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Doe v. United States Dep't of the Army

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 21, 2015

JOHN DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, Defendant. SHANNON TALLANT et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, et al., Defendants

For JOHN DOE, Plaintiff (1:14-cv-01583-CRC): Steven L. Herrick, LEAD ATTORNEY, Mathew B. Tully, Sarah L. McKinin, TULLY RINCKEY, PLLC, Washington, DC.

For U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, Defendant (1:14-cv-01583-CRC): Derrick Wayne Grace, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

For SHANNON TALLANT, Plaintiff (1:14-cv-01801-CRC): Mathew B. Tully, LEAD ATTORNEY, Sarah L. McKinin, Joshua N. Rose, TULLY RINCKEY PLLC, Washington, DC.

For JOHN NIEVES, JARRETT CARSON, JOSEPH LAWENDOWSKI, Plaintiffs (1:14-cv-01801-CRC): Mathew B. Tully, LEAD ATTORNEY, Sarah L. McKinin, TULLY RINCKEY PLLC, Washington, DC.

For UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, JOHN M. MCHUGH, Secretary of the Army, Defendants (1:14-cv-01801-CRC): Derrick Wayne Grace, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

Page 160

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, United States District Judge.

These cases present an unusual line-up of plaintiffs who want to litigate their cases as far from their home as possible, and a federal government agency that wants to move them as far from Washington, D.C. as possible. They arose after the Alaska National Guard investigated several of its soldiers for misconduct. The subjects of those investigations filed two related lawsuits against the Department of the Army under the federal Privacy Act, alleging that the Guard leaked confidential information from the investigations to state officials, and ultimately the local media, without their consent. The Army now moves to transfer the cases to the District Court for the District of Alaska. Because, among other reasons, Alaska has a much closer nexus to the suits and trying the cases in Washington, D.C. would be extremely inconvenient for the many witnesses that are likely to be involved, the Court will grant the Army's motions.

I. Background

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are drawn from the allegations in both complaints. Plaintiff John Doe[1] served as a recruiter for the Alaska National Guard. Doe Compl. ¶ ¶ 3, 11-15. In early 2013, Doe was interviewed as part of an investigation into misconduct by other members of his battalion. Id. ¶ 16. Doe alleges he was pressured by the interviewer to falsely implicate a fellow soldier in wrongdoing, but he refused to do so. Id. In retaliation for having refused the request, Doe alleges he was investigated for abusing his authority and engaging in inappropriate

Page 161

relationships with junior soldiers. Id. ¶ 20. As part of that investigation, Doe maintains the Alaska National Guard requested and obtained an Anchorage Police Department report concerning a rape complaint against Doe, which he says is unfounded. Id. Doe alleges the police report was placed in his official personnel record and resulted in his demotion. Id. ¶ ¶ 26-29. He also claims that the Guard released details of the report to Alaska state officials and other unauthorized third parties, who in turn disclosed them to the media without his consent. Id. ¶ ¶ 36-38.

Plaintiffs Shannon Tallant, John Nieves, Jarrett Carson, and Joseph Lawendowski were also members of the Alaska National Guard. They allege that a confidential investigative report into allegations of misconduct on their part was leaked to local Alaska media a month after Doe filed his suit. Tallant Compl. ¶ ¶ 15-16, 18. Plaintiffs assert that the report contained false statements, as well as personal information about them that could aid in identity theft. Id. ¶ ¶ 23-24.

Plaintiffs bring eight almost identical claims in both complaints against the Department of the Army under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, requesting a declaratory judgment, an injunction, and damages. The Army has moved under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to transfer both cases to the District of Alaska. All five Plaintiffs are represented by the same counsel, who practice in Washington, D.C. Apart from these motions and the order ...


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