Jones v. Wetzel et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER - For the foregoing reasons, petitioners motion to transfer is GRANTED, (Doc. 3.) and IT IS ORDERED that this case be transferred to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for further proceedings pursuant to 28U.S.C. § 2241(d). Signed by Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson on July 8, 2013. (kjn)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
Civil No. 4:13-CV-1718
JOHN WETZEL, et al.,
(Magistrate Judge Carlson)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Statement of Facts and of the Case
The petitioner, a state prisoner, filed this habeas corpus petition on June 24,
2013. (Doc. 1.) An initial review of the petition reveals that the petitioner is
challenging aspects of a state conviction and sentence in the Court of Common Pleas
of Lancaster County. (Id.) Thus, this petition solely entails issues relating to a state
conviction and sentence imposed by a state court in Lancaster County, matters which
fall within the venue of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania. 28 U.S.C. § 118(a).
The petitioner is now represented by counsel, who has moved to transfer this
case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for
further proceedings. (Doc. 3.) Because this petition raises matters which relate
entirely to a state conviction and sentence in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, this
motion to transfer is GRANTED, and this case will be transferred to the United States
District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for further proceedings.
This Case, Which Involves a Conviction and Sentence in the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Should be Transferred to the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania
In this case, we find that this petition should be transferred to the federal district
court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the venue where the petitioner was
convicted, and the venue where the state sentence that is the subject of this habeas
corpus petition was imposed. For state prisoners who seek to contest some aspect of
their state sentences, 28 U.S.C. §2241(d) specifies where habeas corpus petitions
should be filed, and provides as follows:
Where an application for a writ of habeas corpus is made by a person in
custody under the judgment and sentence of a State court of a State
which contains two or more Federal judicial districts, the application may
be filed in the district court for the district wherein such person is in
custody or in the district court for the district within which the State court
was held which convicted and sentenced him and each of such district
courts shall have concurrent jurisdiction to entertain the application. The
district court for the district wherein such an application is filed in the
exercise of its discretion and in furtherance of justice may transfer the
application to the other district court for hearing and determination.
28 U.S.C. § 2241(d).
Thus, state prisoner habeas corpus petitions may be brought either in the federal
judicial district in which the state court of the conviction is located or, when the
prisoner is confined in a prison located in another federal district in the same state as
the state of conviction, the petition may also be brought in the district of confinement.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d). However, § 2241(d) also provides that the district court for
the district in which the petition is filed may “in furtherance of justice” transfer the
petition to the federal district court in which the state court of the conviction is
located. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d). See also Miller v. Hambrick, 905 F.2d 259, 262 (9th
In this case, the petitioner is a state prisoner who wishes to file a habeas corpus
petition with the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
challenging a state conviction arising out of a case prosecuted in the Eastern District
of Pennsylvania, a conviction and underlying state case which are matters that fall
under the venue of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania. 28 U.S.C. §118(a). Given that this offense, state prosecution, and
sentencing all took place in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, it would be in the
interest of justice to transfer this petition to the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d). See also Miller v. Hambrick,
905 F.2d 259, 262 (9th Cir. 1990). Indeed, the United States District Courts for
Pennsylvania's three federal judicial districts have customarily transferred petitions of
this type to the district of conviction for substantive habeas proceedings. Helfrich v.
Coleman, No. 10-958, 2010 WL 1337728 (E.D. Pa. April 6, 2010); McKeever v.
McGrady, No. 08-2905, 2008 WL 5101729 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 26, 2008); Fletcher v.
Rozum, No. 08-716, 2008 WL 2609826 (W.D. Pa. June 26, 2008); Reinhold v.
Rozum, No. 4:CV-07-1997, 2007 WL 4248273 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 30, 2007). This course
of action, in turn, is consistent with the guidance of the United States Court of Appeals
for the Third Circuit which has “note[d] that it is quite clear that ordinarily a transfer
of a [habeas] proceeding relating to the validity of the petitioner's conviction from the
district of confinement to the district of sentencing would be in furtherance of the
convenience of the parties and witnesses. See Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d at 249; Meadows,
426 F.2d at 1183 n. 9.” In re Nwanze, 242 F.3d 521, 526 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001). Thus,
this practice is permitted by statute, is commonplace, is endorsed by the court of
appeals, achieves a desirable uniformity of approach among the three districts in the
matter of exercising jurisdiction in these cases, and serves the interests of the litigants
in those cases where hearings are required.
Further, an order transferring this case to Eastern District of Pennsylvania for
further proceedings also protects the petitioner’s rights. Such a transfer order avoids
any unintended prejudice to the petitioner which might flow from a dismissal of this
action. See Burnett v. New York Cent. R. Co., 380 U.S. 424, 430 (1965). Moreover,
addressing the question of venue in this fashion would not constitute a ruling on the
merits of the petitioner’s claims, thus assuring that the petitioner can have this case
heard on its merits in the most appropriate forum. See generally, 18 Wright, Miller
& Cooper Federal Practice and Procedure, § 4436, at 338.
Finally, we note that: “[a] motion to transfer venue . . . involves a nondispositive pretrial matter which a magistrate judge may determine pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). See Silong v. U.S., 5:05-CV-55-OC-10GRJ, 2006 WL
948048, at *1 n. 1 (M.D.Fla. April 12, 2006); Blinzler v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., No. Civ.
A. 93-0673L, 1994 WL 363920, at *2 (D.R.I. July 6, 1994); O'Brien v. Goldstar Tech.,
Inc., 812 F.Supp. 383 (W.D.N.Y.1993); Russell v. Coughlin, No. 90 Civ. 7421, 1992
WL 209289 (S.D.N.Y. Aug.19, 1992); Hitachi Cable Am., Inc. v. Wines, Civ.A. No.
85-4265, 1986 WL 2135 (D.N.J. Feb.14, 1986). This is true ‘because it can only result
in the transfer of a case to another federal district, not in a decision on the merits or
even a determination of federal jurisdiction.’ Adams v. Key Tronic Corp., No. 94 Civ.
AO535, 1997 WL 1864, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Jan.2, 1997) (collecting cases).” Berg v.
Aetna Freight Lines, CIV.A. 07-1393, 2008 WL 2779294 (W.D. Pa. July 15, 2008).
See, e.g., Brett v. Gertz, 3:12-CV-1429, 2012 WL 4839006 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 12, 2012)
report and recommendation adopted, 3:CV-12-1429, 2012 WL 4838997 (M.D. Pa.
Oct. 10, 2012) (citing Market Transition Facility of New Jersey v. Twena, 941 F.Supp.
462 (D.N.J.1996)); Holley v. Robinson, CIV. 1:10-CV-585, 2010 WL 1837797 (M.D.
Pa. Apr. 2, 2010) report and recommendation adopted, 1:10-CV-585, 2010 WL
1837793 (M.D. Pa. May 6, 2010)(same). Therefore, the decision to transfer a case
rests within the jurisdiction and sound discretion of a United States Magistrate Judge
under 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(A), subject to appeal to the district court for an abuse of
that discretion. See Franklin v. GMAC, CIV.A. 13-0046, 2013 WL 140042 (W.D. Pa.
Jan. 10, 2013)(“Orders to transfer are not listed as dispositive . . . .. A Magistrate
Judge may rule on such matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). See, e.g.,
Silong v. United States, 2006 WL 948048, at *1 n. 1 (M.D.Fla.2006). See also In re
U.S. Healthcare, 159 F.3d 142, 145 (3d Cir.1998) (a dispositive order is one that
“terminates the matter in the federal court”). This is true “because [the ruling] can
only result in the transfer of a case to another federal district, not in a decision on the
merits or even a determination of federal jurisdiction.” Adams v. Key Tronic Corp.,
1997 WL 1864, at *1 (S.D.N.Y.1997) (collecting cases). See also Holley v. Robinson,
2010 WL 1837797, *2 (M.D.Pa.2010) (since “order transferring a case is not a
dispositive final order in that case, this proposed transfer is a matter which lies within
the authority of either the district court, or this [magistrate] court.”); Berg v. Aetna
Freight Lines, 2008 WL 2779294, at *1 (W.D.Pa.2008) (“A motion to transfer venue
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) involves a non-dispositive pretrial matter which a
magistrate judge may determine pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).” (collecting
cases)). Where an appeal is taken from a Magistrate Judge's ruling on a nondispositive
motion the “clearly erroneous or contrary to law” standard of review applies. See 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) (stating standard of review for nondispositive matters);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a) (same); Local Rule 72 .1.3(B) (same).)
For the foregoing reasons, petitioner’s motion to transfer is GRANTED, (Doc.
3.) and IT IS ORDERED that this case be transferred to the United States District
Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for further proceedings pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2241(d).
So ordered this 8th day of July 2013.
/s/ Martin C. Carlson
Martin C. Carlson
United States Magistrate Judge
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