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Flick v. Sessions

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 30, 2018

KENNETH E. FLICK, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS III, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, in his Official Capacity, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMOTHY J. KELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff resides in Douglasville, Georgia, located in the Northern District of Georgia. ECF No. 1 (“Compl.”) ¶ 7. In 1987, he pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia to federal copyright-infringement and smuggling charges. Id. ¶¶ 11, 13. As a result of these felony convictions, Plaintiff is prohibited by federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), from possessing firearms or ammunition. Compl. ¶ 7. Plaintiff claims that this prohibition, as applied to him, violates his rights under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, because his crimes occurred long ago and did not involve violence, and because he is now a responsible and law-abiding citizen. Id. ¶¶ 64-66.

         Defendant has moved to transfer the case to the Northern District of Georgia pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) or, alternatively, to dismiss it. ECF No. 8 (“Def's Br.”); see also ECF No. 10 (“Pl.'s Opp'n”); ECF No. 11 (“Def's Reply”). As explained below, the motion will be granted, and the case will be transferred to the Northern District of Georgia.

         I. Legal Standard

Section 1404(a) provides that any case may be transferred “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, . . . to any other district or division where it might have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The moving party bears the heavy burden of making a decisive showing that transfer is proper. Thayer/Patricof Educ. Funding, L.L.C. v. Pryor Res., Inc., 196 F.Supp.2d 21, 31 (D.D.C. 2002). “In evaluating a motion to transfer, a court may weigh several private- and public-interest factors.” Mazzarino v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 955 F.Supp.2d 24, 28 (D.D.C. 2013). “If the balance of private and public interests favors a transfer of venue, then a court may order a transfer.” Id.

         II. Analysis

         A. Potential Prejudice to Plaintiff from Proceeding under the Law of the Transferee Court

         Before turning to the familiar private- and public-interest factors that govern a transfer-of-venue analysis, the Court must address a threshold issue that Plaintiff has raised. He argues that this case cannot be transferred to the Northern District of Georgia because he would suffer prejudice if he had to proceed under the law of the Eleventh Circuit. He claims that D.C. Circuit law is favorable to him, and specifically, he relies on dictum in Schrader v. Holder, 704 F.3d 980 (D.C. Cir. 2013). See Pl.'s Opp'n at 6. The Schrader court considered-and rejected-a classwide challenge to § 922(g)(1)'s ban on firearm possession as applied to misdemeanants. See 704 F.3d at 991. The court noted that the plaintiff in that case had not brought a challenge to the law as it applied to him individually, and opined that Congress might consider funding an existing mechanism for relief from § 922(g)(1) lest the statute “remain vulnerable to a properly raised as-applied constitutional challenge.” Id. at 992. Plaintiff argues that similarly “favorable” case law is lacking in the Eleventh Circuit, and that courts in the Northern District of Georgia have dismissed as-applied challenges by felons. See Pl.'s Opp'n at 8-9.

         Plaintiffs threshold objection fails. As an initial matter, his reference to Schrader's dictum notwithstanding, Plaintiff has not identified a difference in law between the two jurisdictions. Plaintiff points to no binding authority in the D.C. Circuit or the Eleventh Circuit that controls the sort of as-applied challenge he seeks to bring. See Pl.'s Opp'n at 6-9.

         And even if there were differences in circuit law, they would not prevent a transfer of venue under § 1404(a) here. Certainly, Plaintiff cites no authority actually supporting that proposition. To the contrary, “[i]n federal-question cases, transfer is permissible even when the transferee forum is in a circuit that has interpreted a federal law differently than the circuit of the transferor forum.” Sierra Club v. Flowers, 276 F.Supp.2d 62, 69 n.4 (D.D.C. 2003). That is because “the federal courts comprise a single system in which each tribunal endeavors to apply a single body of law.” Id. (quoting In re Korean Air Lines Disaster of Sept. 1, 1983, 829 F.2d 1171, 1175 (D.C. Cir. 1987)).

         Therefore, the Court proceeds to the well-recognized framework for analyzing a motion to transfer venue. The parties agree that this action might have been brought in the Northern District of Georgia. Def.'s Br. at 6; Pl.'s Opp'n at 10; see also 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e)(1). The Court will therefore weigh the private- and public-interest factors to determine if they justify a transfer.

         B. Private-Interest Factors

         The private-interest considerations that a court may weigh in evaluating a motion to transfer venue include: “(1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the defendant's preferred forum; (3) the location where the claim arose; (4) the convenience of the parties; (5) the convenience of witnesses; and (6) ease of access to sources of proof.” Mazzarino, 955 F.Supp.2d at 28.

         The first factor, the plaintiff's choice of forum, weighs slightly against transfer. The plaintiff's choice usually receives deference, especially when the plaintiff brings suit in his home district. Id. at 29. But the plaintiff's choice is entitled to little or no deference where “the parties, facts, and claims . . . lack any significant connection to the District of Columbia.” Id. at 30. The mere fact that the defendant can be sued in the forum is not enough, particularly where the defendant is subject to suit nationwide. See Id. Plaintiff argues that his choice of forum is due extra deference because the law in this Circuit is, he claims, more favorable to him. Pl.'s Opp'n at 10. But this does not weigh against transfer. To the contrary, “a court should be vigilant to possible forum shopping, especially when the underlying case has little or no connection to the district in which it sits.” Mazzarino, 955 F.Supp.2d at 30. And that is doubly true where a plaintiff, by “naming high government officials as defendants, ” seeks to “bring a suit here that properly should be pursued elsewhere.” Cameron v. Thornburgh, 98 ...


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