the defendant must present facts that will defeat the plaintiff's assertion of venue." Thomas v. Potter, No. 05-1923, 2006 WL 314561, at *1 (D.D.C. Feb. 9, 2006).

Some venue resolutions rest on determinations about personal jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(3). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing a court's personal jurisdiction over a defendant. Where, as here, there has been no jurisdictional discovery, a plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of the pertinent jurisdictional facts to meet that burden. See Mwani v. bin Laden, 417 F.3d 1, 7, 368 U.S.App.D.C. 1 (D.C. Cir. 2005); see also Brunson v. Kalil & Co., Inc., 404 F.Supp.2d 221, 226 (D.D.C. 2005). " Moreover, to establish a prima facie case, plaintiffs are not limited to evidence that meets the standards of admissibility required by the district court. Rather, they may rest their argument on their pleadings, bolstered by such affidavits and

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other written materials as they can otherwise obtain." Mwani, 417 F.3d at 7. Nevertheless, a plaintiff must allege " specific facts upon which personal jurisdiction may be based," Blumenthal v. Drudge, 992 F.Supp. 44, 53 (D.D.C. 1998), and cannot rely on conclusory allegations, see Elemary v. ...


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