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Taylor v. Shinseki

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

January 31, 2014

ERIC K. SHINSEKI, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For ERIC K. SHINSEKI, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, MARY ANDRUS, also known as MARY CHARLES, BARBARA J. NUGENT, Defendants: Andrea McBarnette, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.


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JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Melanie Taylor brings this action against defendants Eric Shinseki, in his official capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (" VA" ), Mary Andrus, a/k/a Mary Charles, and Barbara Nugent. Taylor asserts claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; under the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 701; and under various state laws. Pl.'s 3rd Amend. Compl. [ECF No. 22] (" Compl." ) 1. She seeks injunctive and monetary relief for alleged discrimination and retaliation on the basis of her sex, race, disability, and prior protected activity. Id. Defendant Shinseki [1] moved to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, to transfer. Although the Court concludes that venue is proper in the District of Columbia, it will transfer the case to the Western District of Louisiana for the convenience of parties and witnesses and in the interest of justice.


Taylor is an African-American female nurse, employed by the VA Medical Center in Alexandria, Louisiana. Compl. ¶ 8. Mary Andrus is Taylor's former coworker, and Barbara Nugent is Taylor's second-level supervisor. Id. ¶ ¶ 10, 12. Taylor

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alleges that Andrus harassed her in the workplace and physically threatened her. Id. ¶ ¶ 13-20. As a result, Taylor filed an Equal Employment Opportunity (" EEO" ) complaint against Andrus. Id. ¶ 31. After an administrative investigation, Andrus was permanently reassigned, and the EEO office for the VA issued a final decision finding that Taylor proved she had been harassed based on sex. Id. ¶ ¶ 34-35. As for Nugent, she was apparently the subject of a previous EEO harassment complaint filed by Taylor for unspecified misconduct, and Taylor alleges that Nugent downgraded her performance review in retaliation for her complaint. Id. ¶ ¶ 38-41. Taylor does not dispute that all of these actions took place in Louisiana. After receiving the EEO decision, she filed this action on September 18, 2013. Defendants Andrus and Nugent have yet to respond to the complaint, while defendant Shinseki has now moved to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction as to Andrus and Nugent and for lack of venue, or to transfer the case.


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

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§ 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." ).


Shinseki argues that Taylor's complaint should be dismissed for improper venue and lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Having determined that it is usually appropriate to assess venue before subject-matter jurisdiction, the ...

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