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Rote v. Committee On Judicial Conduct and Disability of Judicial Conference of United States

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 6, 2019

TIMOTHY ROTE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMITTEE ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT AND DISABILITY OF THE JUDICIAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED STATES, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, OREGON JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT, OREGON STATE BAR, OREGON STATE BAR PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY FUND, COLORADO JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT, THE HON. ROBERT KUGLER, ARBITRATOR WILLIAM B. CROW, THE HON. PAUL PAPAK, THE HON. ELIZABETH WEISHAUPL, THE HON. ROBERT HERNDON, THE HON. JAMES EGAN, BILLY WILLIAMS in his official capacity as U.S. Attorney and chief law official in Oregon, CAROL BERNICK in her official capacity as CEO of the OSBPLF, THE HON. SUSIE NORBY AND JOHN DOES 1-5 Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1404(A)

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The Plaintiff, Timothy Rote, has brought a complaint against Defendants Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States, United States Department of Justice, Oregon Judicial Department, Oregon State Bar, Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund, Colorado Judicial Department, the Hon. Robert Kugler, Arbitrator William B. Crow, the Hon. Paul Papak, the Hon. Elizabeth Weishaupl, the Hon. Robert Herndon, the Hon. James Egan, Billy Williams, Carol Bernick, the Hon. Susie L. Norby, and John Does (1-5). The Complaint, which seeks damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief, alleges: violations of Mr. Rote's First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; a conspiracy to violate his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985; and, violations of his rights conferred by Article I, §§ 8, 10, and 20 of the Oregon Constitution. Federal Defendants, Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States (“Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability”), United States Department of Justice, the Honorable Robert B. Kugler, the Honorable Paul J. Papak, and Billy J. Williams, have moved, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), to transfer this case to the District of Oregon. Mr. Rote opposes this motion on the grounds that private and public interest factors weigh against transferring this case. For the reasons discussed below, because both the public and private interests favor transfer to the District of Oregon, the Court grants the Defendants' motion to transfer the case.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Timothy Rote is a resident of Oregon. Compl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 1. Defendants Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability and Department of Justice are United States entities. Id. ¶¶ 5-6. Defendants Oregon Judicial Department and Oregon State Bar are Oregon state government entities. Id. ¶¶ 7-8. Defendant Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund is an entity functioning under the Oregon State Bar. Id. ¶ 9. Defendant William B. Crow, at the relevant time period of the allegation, was an arbitrator in Oregon and Chair of the Disciplinary Board of the Oregon State Bar Association. Id. ¶ 12. Defendant the Hon. Paul J. Papak is a federal magistrate judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. Id. ¶ 13. Defendant the Hon. Robert Herndon is the Chief Judge of the Clackamas County Circuit Court of Oregon. Id. ¶ 15. Defendant the Hon. James C. Egan is the Chief Judge of the Oregon Court of Appeals. Id. ¶ 16. Defendant Billy J. Williams is the United States Attorney for the District of Oregon. Id. ¶ 17. Defendant the Hon. Susie. L. Norby is a judge on the Clackamas County Circuit Court of Oregon. Id. ¶ 18. Defendant Carol Bernick is the Chief Executive Officer of the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund. Id. ¶ 19. Defendant Colorado Judicial Department is a Colorado state government entity. Id. ¶ 10. Defendant the Hon. Elizabeth A. Weishaupl is a district court judge for the 18th Judicial District of Colorado located in Arapahoe County, Colorado. Id. ¶ 14. Defendant the Hon. Robert B. Kugler is a U.S. District Court Judge for the District of New Jersey. Id. ¶ 11.

         Mr. Rote alleges twenty-eight “acts” committed by various defendants in this action that form the basis for his claims. See Id. These “acts” relate to judicial proceedings before the Hon. Robert E. Jones in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in 2001 regarding a business dispute, id. ¶¶ 20-24; a complaint that Mr. Rote's former employee filed with the Oregon Department of Justice and the Lane County District Attorney in 2003, id. ¶¶ 26-35; judicial proceedings before the Hon. Robert Kugler in a U.S. District Court in New Jersey in 2004, also relating to Mr. Rote's former employee, id. ¶¶ 36-39; criminal contempt of court hearings in New Jersey stemming from the 2014 New Jersey litigation, id. ¶¶ 40-44; arbitration proceedings in Oregon beginning in 2006 involving the same employee who initiated the New Jersey litigation, id. ¶¶ 46-54; ethics complaints filed with the Oregon State Bar Association, id. ¶¶ 55- 56; judicial proceedings before Federal Magistrate Judge Paul J. Papak in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in 2012 regarding a motion to vacate the award resulting from the 2006 arbitration, id. ¶¶ 57-60; judicial proceedings before Judge Papak in 2017 regarding a motion to set aside the arbitration judgment, id. ¶¶ 61-62; judicial proceedings before the Hon. Elizabeth Weishaupl in Colorado from 2009 through 2014 regarding a business dispute between Mr. Rote's company and another entity, id. ¶¶ 63-66; judicial proceedings before the Hon. Marco Hernandez in the U.S. District Court in Oregon regarding a dispute between Mr. Rote and a former employee, id. ¶¶ 67-73, 86-87, 91-92, 94-99; judicial proceedings before the Hon. Robert Herndon in Clackamas County, Oregon in 2016 regarding a defamation claim, id. ¶¶ 74- 79, 83; an appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals resulting from the 2016 Clackamas County proceedings, id. ¶¶ 79-80, 84-85; an ethics complaint filed with the Oregon State Bar regarding an alleged violation of certain provisions of the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct, id. ¶ 82; judicial proceedings in Clackamas County, Oregon in 2018 regarding Mr. Rote's claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, id. ¶¶ 88, 93; judicial proceedings before the Hon. Susie L. Norby in Oregon regarding a “Motion to Set Aside the Judgment for legal fees in the Clackamas anti-SLAPP Motion, ” id. ¶ 90; and, unspecified litigation before the Hon. Marco Hernandez in the U.S. District Court in Oregon, id. ¶ 100.

         Count I of the Complaint alleges that Defendants violated Mr. Rote's First Amendment rights and seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. ¶¶ 101-111. Count II of the Complaint alleges that Defendants violated Mr. Rote's due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. ¶¶ 112-124. Count III of the Complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985, alleges Defendants conspired to violate Mr. Rote's civil rights. Id. ¶¶ 125-139. Count IV seeks declaratory and equitable relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2201. Id. ¶¶ 140-144. Mr. Rote requests an award in excess of $10 million in economic damages and $50 million in noneconomic damages, in addition to equitable relief, punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and litigation expenses. Id. at 29-30.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Federal Defendants have moved, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), to transfer this case to the District of Oregon. Federal Defs.' Mot. to Transfer, ECF No. 13. The question before the Court, therefore, is whether the circumstances of this case warrant transfer. Because both the public and private interests favor transfer to the District of Oregon, the Court finds that transfer is appropriate and grants the Defendants' motion.

         A. Legal Standard

         “For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought....” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Section 1404(a) vests “discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions to transfer according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.” Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (internal citations omitted). The burden is on the moving party to establish that transfer under § 1404(a) is proper. Montgomery v. STG Int'l, Inc., 532 F.Supp.2d 29, 32 (D.D.C. 2008).

         Accordingly, the defendant must make two showings to justify transfer. First, the defendant must establish that the plaintiff originally could have brought the action in the proposed transferee district. Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964). Second, the defendant must demonstrate that considerations of convenience and the interest of justice weigh in favor of transfer to that district. Trout Unlimited v. Dep't of Agric., 944 F.Supp. 13, 16 (D.D.C. 1996). In evaluating a motion to transfer, a court may weigh several private- and public-interest factors. Sheffer v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 873 F.Supp.2d 371, 375 (D.D.C. 2012) (citing Trout Unlimited, 944 F.Supp. at 16). The private-interest considerations 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 the witnesses; and (6) ease of access to sources of proof. Sheffer, 873 F.Supp.2d at 375; Montgomery, 532 F.Supp.2d 29, 32 (D.D.C. 2008). “Public-interest considerations include: (1) the transferee's familiarity with the governing law; (2) the relative congestion of the courts of the transferor and potential transferee; and (3) the local interest in deciding local controversies at home.” Onyeneho v. Allstate Ins. Co., 466 F.Supp.2d 1, 3 (D.D.C. 2006); see also Airport Working Group of Orange County, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Def., 226 F.Supp.2d 227, 229 (D.D.C. 2002). “If the balance of private and public interests favors a transfer of venue, then a court may order a transfer.” Sheffer, 873 F.Supp.2d at 375 (citing Montgomery, 532 F.Supp.2d at 32).

         B. The Court Grants the Motion to Transfer Venue to the District of Oregon

         Because this case may have been brought in the District of Oregon, and that district is the more convenient forum considering both the public and private interests at stake, ...


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