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Forest County Potawatomi Community v. United States

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 14, 2016

FOREST COUNTY POTAWATOMI COMMUNITY, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff Forest County Potawatomi Community (“FCPC” or “Tribe”) brought this action under the APA against Defendants United States of America, United States Department of the Interior, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn (collectively referred to as “Defendants”), challenging Defendants’ decision to disapprove an amendment to a gaming compact between FCPC and the State of Wisconsin under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. §§ 2701 et. seq, (“IGRA”).

Presently before the Court is Defendants’ [19] Motion to Transfer Venue to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1]the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that Defendants have not met their burden of showing that convenience and the interests of justice weigh in favor of a transfer to that district. Accordingly, Defendant’s Motion to Transfer Venue is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff FCPC, a federally-recognized Indian Tribe, filed suit on January 21, 2015, seeking redress for Defendants’ disapproval of an amendment to a gaming compact between FCPC and the State of Wisconsin (the “2014 Compact Amendment”). Compl. ¶ 1. FCPC alleges that Defendants erred by interpreting the 2014 Compact Amendment as obligating the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin (the “Menominee”) to compensate FCPC for lost revenue resulting from a Menominee off-reservation casino in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Id. ¶ 4. FCPC believes that in disapproving of the 2014 Compact Agreement, Defendants acted contrary to law, in an arbitrary and capricious manner and abused their discretion, if any, in violation of the IGRA and the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq. (“APA”).

On May 21, 2015, Defendants filed a Motion to Transfer Venue in this case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. On June 4, 2015, Plaintiff filed its opposition, and on June 11, 2015, Defendants filed their reply. Accordingly, Defendants’ motion is ripe for the Court’s review.[2]

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a court may transfer a case to any other district where it might have been brought “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice.” Determining whether transfer is appropriate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) calls for a two-part inquiry. The Court must first ask whether the transferee forum is one where the action “might have been brought” originally. Id. Second, the Court must consider whether private and public interest factors weigh in favor of transfer. Lentz v. Eli Lilly & Co., 464 F.Supp.2d 35, 37 (D.D.C. 2006). In considering whether a transfer would be proper, the Court may consider the following “private interest” factors:

(1) the plaintiffs’ choice of forum, unless the balance of convenience is strongly in favor of the defendants; (2) the defendants’ choice of forum; (3) whether the claim arose elsewhere; (4) the convenience of the parties; (5) the convenience of the witnesses of the plaintiff and defendant, but only to the extent that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora; and (6) the ease of access to sources of proof.

Greater Yellowstone Coalition v. Bosworth, 180 F.Supp.2d 124, 127 (D.D.C. 2001). The Court must also weigh public interest considerations such as (1) the transferee court’s familiarity with the governing laws and the pendency of related actions in the transferee’s forum; (2) the relative congestion of the calendars of the potential transferee and transferor courts; and (3) the local interest in deciding local controversies at home. Id. at 128.

Section 1404(a) vests discretion in the district court to conduct an “individualized, case-by-case” analysis. Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988). The “plaintiff's choice of forum is ordinarily entitled to deference.” Nat'l Ass'n of Home Builders v. U.S. Envt'l Prot. Agency, 675 F.Supp.2d 173, 179 (D.D.C. 2009) (citation omitted). However, that choice is conferred less deference by the court when a plaintiff's choice of forum is not the plaintiff's home forum. See Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 255-56 (1981). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that convenience and the interests of justice weigh in favor of a transfer to that district. See Int'l Bhd. of Painters & Allied Trades Union v. Best Painting and Sandblasting Co., Inc., 621 F.Supp. 906, 907 (D.D.C. 1985).

III. DISCUSSION

As a preliminary matter, the parties do not dispute that this action could have been brought in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Accordingly, the Court’s analysis is limited to whether private and public interest factors weigh in favor of transfer.

Defendants argue that the Court should transfer this matter to the Eastern District of Wisconsin because of two public interest factors-(1) the local interest in deciding local controversies at home and (2) the transferee court’s familiarity with the governing laws. Defendants concede that the third public interest factor-the relative congestions of ...


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