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Gage v. State of New Jersey

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 28, 2019

THOMAS I. GAGE, pro se, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendants State of New Jersey, New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts, Judge Margaret Goodzeit, and Michelle M. Smith (collectively, “State Defendants”), Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC and Ocwen Financial Corporation (collectively, “Ocwen Defendants”), and Law Office of Rajan Patel (“Patel Defendant”) have moved to dismiss the claims of Plaintiff Thomas I. Gage, who is proceeding pro se.[1]

         Upon consideration of the briefing, [2] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court GRANTS as to venue and judicial immunity and DENIES WITHOUT PREJUDICE State Defendants' [7][7-1] Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint as to additional grounds, GRANTS as to venue and DENIES WITHOUT PREJUDICE Ocwen Defendants' [3][3-1] Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint as to additional grounds, and GRANTS as to venue and DENIES WITHOUT PREJUDICE Patel Defendant's [2] Motion to Dismiss Complaint as to additional grounds. Rather than dismiss all claims against Defendants, the Court shall, in the interest of justice, transfer all claims, except the claims against Judge Margaret Goodzeit, for which she is judicially immune, to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey where venue is appropriate.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court shall recite only those few allegations in the [1] Complaint that are necessary to the resolution of this matter. In tandem, the Court shall summarize the relevant proceedings in this case.

         Plaintiff filed this suit on May 22, 2018, against the State of New Jersey, its state court administration, a state court judge, and a state court clerk; two companies connected to the mortgage lending business; and a private law firm. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 42-47. Plaintiff's thirty-one count Complaint pursues a variety of causes of action under federal and New Jersey law that allegedly “arose from an attempt of Plaintiff to expose fraudulent documents that have been used on August 8, 2011, to steal Plaintiff's private property at: 51 Hillcrest Blvd, Warren, NJ.” Id. ¶ 4.[3] The Complaint is not a model of clarity. As best the Court can discern, however, Plaintiff objects to actions purportedly associated with the foreclosure of his home. See Id. ¶¶ 72-117.

         The State Defendants, Ocwen Defendants, and Patel Defendant each filed a motion to dismiss this suit for, among other reasons, improper venue. Plaintiff has submitted his opposition to those motions, and each Defendant has filed a reply.

         Briefing having concluded, the pending motions are ripe for resolution.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The federal statute governing venue provides that “[a] civil action may be brought in (1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located [or] (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated.” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1), (2). Only “if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in” Section 1391 may the plaintiff pursue his claims in “any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.” Id. § 1391(b)(3).

         When presented with a motion to dismiss for improper venue under Rule 12(b)(3), the Court “accepts the plaintiff's well-pled factual allegations regarding venue as true, draws all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff's favor and resolves any factual conflicts in the plaintiff's favor.” James v. Verizon Servs. Corp., 639 F.Supp.2d 9, 11 (D.D.C. 2009). “The court, however, need not accept the plaintiff's legal conclusions as true.” Id. “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.” Varma v. Gutierrez, 421 F.Supp.2d 110, 113 (D.D.C. 2006) (quoting Freeman v. Fallin, 254 F.Supp.2d 52, 56 (D.D.C. 2003)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “However, if the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the factual allegations contained in [his] complaint should be held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Id. (quoting Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 n.2 (D.C. Cir. 2000)).[4] “Unless there are pertinent factual disputes to resolve, a challenge to venue presents a pure question of law.” Williams v. GEICO Corp., 792 F.Supp.2d 58, 62 (D.D.C. 2011).

         “The district court of a district in which is filed a case laying venue in the wrong division or district shall dismiss, or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or division in which it could have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). Before dismissing a case for want of proper venue, a district court should consider whether the “interest of justice” standard warrants transfer. See Dugdale v. Ditech Fin., LLC, No. 17-7137, 2018 WL 1391724, at *1 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 21, 2018) (per curiam) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a); Hayes v. Livermont, 279 F.2d 818, 818 (D.C. Cir. 1960) (per curiam)).

If by reason of the uncertainties of proper venue a mistake is made, Congress, by the enactment of [Section] 1406(a), recognized that “the interest of justice” may require that the complaint not be dismissed but rather that it be transferred in order that the plaintiff not be penalized by what the late Judge Parker aptly characterized as “time-consuming and justice-defeating technicalities.” Goldlawr, Inc. v. Heiman, 369 U.S. 463, 467 (1962) (quoting, respectively, 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a); Internatio-Rotterdam, Inc. v. Thomsen, 218 F.2d 514, 517 (4th Cir. 1955)). “The decision whether a transfer or a dismissal is in the interest of justice, however, rests within the sound discretion of the district court.” Naartex Consulting Corp. v. Watt, 722 F.2d 779, 789 (D.C. Cir. 1983).

         III. ...


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