Eakin et al v. Rosen et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 9 Motion to Dismiss or Transfer Venue, or in the Alternative, Motion for More Definitive Statement and Memorandum of Law in Support. This case is hereby TRANSFERRED to the U.S.D.C. for the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta Division. The Clerk is DIRECTED to transmit a complete record of this case, including all pending motions, to the clerk's office of the Middle District of Georgia for filing. Signed by Chief Judge Lisa G. Wood on 12/11/2015. (ca) [Transferred from gasd on 12/11/2015.]
1n the Sniteb btatto flitritt Court
for the Oautbern flitritt If Otorgia
WILLIAM JOEL EAKIN and NORA KAY *
EAKIN, as Guardians of TAYLOR
FREDERIC A. ROSEN; and JOHNSON
PUBLISHING COMPANY, LLC,
Plaintiffs William Joel Eakin and Nora Kay Eakin,
individually and as guardians of their daughter, Taylor
Reedabeth Eakin ("Taylor Eakin"), filed this defamation action
based on an online article written by Defendant Frederic A.
Rosen ("Rosen") and published by Defendant Johnson Publishing
Company, LLC ("Johnson Publishing"), as well as certain
statements made by Rosen in other broadcast media. Presently
before the Court is Defendants' fully briefed Motion to Dismiss
or Transfer Venue, or in the Alternative, Motion for More
Definite Statement. See Dkt. Nos.. 9, 13-14.
For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss or Transfer Venue, or in the Alternative, Motion for
More Definite Statement (dkt. no. 9) is GRANTED in part, DENIED
in part, and REMAINS PENDING in part: it is granted as to
Defendants' request to transfer this case to the United States
District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta
Division; it is denied to the extent that Defendants urge a
dismissal of this case based on improper venue; and it remains
pending insofar as Defendants move for a dismissal of
Plaintiffs' individual claims for failure to state a claim, and
move for a more definite statement. Accordingly, this cause of
action is hereby TRANSFERRED to the United States District Court
for the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta Division.
Plaintiffs are residents of Valdosta, Lowndes County,
Georgia. Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 1. Plaintiffs' daughter, Taylor Eakin,
attended Lowndes County High School ("LCHS") in Valdosta. Id.
at ¶ 16. In January 2013, Taylor Eakin was a sophomore at LCHS
and dated Brian Bell, who was also a sophomore and played
football at LCHS. See id. at ¶I 9-10, 16.
Johnson Publishing is a Delaware limited liability company,
with its principal place of business in Delaware. Id. at ¶ 2.
Johnson Publishing sells Ebony Magazine and other publications
nationwide, including in the Southern District of Georgia, and
runs the Web site www.ebony.com ("Ebony Web site"), which is
accessible in the Southern District of Georgia. See id. at ¶91
5-7. Rosen is a resident of New York and works as a journalist.
Id. at 9191 3, 5, 7.
Between August 12, 2013, and April 9, 2014, Johnson
Publishing published a series of fifteen articles in Ebony
Magazine, and on the Ebony Web site, twelve of which were
written by Rosen. Id. at ¶ 7. The articles chronicled the
events surrounding the death of LCHS sophomore Kendrick Johnson
("KJ"), who was found dead inside of a rolled-up gym mat in the
school's old gym on January 10, 2013. Id. at 191 7-8; see, e.g.,
id. at Ex. A (copy of one such article) . Specifically, the
articles suggest that KJ was "murdered" or "killed" and outline
various suspicious circumstances that allegedly surrounded his
death and the subsequent investigations. Dkt. No. 1, 191 8, 15.
Employing pseudonyms, some of the articles refer to a
family called the "Martins," which Plaintiffs contend is an
obvious reference to the family of Brian Bell and his brother
and fellow student at LCHS, Branden Bell. Id. at 191 9-10.
Though the KJ articles suggest several possible courses of
events and motives, the overall implication is that one or both
of the "Martin" sons was suspected of murdering KJ. See, e.g.,
Id. at 191 9-10, 15.
Additionally, the articles generally
suggest a mishandling of the subsequent investigation and a
possible conspiracy between public officials and the "Martins"
to cover up the alleged murder of KJ. See, e.g., id. at 9191 1415.
In one article, entitled, "Are we Closer to Answers" and
published on April 9, 2014, Rosen introduced a motive for KJ's
alleged murder, based on an anonymous e-mail to the Lowndes
County Sheriff's Office dated January 27, 2014. Id. at 191 7,
16, Exs. A-B (copies of the article and e-mail, respectively)
According to Plaintiffs, the article described "an alleged
conversation at a January 2014 party between the best friend of
the author of the e[-]mail and a 'white female student who was
then dating KJ's friend-turned rival (i.e., Brian Bell),' who
'revealed . . . what really happened [sic] to Kendrick
Johnson.'" Id. at ¶ 16 (alterations in original). Plaintiffs
summarize the contents of the article as follows:
Defendants stated in [the article] that a "white
teen," and "popular student athlete," born into a
[sic] upper middle class family," who got into the
fight with KJ on the school bus in the Fall of 2011,
i.e., Brian Bell, with the help of another unnamed
classmate, murdered KJ between third and fourth block
classes at LCHS on January 10, 2013, out of jealous
rage after learning that KJ had had sexual intercourse
with his girlfriend, i.e., TALYOR EAKIN: "The young
lady [Brian Bell's girlfriend] [stated] that she 'had
sexual intercourse with Kendrick Johnson [the teammate
who he fought, who] found out and threatened KJ. KJ
told [him] to meet him in the old gym after third
block and he would have his knife ready." "Another
student, a friend of KJ's alleged romantic rival, was
also reported to be there. The result? Kendrick
Johnson being killed and stuffed in a gym mat."
Id. at ¶ 17 (alterations in original) (quoting id. at Ex. A, pp.
2-3) . Plaintiffs also cite the anonymous e-mail, which had been
released to the public in March 2014, as confirming that the
"white female student" referenced in the article as revealing
the murder confession was Taylor Eakin. Id. at ¶ 16, Ex. B.
Plaintiffs further allege that the Lowndes County Sheriff's
Office interviewed the author of the anonymous e-mail, as well
as other persons mentioned in the e-mail. Id. at ¶ 18.
According to Plaintiffs, reports of those interviews "thoroughly
discredited" the anonymous e-mail and were released to the
public well before Defendants published the article at issue.
Id. In addition, Plaintiffs aver that the author of the e-mail
recanted her story in an article published in the Valdosta Dail
Times on March 27, 2014. Id. at ¶ 18, Ex. C (Valdosta Dail
Times article) . Nevertheless, according to Plaintiffs,
Defendants proceeded to publish the article written on the basis
of this e-mail on April 9, 2014. Id. at ¶ 18. Plaintiffs
further contend that Rosen has repeated and embellished these
statements orally "in person or on radio and/or TV shows, some
broadcast on the [I]nternet, since April of 2014." Id. at 191
On March 30, 2015, Plaintiffs, on behalf of their daughter,
Taylor Eakin, filed suit against Defendants in this Court on the
basis of diversity, claiming libel and slander in violation of
Georgia state law. Id. at IT 4, 30-45 (citing O.C.G.A. §§ 51-51, -4(a) (1) (2)) . Plaintiffs allege that the details in the KJ
articles, as well as the public reports of the Lowndes County
Sheriff's Office interviews, were sufficient to reveal their
daughter's identity. Id. at ¶ 27. Plaintiffs further maintain
that there is no basis in fact for Defendants' suggestions
regarding their daughter's relationship with KJ, knowledge about
his death, and participation in a conspiracy to cover up his
murder. Id. at IT 19, 25-26, 28. In particular, Plaintiffs
cite the interview reports and the retraction article allegedly
discrediting the e-mail, and argue that Defendants published the
article based on that e-mail with actual knowledge of, or
reckless disregard to, the falsity of the statements therein.
Id. at 191 18-20, 29, 38. As a result of Defendants' allegedly
untrue statements, Plaintiffs claim that Taylor Eakin's personal
reputation has been permanently damaged. Id. at 191 32, 40.
Defendants now move pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b) (3) ("Rule 12(b) (3)") for an order dismissing
Plaintiffs' Complaint for improper venue. Dkt. No. 9,
Alternatively, if the Court determines that venue in this
District is proper, Defendants request that the Court
nevertheless transfer this case to the United States District
Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta Division,
"[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses [and] in the
interest of justice." Id. at pp. 10-17 (alterations in
original) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)) . Finally, Defendants
submit that if the court retains jurisdiction over this case,
Plaintiffs William Joel Eakin and Nora Kay Eakin's individual
claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim, id. at
p. 2 n.2, and Plaintiffs should be compelled to provide a more
definite statement as to their slander claim, id. at pp. 17-19.
I. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue
Under Rule 12(b) (3), a party may assert improper venue as a
defense to a claim for relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b) (3) . When
a defendant objects to venue,
"[t]he plaintiff has the burden of
showing that venue in the forum is proper." Pinson v. Rumsfeld,
192 F. App'x 811, 817 (11th cir. 2006) . In considering a motion
filed pursuant to Rule 12(b) (3), a court accepts the facts in
the plaintiff's complaint as true. Simbaqueba v. U.S. Dep't of
309-066, 2010 WL 2990042, at *2 (S.D. Ga. May 28,
2010) . "However, when a Rule 12(b) (3) motion is predicated upon
key issues of fact, the court may consider matters outside the
pleadings." Id. (citing curry v. Gonzales, No. 105-2710, 2006
WL 3191178, at *2 (N.D. Ga. Oct. 31, 2006)). Where conflicts
exist between the allegations in the complaint and the evidence
outside of the pleadings, the court "must draw all reasonable
inferences and resolve all factual conflicts in favor of the
plaintiff." Wai v. Rainbow Holdings, 315 F. Supp. 2d 1261, 1268
(S.D. Fla. 2004); see also Simbaqueba, 2010 WL 2990042, at *2.
In diversity cases such as this one, venue is determined in
accordance with the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)
("Section 1391(b)"), which provides that a civil action may be
a judicial district in which any defendant
resides, if all defendants are residents of the
State in which the district is located;
a judicial district in which a substantial part
of the events or omissions giving rise to the
claim occurred, or a substantial part of the
property that is the subject of the action is
if there is no district in which an action may
otherwise be brought as provided in this section,
any judicial district in which any defendant is
subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with
respect to such action.
A court presiding over a case "laying venue in the wrong
division or district" must "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)
Plaintiffs' Complaint states that "[v]enue is proper in
this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §[ ]1391 in that the defamatory
KJ [a]rticles, including the article pertaining to the
Plaintiff, were published in the Southern District of Georgia,
including the Brunswick Division." Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 6. Plaintiffs
aver that venue is proper as to Rosen, because "he also
published the defamatory statements in this matter for profit in
the Southern District . . . of Georgia." Id. Further, the
Complaint asserts that "the defamatory statements of Defendants
have caused harm to Plaintiffs in this [D]istrict." Id.
Section 1391(b) (1) does not apply in this case, because
Rosen is a resident of New York, not Georgia. See 28 U.S.C. §
1391(b) (1) (providing for venue in "a judicial district in which
any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the
State in which the district is located") . Nor does Section
1391(b) (3) apply, because the parties appear to agree that this
action could be brought, in the very least, in the Middle
District of Georgia, Valdosta Division. See id. § 1391(b) (3)
(applying only "if there is no district in which an action may
otherwise be brought as provided in this section"); see also
Dkt. No. 9, pp. 9-10; Dkt. No. 13, pp. 9-11. As a result, only
Section 1391(b) (2) remains at issue.
Pursuant to Section 1391(b) (2), venue lies in "a judicial
district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions
giving rise to the claim occurred." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) (2) . In
determining where "a substantial part of the events or omissions
giving rise to the claim occurred," "[o]nly the events that
directly give rise to a claim are relevant." Jenkins Brick Co.
v. Bremer, 321 F.3d 1366, 1371 (11th Cir. 2003). Thus, this
Court must "focus on relevant activities of the defendant[s],
not of the plaintiff [SI," and consider "only those acts and
omissions that have a close nexus to the wrong." Id. at 137172. Of the places where those acts and omissions have occurred,
"only those locations hosting a 'substantial part' of th[ose]
[activities] are to be considered." Id. at 1371.
As such, the language of Section 1391(b) (2) "contemplates
some cases in which venue will be proper in two or more
districts." Id. Plaintiffs are not required to select the
venue with the most substantial nexus to the dispute; rather,
they must simply choose a venue where a substantial part of the
events occurred, even if a greater part of the events occurred
elsewhere. Morgan v. N. MS Med. Ctr., Inc., 403 F. Supp. 2d
1115, 1122 (S.D. Ala. 2005) (citing Country Home Prods., Inc. v.
Schiller-Pfeiffer, Inc., 350 F. Supp. 2d 561, 568 (D. Vt.
2004)); see also TruServ Corp. v. Neff, 6 F. Supp. 2d 790, 792
(N.D. Ill. 1998) ("The test is not whether a majority of the
activities pertaining to the case were performed in a particular
district, but whether a substantial portion of the activities
giving rise to the claim occurred in the particular district."
(citing Pfeiffer v. Insty Prints, No. 93 C 2937, 1993 WL 443403,
at *2 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 29, 1993))). Nevertheless, the venue
analysis under Section 1391(b) (2) generally requires a greater
level of relevant activities by the defendants than the "minimum
contacts" analysis for personal jurisdiction. See Jenkins Brick
Co., 321 F.3d at 1372 (disapproving of cases evaluating "events
or omissions giving rise to the claim" under Section 1391(b) (2)
in a manner similar to determining the sufficiency of contacts
for personal jurisdiction)
Relevant here, libel involves the "false and malicious
defamation of another, expressed in print, . . . tending to
injure the reputation of the person and exposing him to public
hatred, contempt or ridicule." O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1(a).
Similarly, slander per se, or oral defamation, includes
"[i]mputing to another a crime punishable by law" or "[m]aking
charges against another in reference to his trade, office, or
profession, calculated to injure him therein." Id. § 51-5-4.
In both cases, the publication of the libelous or slanderous
statement is essential to recovery. See id. § 51-5-1(b)
(libel); Scouten v. Amerisave Mortg. Corp., 656 S.E. 2d 820, 822
(Ga. 2008) (citing Kurtz v. Williams, 371 S.E. 2d 878 (Ga. Ct.
App. 1988)) (slander) . Publication occurs when the libel or
slander is communicated to any person other than the person
libeled or slandered. See O.C.G.A. § 51-5-3; Scouten, 656 S.E.
2d at 822.
Contrary to Defendants' assertions, the Court finds that
venue is proper in the Southern District of Georgia, Brunswick
Division because a "substantial part of the events or omissions
giving rise" to Plaintiffs' libel and slander claims occurred in
this District. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) (2) . First, Plaintiffs
claim that Defendants published the libelous article in the
print editions of Ebony Magazine sold nationwide, including in
the Southern District of Georgia, and on the Ebony Web site,
which can be accessed by subscribers in the Southern District of
Georgia. See Dkt. No. 1, IT 5-6, 30. Plaintiffs also allege
that Rosen made slanderous statements on radio and television
shows, some of which were broadcast on the Internet and thus
widely available. See id. at 191 35-36.
While Plaintiffs do not specifically state that any
particular person in the Southern District of Georgia actually
accessed the online article or radio or television shows, the
Court can reasonably infer from Plaintiffs' allegations that
Defendants' allegedly defamatory statements were communicated,
and thus published, to at least one person in the Southern
District of Georgia. See Simbaqueba, 2010 WL 2990042, at *2
(stating that a court ruling on a Rule 12(b) (3) motion must
accept the facts in the plaintiff's complaint as true and may
consider matters outside of the pleadings, drawing all
reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff).' Because
While the Court draws factual inferences in Plaintiffs' favor at
this stage, it does so only for the purpose of expeditiously
determining whether venue is appropriate in this District. The Court
makes no representation as to the legal sufficiency or merits of
Plaintiffs' claims, because, as discussed in Part II of this Order,
such determinations are best left for resolution in the Middle
District of Georgia.
publication is an essential element to both libel and slander
claims, Defendants' publication in the Southern District of
Georgia constitutes an activity having "a close nexus to the
wrong." See Jenkins Brick Co., 321 F.3d at 1372.
Second, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants' allegedly
defamatory statements harmed Taylor Eakin's personal reputation
in the Southern District of Georgia. See Dkt. No. 1, 191 32, 40;
Dkt. No. 13, pp. 10-11. Plaintiffs argue that Valdosta and
Brunswick are roughly 122 miles apart, suggesting that this
close proximity supports a finding that the harm to her
reputation was not confined to the Middle District of Georgia
but rather extended to this District as well. Dkt. No. 13, p.
11. The Court recognizes that the harm to Taylor Eakin's
reputation in this District, by itself, would not likely be a
sufficiently substantial event to establish venue, because the
inquiry into relevant events focuses on the actions of
Defendants. However, this harm, coupled with Defendants'
publication, make this District a proper venue for Plaintiffs'
claims. See Kravitz v. Niezgoda, No. CIV.A. 12-487, 2012 WL
4321985, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 21, 2012) ("In defamation cases,
it is not enough that the plaintiff may have suffered harm in a
particular district . . . . 'Injury in conjunction with another
event, however, may make a district a proper venue.'" (quoting
DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Askinazi, No. CIV.A. 99-5581, 2000 WL
822449, at *6 (E.D. Pa. June 26, 2000))).
Defendants' argument based on DeLong's "weight of the
contacts" test is unavailing. See Dkt. No. 9, pp. 7-8 (citing
DeLong Equip. Co., 840 F.2d at 855). In DeLong, the Court of
Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit adopted the "weight of the
contacts" test, according to which venue is proper in the
district where the contacts underlying the claim weigh most
heavily. DeLong Equip. Co., 840 F.2d at 855. However, DeLong
was decided under an old version of Section 1391(b) requiring
that a civil action be brought "only in the judicial district
in which the claim arose." Id. (emphasis added) (quoting 28
U.S.C. § 1391(b) (1976) (amended 1990)). Significantly, the
venue statute was amended two years after DeLong, such that it
now authorizes venue in "a judicial district in which a
substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the
claim occurred." See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) (2) (emphasis added)
In applying the amended version of Section 1391(b) (2) in
Jenkins Brick, the Eleventh Circuit determined that the new
language contemplates venue not only in "the place where the
wrong has been committed" but also in "those locations hosting a
'substantial part' of the events" giving rise to the claim.
Jenkins Brick Co., 321 F.3d at 1371. Thus, while Jenkins Brick
did not foreclose the use of DeLong's "weight of the contacts"
test, it appears that this test is, at most, instructive, but is
no longer determinative, of the venue issue. See Buckley v.
Robertson, No. CIV.A. 1:96-CV-996-V, 1997 WL 33642373, at *3
(S.D. Ala. Apr. 18, 1997) (finding that pre-amendment decisions
applying the "weight of the contacts" test "remain important
sources of guidance"); see also Turner v. Sedgwick Claims Mgmt.
Servs., Inc., No. 7:14-CV-1244-LSC, 2015 WL 225495, at *11 (N.D.
Ala. Jan. 16, 2015) (stating that the amendment "clarif[ied]
that venue is authorized in any district in which a substantial
part of the events or omissions" occurred, "not only in 'the'
single district in which the weight of the contacts underlying
the claim was deemed to preponderate" (citations omitted)
(internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting 28 U.S.C. §
1391(b) (2)); cf. Mitrano v. Hawes, 377 F.3d 402, 405 (4th Cir.
2004) ("We therefore no longer apply the 'weight of the
Defendants advocate applying the "weight of the contacts"
test to pigeonhole this case to the Middle District of Georgia.
Dkt. No. 9, pp. 7-8. Indeed, the contacts underlying
Plaintiffs' claims likely weigh most heavily in the Middle
District, and Plaintiffs do not appear to dispute that this
action could have been brought in that forum. See Dkt. No. 13,
pp. 9-11. Even so, under the current version of Section
1392(b) (2) and Jenkins Brick, the venue inquiry does not end
here; rather, the Court also must consider "locations hosting a
'substantial part' of the events" giving rise to Plaintiffs'
claims. See Jenkins Brick Co., 321 F.3d at 1371. Because the
Court finds, for the reasons discussed above, that a substantial
part of the relevant events occurred in the Southern District of
Georgia, this District is an equally eligible venue for
Plaintiffs' claims. See Capital Corp. Merch. BankincT, Inc. v.
Corp. Colocation, Inc., No. 6:07-cv-1626-Orl-19KRS, 2008 WL
4058014, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 27, 2008) ("Nevertheless, the
Court must conduct the venue analysis with an eye to the
difficulties posed by applying [S]ection 1391[(b)] (2) to a case
in which the "wrong' does not center on physical acts or
omissions. Moreover, because the harm from an online defamatory
statement can occur in any place where the website or forum is
viewed, no one forum should be expected to stand out as a
particularly strong candidate for venue.")
Nor is the Court persuaded by Defendants' argument that
venue should lie in the district in which publication occurred
and Plaintiffs reside. See Dkt. No. 9, p. 9. Defendants are
correct in that, "in the context of defamation and other nonphysical torts, courts generally hold that venue under
[S]ection 1391[(b)] (2) is proper in the district where the
injured party resides and the defamatory statements were
published." Capital Corp. Merch. Banking, 2008 WL 4058014, at
*3 (collecting cases); see also Morton Grove Pharm., Inc. v.
Nat'l Pediculosis Ass'n, 525 F. Supp. 2d 1039, 1043-44 (N.D.
Ill. 2007) (explaining that "[e]conomic and reputational injury,
in conjunction with other activities such as the dissemination
Of allegedly defamatory newsletters within the district qualify
as substantial parts of the events giving rise to [the
plaintiff's] claim"). However, these cases do not address, much
less rule out, the possibility of venue lying in another
judicial district where the plaintiff does not reside, but
nevertheless has suffered economic or reputational injury, and
where publication has occurred.
Indeed, the holdings in these cases appear to be consistent
with the prevailing approach in the defamation context that
"venue is proper in a district in which the allegedly defamatory
statement was published, particularly if injury was suffered in
the same district." Kravitz, 2012 WL 4321985, at
DaimlerChrysler Corp., 2000 WL 822449, at *6); see, e.g.,
Santa's Best Craft, LLC v. Janning, No. 02 C 9529, 2003 WL
21504522, at *2 (N.D. Ill. June 30, 2003) (finding that "a
substantial part of the events" giving rise to the plaintiff's
defamation claim occurred in the district "where the allegedly
defamatory statement [was] published" and where "the injury (if
any) from the defamation was incurred") . Thus, Defendants again
demonstrate only that Plaintiffs could have filed this action in
the Middle District of Georgia, which is insufficient to
overcome Plaintiffs' showing that a substantial part of the
events occurred in the Southern District of Georgia as well.
In sum, Plaintiffs have sustained their burden of
establishing that venue is proper in this District. Therefore,
the portion of Defendants' Motion seeking to dismiss this action
for improper venue under Rule 12(b) (3) is DENIED.
II. Defendants' Motion to Transfer Venue
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) ("Section 1404(a)") provides that a
district court may transfer a civil action "to any other
district or division where it might have been brought," when it
is "for the convenience of parties and witnesses" and "in the
interest of justice." District courts are vested with broad
discretion in weighing conflicting arguments regarding a venue
transfer. See England v. ITT Thompson Indus. Inc., 856 F.2d
1518, 1520 (11th Cir. 1988) . Courts traditionally afford
considerable deference to a plaintiff's choice of forum,
disturbing it only where it is "clearly outweighed by other
considerations." Robinson v. Giamarco & Bill, P.C., 74 F.3d
253, 260 (11th Cir. 1996) (quoting Howell v. Tanner, 650 F.2d
610, 616 (5th Cir. 1981)) . Thus, a party who moves to transfer
venue pursuant to Section 1404(a) bears the burden of
establishing "that the balance of convenience and justice
'weighs heavily in favor of the transfer.'" Duckworth v. Med.
Electro-Therapeutics, Inc., 768 F. Supp. 822, 831 (S.D. Ga.
1991) (quoting Elec. Transaction Network v. Katz, 734 F. Supp.
492, 501 (N.D. Ga. 1989))
"The question of whether a transfer is appropriate depends
upon two inquires: (1) whether the action might have been
brought in the proposed transferee court, and (2) whether
[certain] convenience factors are present to justify the
transfer." Greely v. Lazer Spot, Inc., No. CV 411-096, 2012 WL
170154, at *2 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 19, 2012) (citing Mason v.
Smithkline Beecham Clinical Labs., 146 F. Supp. 2d 1355, 1359
(S.D. Fla. 2001)) . The convenience factors include the
(1) the convenience of the witnesses; (2) the location
of relevant documents and the relative ease of access
to sources of proof; (3) the convenience of the
parties; (4) the locus of operative facts; (5) the
availability of process to compel the attendance of
unwilling witnesses; (6) the relative means of the
parties; (7) a forum's familiarity with the governing
law; (8) the weight accorded a plaintiff's choice of
forum; and (9) trial efficiency and the interests of
justice, based on the totality of the circumstances.
Manuel v. Converavs Co
430 F.3d 1132, 1135 n.1 (11th Cir.
Here, it appears to be relatively undisputed that the
present action could have been brought in the Middle District of
Georgia. See Dkt. No. 9, pp. 9-10; Dkt. No. 13, pp. 9-11.
Indeed, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants published defamatory
statements nationwide, including in the Middle District of
Georgia, and that their daughter suffered harm while residing in
that district. Dkt. No. 1, ¶I 5-6, 32, 40; see also Kravitz,
2012 WL 4321985, at *4 ("[V]enue is proper in a district in
which the allegedly defamatory statement was published,
particularly if injury was suffered in the same district."
(citing DaimlerChrysler Corp., 2000 WL 822449, at
at issue is whether the nine convenience factors justify
transferring this case to the Middle District of Georgia for
A. The Convenience of the Witnesses
Convenience of the witnesses is the most important factor
to consider under Section 1404(a). Duckworth, 768 F. Supp. at
831 (citing Elec. Transaction Network, 734 F. Supp. at 501); see
also Ramsey v. Fox News Network, LLC, 323 F. Supp. 2d 1352, 1356
(N.D. Ga. 2004) (citing McNair v. Monsanto Co., 279 F. Supp. 2d
1290, 1311 (M.D. Ga. 2003), and State Street Capital Corp. v.
Dente, 855 F. Supp. 192, 197 (S.D. Tex. 1994)). Nevertheless,
courts afford less weight to witnesses who closely align with
either party, as it is presumed that these witnesses are more
willing to testify in a different forum. See Ramsey, 323 F.
Supp. 2d at 1356 (citing Gundle Lining Constr. Corp. v.
Fireman's Fund Ins. Co., 844F. Supp. 1163, 1166 (S.D. Tex.
1994)) . Instead, "the focus of the Court should be on the
convenience of 'key witnesses'"—witnesses "which have
information regarding the liability of Defendant[s]." Id. at
1356-57 (citing McNair, 279 F. Supp. 2d at 1311, and Matt v.
Baxter Healthcare Corp., 74 F. Supp. 2d 467, 470 (E.D. Pa.
1999)) . "The witnesses which will determine liability are those
that can shed light on the issues of falsity of the
[publication], and the negligence or malice of the Defendant[s]
in making the allegedly defamatory statement. Id. at 1357
(citing Lake Park Post, Inc. v. Farmer, 590 S.E.2d 254 (Ga. Ct.
App. 2003)) . Because "live testimony is preferred over other
means of presenting evidence," the convenience of key witnesses
"weighs most heavily on the Court in deciding on a motion to
transfer venue." Id. at 1356 (citing State Street Capital
Corp., 855 F. Supp. at 197).
In support of their Motion to Transfer Venue, Defendants
have submitted a declaration of their counsel, made under
penalty of perjury, identifying several nonparty witnesses who
were involved in the events or investigation following KJ's
death: various individuals from the Lowndes County Sheriff's
Office, KJ's parents, and the author of the anonymous e-mail.
Dkt. No. 9-1, ¶ 3. Defendants' counsel avers that these
witnesses, "who are expected to present testimony and
documentary evidence regarding the truth or falsity of the facts
reported in the Ebony.com articles, are located in the Middle
District of Georgia." Id. at ¶ 4.
As such, it appears that transferring this action to the
Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta Division will result in
less travel and expense and decrease the burden on the many
witnesses who live in the Valdosta area. Moreover, these
witnesses are not closely aligned with Defendants and can fairly
be considered "key witness," because their testimonies regarding
the events and investigation following KJ's death may be
relevant in determining Defendants' liability for defamation.
That is, Plaintiffs' defamation claims hinge, in part, on
Defendants having made "false and malicious" statements
concerning Taylor Eakin's relationship with KJ, as well as her
knowledge of the circumstances of his death and conspiracy to
cover up the same. See Dkt. No. 1, IT 25-26, 28. Information
as to the circumstances surrounding KJ's death—in particular,
the events alleged in the anonymous e-mail—may shed light on the
truth or falsity of Defendants' statements as well as
Defendants' knowledge in making these statements. See Ramsey,
323 F. Supp. 2d at 1356-57 (finding that the defendant's
witnesses, including law enforcement personnel and others
involved in the investigation of a murder, were "key witnesses"
whose testimony at trial could shed light on the falsity and
malice of the defendant's statements suggesting that the
plaintiffs were involved in said murder)
While it appears that this Court could compel these
witnesses to provide live testimony at a trial in this District,
as discussed in Subpart II.E, it would not be without causing a
great inconvenience to them. Indeed, the witnesses would be
required to travel 122 miles each way between Valdosta and
Brunswick, for each day on which their testimonies might be
needed at trial. See Dkt.. No. 13,
p. 13. Plaintiffs submit
that their key witnesses will likely be willing to travel this
distance, see id.; however, Plaintiffs' closely aligned
witnesses are presumed to be more willing to travel and, as
such, carry less weight in evaluating the convenience of the
witnesses, see Ramsey, 323 F. Supp. 2d at 1356 (citing Gundle
Lining Constr. Corp., 844 F. Supp. at 1166).
Moreover, Plaintiffs' willingness to accept any
inconvenience of their own witnesses, see dkt. no. 13, p. 13,
fails to account for the inconvenience of Defendants' witnesses
and, in any event, is not part of the inquiry under this factor.
Rather, relevant here is that the majority of key nonparty
witnesses are residents of Valdosta, and these witnesses will be
greatly inconvenienced if they must travel to the Southern
District of Georgia, Brunswick Division for trial. Transferring
this action to the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta Division
would alleviate the burden and expense for these witnesses.
Based on these facts, Defendants have sustained their
burden of proving that the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta
Division will be a more convenient forum for the key witnesses
than the Southern District of Georgia, Brunswick Division
Accordingly, the convenience of key witnesses—the most important
factor under Section 1404(a)—substantially weighs in favor of
transferring this case to the Middle District of Georgia,
Valdosta Division for resolution.
B. The Location of Relevant Documents and the Relative Ease of
Access to Sources of Proof
In a defamation case, relevant documentary evidence
includes "that which was used in preparation of the allegedly
defamatory report and pertinent documents maintained by nonparties." Ramsey, 323 F. Supp. 2d at 1357. Other sources of
proof may include "the possibility of a jury view [of relevant
premises]." Id. (alterations in original) (quoting Moore v.
McKibbon Bros., Inc., 41 F. Supp. 2d 1350, 1357 (N.D. Ga.
1998)) . "In evaluating access to sources of proof, the Court
looks to the location of documents and other tangible materials
and the ease with which the parties can transport the materials
to trial." Spanx, Inc. v. Times Three Clothier, LLC, No. 1:13CV-710-WSD, 2013 WL 5636684, at *2 (N.D. Ga. Oct. 15, 2013)
(citing Trinity Christian Ctr. of Santa Ana, Inc. v. New
Frontier Media, Inc., 761 F. Supp. 2d 1322, 1327 (M.D. Fla.
2010)) . Oftentimes, "trial will be facilitated by having the
forum in close proximity to such evidence." Id. (citing
Haworth, Inc. v. Herman Miller, Inc., 821 F. Supp. 1476, 1479
n.2 (N.D. Ga. 1992)).
Here, the parties are in apparent disagreement over the
location of the documentary evidence most relevant to
Plaintiffs' defamation claims—namely, the documents used by
Defendants in preparing the KJ articles and any documents
maintained by nonparties—yet neither party offers any evidence,
or at least anything beyond an "information and belief," to
substantiate its position. See Dkt. No. 9, pp. 13-15; Dkt. No.
13, pp. 13 - 14; see also Dkt. No. 9-1, ¶ 4 ("Upon information and
belief, the documentary evidence is also located in the Middle
District of Georgia.") . Nevertheless, Defendants assert that
they intend to use the premises where KJ's body was found as
another source of proof, and it is undisputed that this physical
evidence is only located in Valdosta. See Dkt. No. 9, pp. 1314. While perhaps Plaintiffs could dispute the value of having
these premises available for a jury view, "the fact that a jury
view is impossible if the trial is held in [this District]
weighs in favor of transferring the case." See Ramsey, 323 F.
Supp. 2d at 1358 (citing Intergraph Corp. v. Stottler, Stagg &
Assocs., 595 F. Supp. 976, 979 (N.D. Ala. 1984)). Furthermore,
neither party suggests that there is any evidence that is only
located in the Southern District of Georgia or that is more
accessible here than in the Middle District.
Thus, on balance, this factor weighs, slightly, in favor of
transferring this case to the Middle District of Georgia,
C. The Convenience of the Parties
While courts afford a considerable amount of deference to a
plaintiff's choice of forum, Robinson, 74 F.3d at 260, the
plaintiff's choice of forum "is entitled to less weight when
none of the parties resides there," Ramsey, 323 F. Supp. 2d at
1355 (citing Haworth, Inc., 821 F. Supp. at 1479). In addition,
it is assumed that the party moving for a venue transfer has
determined that the transferee court will be a more convenient
forum for it. See Pergo, Inc. v. Shaw Indus., Inc., No. 1:03CV-1709-BBM, 2003 WL 24129779, at *2 (N.D. Ga. Sept. 16, 2003).
However, to justify transfer, the "inconvenience of the present
forum to the moving party [must] substantially outweigh the
inconvenience of the proposed alternative forum to the nonmoving party." Spanx, Inc., 2013 WL 5636684, at
*2. "The Court
may not simply shift inconvenience from one party to the other."
Plaintiffs' choice of forum is diminished in this case,
because none of the parties resides in the Southern District of
Georgia. Rather, the Middle District of Georgia is more
convenient to Plaintiffs, as it is their home forum, and it is
assumed that such forum would prove more convenient to
Defendants as the moving party. Moreover, transferring this
case to the Middle District of Georgia would benefit both
parties in placing trial closer to their witnesses and evidence.
See Dkt. No. 9, p. 13; Dkt. No. 13, pp. 12-13. The parties
would enjoy greater ease of access to their witnesses and
evidence, and would incur less travel costs and expenses for
their witnesses. See Dkt. No. 9,
p. 13; see also Dkt. No. 9-1,
¶ 4 (attesting that Defendants' witnesses live in Valdosta and
that, '[u]pon information and belief," relevant documentary
evidence is also located there) . Thus, it appears that the
inconvenience of litigating in this District substantially
outweighs the inconvenience of litigating in the Middle
District, and, therefore, this factor weighs in favor of
D. The Locus of Operative Facts
"The 'locus of operative facts' has been interpreted as the
place where events and actors material to proving liability are
located." See Seltzer v. Omni Hotels, No. 09 Civ.
9115 (BSJ) (JCF), 2010 WL 3910597, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30,
"[C]ourts routinely transfer cases when the principal
events occurred and the principal witnesses are located in
another district." Id. (quoting In re Nematron Corp. Sec.
Litig., 30 F. Supp. 2d 397, 404 (S.D.N.Y. 1998)). However,
where there is no single locus of the operative facts, this
factor is neutral and does not support a transfer. See Smith v.
Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., No. 1:11-CV--02299-SCJ, 2012 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 76944, at *10 (N.D. Ga. May 10, 2012).
It seems that a single locus of operative facts does exist
in this case. As discussed in Subpart II.A, most of the key
witnesses to testify in this case reside in Valdosta, Georgia.
It is also undisputed that the allegedly defamatory article
death, as well as a conversation allegedly taking
place after that death, both of which occurred in Valdosta and
were investigated by Valdosta public officials. See Dkt. No. 1,
191 7, 16, 18; Dkt. No. 9, p. 15. Moreover, Plaintiffs lived in
Valdosta when these events took place. Dkt. No. 1,
Plaintiffs emphasize that the publication of the article—a
principal event underlying their defamation claims—occurred on
the Internet and thus did not take place in any sing}e location.
Dkt. No. 13, p. 14. Even so, the only ties to the Southern
District of Georgia are the publication of the article, which
Plaintiffs acknowledge occurred nationwide, and the alleged harm
to Taylor Eakin's reputation, which Plaintiffs concede was
"certainly suffered . . . in the Middle District" as well. See
id. at pp. 10-11. Thus, it appears that the principal witnesses
and events are located in Valdosta, and thus in the Middle
District of Georgia, with only tenuous ties to this District.
For these reasons, the locus of operative facts lies in
Valdosta, and this factor heavily weighs in favor of
transferring this case to that venue.
E. The Availability of Process to Compel the Attendance of
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(c) (1) ("Rule
45(c) (1)") , "[a] subpoena may command a person to attend a
trial" only if the trial is either "within 100 miles of where
the person resides, is employed, or regularly transacts business
in person"; or "within the state where the person resides, is
employed is employed, or regularly transacts business in
person," only if such person "is a party or a party's officer"
or "would not incur substantial expense."
Rule 45(c) (1) thus grants this Court the power to subpoena
witnesses living in Valdosta to attend a trial in Brunswick.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c) (1) (B) (ii). While the 122-mile drive
from Valdosta to Brunswick would be inconvenient for these
witnesses, as discussed in Subpart II.A, it would not result in
a "substantial expense" so as to place them outside the Court's
broadly defined subpoena power. Moreover, as Plaintiffs point
out, Defendants could mitigate this expense by not requiring
their witnesses to travel for depositions. See Dkt. No. 13, p.
12. As such, Defendants have not sustained their burden of
establishing that the availability of process to compel
unwilling witnesses to attend trial favors transferring this
case to another venue. Thus, this factor does not support a
F. The Relative Means of the Parties
In a footnote, Defendants state that the "same reasons"
discussed with regard to the "convenience of the parties" factor
support finding that a trial in the Middle District of Georgia
"would be less strenuous on the relative means necessary to
adjudicate this case." Dkt. No. 9, p. 13 n.5. Defendants'
argument is insufficient in this regard, as the "relative means
of the parties" factor calls for a distinct inquiry into the
parties' financial means. Based on the information before the
Court, the Court cannot conclude that either party is
financially better able to litigate in this District or in the
Middle District. Thus, it appears that the relative means of
the parties has no effect on this evaluation, and this factor
favors neither party.
G. A Forum's Familiarity with the Governing Law
Defendants do not address this factor in arguing for a
venue transfer, see generally id., and Plaintiffs concede that
this Court and the court in the Middle District are equally
familiar with Georgia defamation law, see dkt. no. 13, P. 15.
It appears, therefore, that this factor is neutral and does not
weigh in favor of either party.
H. The Weight Accorded a Plaintiff's Choice of Forum
A court "must not disturb the plaintiff's choice of forum
unless that choice is clearly outweighed by other
considerations." Duckworth, 768 F. Supp. at 831 (citing Howell
v. Tanner, 650 F.2d 610, 616 (5th Cir. 1981)). Nevertheless,
the significance of a plaintiff's choice of forum is diminished
when the forum selected is not the home district of any parties
to the action. Ramsey, 323 F. Supp. 2d at 1355 (citing Haworth,
Inc., 821 F. Supp. at 1479) . In addition, the choice of forum
is "afforded little weight if the majority of the operative
events occurred elsewhere." AGSouth Genetics LLC v. Terrell
Peanut Co., No. 3:09-CV-93 (CDL), 2009 WL 4893588, at *4 (M.D.
Ga. Dec. 9, 2009) (quoting Escobedo v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,
No. 3:08-CV-105 (CDL), 2008 WL 5263709, at *3 (M.D. Ga. Dec. 17,
2008)) . "In those instances, no party is particularly
inconvenienced by a transfer. Aeroquip Corp. v. Deutsch Co.,
887 F. Supp. 293, 294 (S.D. Ga. 1995)
Here, Plaintiffs' choice of forum is entitled to some
weight, though minimal because the Southern District of Georgia
is not the home forum of any party. While this District is in
close proximity to Plaintiffs' home forum, close proximity does
not render this District their home forum and is not part of the
deference inquiry. Moreover, although some events underlying
Plaintiffs' claims occurred in this District, it is significant
that the locus of operative facts lies elsewhere. Under these
circumstances, Plaintiffs' choice of this forum carries little
weight, such that a transfer of this case to the Middle District
of Georgia would not inconvenience either party in particular.
Thus, as Defendants acknowledge, see dkt. no. 9, pp. 15-16, this
factor is neutral and does not weigh in either party's favor.
I. Trial Efficiency and the Interests of Justice, Based on the
Totality of the Circumstances
In evaluating this factor, "the Court looks at whether the
case may be resolved more expeditiously in the alternative
forum." Spanx, Inc., 2013 WL 5636684, at *5
may be relevant to this inquiry: "access to evidence,
availability of witnesses, the cost of obtaining witnesses, the
possibility of a jury view [of relevant premises], and all other
practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious
and inexpensive." Ramsey, 323 F. Supp. 2d at 1357 (alterations
in original) (quoting Moore, 41 F. Supp. 2d at 1357) . Courts
also consider "the inherent interest . . . 'in having localized
controversies decided at home.'" Pergo, Inc., 2003 WL 24129779,
at *3 (quoting Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 509
First, considering the totality of the circumstances, it
appears that this case would be resolved more expeditiously in
the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta Division. It is well
established that the majority of the witnesses live in Valdosta
and that a jury view of the premises of KJ's death is only
possible there. See supra Subparts II.A-B. Thus, trying this
case in the Middle District would prevent unnecessary travel and
expense for the witnesses, thus decreasing the litigation costs
of the parties, and would permit the jurors an opportunity to
view the physical evidence that might aid in ascertaining the
truth or falsity of Defendants' allegedly defamatory statements.
As a result, trial efficiency weighs in favor of transferring
this case to the Middle District.
Second, it appears that transfer would be in the interests
of justice. Because the locus of operative facts lies in
Valdosta, as discussed in Subpart II.D, the Middle District of
Georgia has an inherent interest in having this localized
controversy decided in that forum. See Pergo, Inc., 2003 WL
24129779, at *3 (quoting Gulf Oil Corp., 330 U.S. at 509).
Additionally, a transfer to the Middle District, particularly at
this stage in litigation, would not impede or otherwise delay
the progress of this case. Furthermore, the Court has no reason
to believe that Plaintiffs would not receive a fair trial in the
Plaintiffs' concern over potential jury prejudice in the
Middle District based on extensive pretrial publicity does not
change this result. see Dkt. No. 13, pp. 15-21. Jury prejudice
is presumed from pretrial publicity that is "sufficiently
prejudicial and inflammatory" and has "saturated the community
where the trial[ ] [will be] held." Coleman v. Kemp, 778 F.2d
1487, 1490 (11th Dir. 1985) (citing Murphy v. Florida, 421 U.S.
794, 798-99 (1975), Rideau v. Louisiana, 373 U.S. 723, 726-27
(1963), and Mayola v. Alabama, 623 F.2d 992, 997 (5th Dir.
However, "[t]he presumed prejudice principle is 'rare[ly]'
applicable and is reserved for an 'extreme situation.'" Id.
(second alteration in original) (citations omitted) (quoting
Neb. Press Ass'n v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539, 554 (1976), and
Mayola, 623 F.2d at 997) . This principle applies only where
"prejudicial pretrial publicity . . . so pervades or saturates
the community as to render virtually impossible a fair trial by
an impartial jury drawn from that community." Id. (quoting
Mayola, 623 F.2d at 997) . Thus, "the relevant question is not
whether the community is aware of the case, but whether the
prospective jurors have such fixed opinions that they are unable
to judge impartially and resolve the dispute between the
parties." McRae v. Perry, No. CV 211-193, 2012 WL 3886094, at
*1 (S.D. Ga. Sept. 6, 2012) (quoting Haworth, Inc., 821 F. Supp.
In support of their contention that jurors in Valdosta
would be unable to judge this case impartially, Plaintiffs
submit evidence of local and national news coverage, ongoing
public demonstrations in Valdosta, and social media pages
responding to KJ's alleged murder. Dkt. No. 13, pp. 15-21, Exs.
D-R (attaching an affidavit, 2 news report S3 and other public
Defendants object to the attached affidavit on relevance and hearsay
grounds. Dkt. No. 14, pp. 9-11. The affidavit contains the sworn
statements of Leigh Touchton ("Touchtón"), an NAACP leader who
investigated KJ's death, attesting to the truth of an article
published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the polarization of the
Valdosta community over KJ's death, and the inability to obtain an
impartial jury in that location. Dkt. No. 13, Ex. E. Touchton has no
personal knowledge of the statements in the newspaper article, given
that she did not write it, and has no specialized knowledge of the
jury selection process. See Fed. R. Evid. 602 (WA witness may testify
to a matter only if evidence is introduced sufficient to support a
finding that the witness has personal knowledge of the matter."); Fed.
R. Evid. 701 ("If a witness is not testifying as an expert, testimony
in the form of an opinion is limited to one that is: (a) rationally
based on the witness's perception; (b) helpful to clearly
understanding the witness's testimony or to determining a fact in
issue; and (c) not based on scientific, technical, or other
specialized knowledge."); see, e.g., Anderson v. Dallas Cty., No.
3:05-CV-1248-G, 2007 WL 1148994, at *5 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 18, 2007)
(excluding statements in newspaper articles, on the basis that "the
blanket statement in a form affidavit sworn by someone other than the
authors of the articles presented" was insufficient to establish "that
the reporters actually had personal knowledge of each and every fact
reported in the articles" so as to take the statements outside the
definition of hearsay). While Touchton's affidavit is, therefore,
largely inadmissible as evidence in opposition to the instant Motion,
the Court considers those statements briefly touching on Touchton's
own personal observations of the Valdosta community. See Dkt. No. 13,
Ex. E, 191 1-3.
announcements, and social media pages). Plaintiffs' evidence,
however, indicates only that prospective jurors in Valdosta may
be familiar with Taylor Eakin and the circumstances giving rise
to this case. Plaintiffs fail to demonstrate that this
publicity has saturated the entire Middle District of Georgia to
the point where any jury pool drawn therefrom would necessarily
have such fixed opinions so as to preclude jury impartiality and
a fair trial.
Moreover, Plaintiffs focus on a perceived prejudice from
the jury pool in Valdosta and the immediately surrounding areas,
see, e.g., id. at p. 20, overlooking that jurors could be
selected from the entire Middle District of Georgia, which
extends from Valdosta to Athens. Similarly persuasive on this
point is that, as Defendants point out, adequate procedural
measures exist for screening out any potentially biased jurors
at the jury selection stage, even in cases that have become the
subject of national headlines. See Dkt. No. 14, p. 9. Thus, at
this juncture, this case does not present the "extreme
Defendants also contend that the attached news articles are
inadmissible, presumably on hearsay grounds. See Dkt. No. 14, p. 10.
Because it appears that Plaintiffs offer these reports not for their
truth but rather for the fact of their publication, this evidence is
relevant to Plaintiffs' publicity argument and does not fall within
the definition of hearsay. See Fed. R. Evid. 801(c) (defining
"hearsay" as a statement not made in court and offered in evidence "to
prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement") . Thus, the
Court considers the reports only for this limited purpose in ruling on
the instant Motion.
situation" where it is "virtually impossible" for Plaintiffs to
obtain an impartial jury in the transferee court. See Coleman,
778 F.2d at 1490 (quoting Mayola, 623 F.2d at 997)•4
Rather, it appears that transferring this case to the
Middle District would promote both trial efficiency and the
interests of justice. Thus, this factor weighs heavily in favor
of transferring this case for resolution in that venue.
Defendants have carried their burden of demonstrating that
the balance of the foregoing factors substantially weighs in
favor of transferring this case. Section 1404(a) contemplates
transfer for the "convenience of the parties and witnesses" and
"in the interest of justice." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). As
discussed above, the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta
Division is a much more convenient forum for the witnesses,
which is the most important factor bearing on a proposed
transfer, as well as for the parties. In addition, the Middle
District houses physical evidence that cannot be transferred for
a jury view; hosted the pertinent events and investigations
following KJ's death; and would allow for a more expeditious
resolution of this case.
' This court's resolution of this factor at this stage does not
preclude Plaintiffs from arguing at a later stage of this case that an
impartial jury cannot be selected from the jury pool in the Middle
District of Georgia. However, that ultimate determination should be
made by the Middle District of Georgia on a more developed record than
that currently before the Court.
While Plaintiffs chose to file this action in the Southern
District of Georgia, and the publication and alleged harm
occurred in part in this District, these considerations are
strongly, and convincingly, outweighed by the other factors.
Because the relevant factors under Section 1404(a) favor a
transfer of venue, this portion of Defendants' Motion is
This case is due to be TRANSFERRED to the Middle
District of Georgia, Valdosta Division.
III. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim
and Motion for a More Definite Statement
Based on the Court's decision to transfer this case to
another venue, the Court declines to consider the portion of
Defendants' Motion calling for an evaluation of Plaintiffs
William Joel Eakin's and Nora Kay Eakin's claims on the merits.
See Dkt. No. 9, p. 2 n.2. For this same reason, the Court does
not address the portion of Defendants' Motion seeking to require
Plaintiffs to furnish a more definite statement of their slander
claims. See id. at pp. 17-19. Rather, these portions of
Defendants' Motion REMAIN PENDING for resolution in the Middle
District of Georgia.
Based on the foregoing, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or
Transfer Venue, or in the Alternative, Motion for More Definite
Statement (dkt. no. 9) is GRANTED in part, DENIED in part, and
REMAINS PENDING in part as follows: the portion urging a
dismissal of this case based on improper venue is DENIED; the
portion requesting a transfer of this case to the United States
District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta
Division is GRANTED; and the portion seeking a dismissal of
Plaintiffs' individual claims for failure to state a claim, as
well as the portion requesting a more definite statement,
PENDING for resolution in the transferee court. This case is
hereby TRANSFERRED to the United States District Court for the
Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta Division. The Clerk of
Court is DIRECTED to transmit a complete record of this case,
including all pending motions, to the clerk's office of the
Middle District of Georgia for filing.
SO ORDERED, this 11TH day of December, 2015.
LISA GODSEY WOOD, CHIEF JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
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