LaDay et al v. City of Lumberton, Texas et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER - the court GRANTS Defendants Motion to Transfer Venue for reasons herein. The clerk ishereby ORDERED to take all steps necessary to effectuate such transfer. Signed by Judge Rodney Gilstrap on 3/19/2012. (ch, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
SANDRA LA DAY, ET AL.
CITY OF LUMBERTON, TEXAS, ET AL.
§ CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:011-CV-237 (JRG)
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court is a Motion to Transfer Venue, filed on May 23, 2011 by the City of
Lumberton, Texas (“Lumberton”), Hardin County, Texas (“Hardin County”), Chief Danny
Sullins (“Sullins”), and Sheriff Ed Cain (“Cain”) (collectively, “the Defendants”). (Dkt. No. 8.)
The Defendants request that this case be transferred to the Beaumont division of the Eastern
District of Texas pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). After careful consideration of the parties’
written submissions, the Defendants’ motion is GRANTED for the reasons set forth in this
On April 29, 2011, Sandra La Day, Willie La Day, Julia Janay Walter, Monica
Washington, Angelia Paxton, Regina Garcia, and Delawerance Dracoby Jamal Williams
(collectively, “the Plaintiffs”) filed suit against Defendants in the Marshall Division of the
Eastern District of Texas. Plaintiffs claim a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that decedent
Kevin Jibreel La Day’s civil rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United
States Constitution were violated by Defendants. To summarize the Complaint, Plaintiffs claim
that Defendants engaged in excessive force and an unreasonable seizure related to a traffic stop
in Lumberton, Hardin County, Texas.
The events giving rise to this cause of action occurred in the Beaumont Division. The
Plaintiffs, four of the five named Defendants, and a majority of the witnesses to be called and
evidence to be presented are located in Hardin or Jefferson County, all located within the
Beaumont Division. Plaintiffs admit there are no known witnesses or evidence located in the
Marshall Division. (Dkt. No. 16 at 5.) The Beaumont Division is 194 miles from the Marshall
Division.1 All of the conduct giving rise to this Complaint occurred in Lumberton, Texas, which
is approximately 16 miles from the federal courthouse in Beaumont, Texas2 and approximately
176 miles from the federal courthouse in Marshall, Texas.3
Change of venue is governed by 28 U.S.C § 1404(a). Under § 1404(a), “[f]or the
convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any
civil action to any other district court or division where it might have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a). But a motion to transfer venue should only be granted upon a showing that the
transferee venue is “clearly more convenient” than the venue chosen by the plaintiff. Nintendo,
589 F.3d at 1197; Genentech, 566 F.3d at 1342; TS Tech., 551 F.3d at 1319; Volkswagen II, 545
F.3d at 315.
Calculated from the Beaumont federal courthouse to the Marshall federal courthouse using Google Maps.
Calculated from Lumberton, Texas to the federal courthouse in Beaumont, Texas at 300 Willow Street using
Calculated from Lumberton, Texas to the federal courthouse in Marshall, Texas at 100 E. Houston Street using
A threshold question in applying the provisions of § 1404(a) is whether the suit could
have been brought in the proposed transferee district. In re Volkswagen AG (Volkswagen I), 371
F.3d 201, 203 (5th Cir. 2004). Here, the selection of the district is not the issue, but rather the
selection of the division within the Eastern District of Texas. If the transferee division is a
proper venue, then the court must weigh the relative conveniences of the current division against
the transferee division. See id. In making the convenience determination, the Fifth Circuit
considers several “private” and “public” interest factors, none of which are given dispositive
weight. Id. The “private” interest factors include: “(1) the cost of attendance for willing
witnesses; (2) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (3) the availability of compulsory
process to secure the attendance of witnesses; and (4) all other practical problems that make trial
of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive.” Nintendo, 589 F.3d at 1198; Genentech, 566 F.3d
at 1342; TS Tech., 551 F.3d at 1319; Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315. The “public” interest
factors include: “(1) the administrative difficulties flowing from court congestion; (2) the local
interest in having localized interests decided at home; (3) the familiarity of the forum with the
law that will govern the case; and (4) the avoidance of unnecessary problems of conflict of laws
[in] the application of foreign law.” Nintendo, 589 F.3d at 1198; Genentech, 566 F.3d at 1342;
TS Tech., 551 F.3d at 1319; Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315.
Finally, it is well established that the Court is allowed greater deference when
considering intra-district transfers as opposed to inter-district transfers. Madden v. City of Will
Point, 2:09-cv-250-TJW, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 116682, at *7 (E.D. Tex. Dec. 15, 2009).
Additionally, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow significant discretion to district courts
in deciding the place of trial, so long as it is within the same district, even without the consent of
the parties. Morrow v. Washington, No. 2:08-cv-288-TJW, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 100225, at
*6 (E.D. Tex. Dec. 11, 2008) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 77(b)).
A. Proper Venue
As a threshold matter, the Court must first determine if venue is proper in the Beaumont
Division. Transfer of a suit involving multiple defendants is ordinarily proper “‘only if all of
them would have been amenable to process in, and if venue as to all of them would have been
proper in, the transferee court.’” Id. at 549 (quoting Liaw Su Teng v. Skaarup Shipping Corp.,
743 F.2d 1140, 1148 (5th Cir.1984)). Plaintiffs concede that this action could have been filed in
the Beaumont Division. (Dkt. No. 16 at 2.) Therefore, venue would have been proper in the
Beaumont Division at all times.
B. Private Factors
1. Convenience of the Parties and Witnesses and Cost of Attendance for Witnesses
The Fifth Circuit has established a threshold of 100 miles when giving substantial weight to
this factor. See In re Volkswagen, 371 F.3d at 204-05. (“When the distance between an existing
venue for trial of a matter and a proposed venue under § 1404(a) is more than 100 miles, the
factor of inconvenience to witnesses increases in direct relationship to the additional distance to
The Court reasoned that “[a]dditional distance means additional travel time;
additional travel time increases the probability for meal and lodging expenses; and additional
travel time with overnight stays increases the time which these fact witnesses must be away from
their regular employment.” Id.
Every person with personal knowledge of the facts related to the lawsuit resides and/or
works in Hardin or Jefferson County, both within the Beaumont Division. The county seat of
Jefferson County, Texas is Beaumont. Hardin County adjoins Jefferson County to the north.
Further, all officials and police officers who will be called as non-party witnesses to testify in the
case are located in Hardin County. Even Plaintiffs concede that the cost of attendance for
willing witnesses weighs in favor of transfer to Beaumont. (Dkt. No. 16 at 7, stating “[m]ovants
have identified exactly two factors … that weigh in favor of transfer: the cost of attendance for
willing witnesses …”) Finally, the Beaumont Division is nearly 200 miles from the Marshall
Division, well beyond and almost double the Fifth Circuit’s 100-mile threshold. (Dkt. No. 16 at
7.) Accordingly, the Court finds this factor weighs heavily in favor of transfer.
2. The Relative Ease of Access to Sources of Proof
Plaintiffs argue that, regardless of where documentary proof is located within the Eastern
District, it is just as convenient to produce such proof in Marshall as in Beaumont. Defendants
argue, however, that all relevant documents and other sources of proof related to this case are
located within Hardin County, Texas (near Beaumont), and it is illogical to require such sources
of proof to travel to Marshall for trial.
The Court finds that, although neither party would be largely inconvenienced by
accessing documents and other sources of proof in Marshall, it is clearly more convenient to
require production of such proof in Beaumont. All documents related to the incident in question,
as well as the scene of the incident, are within the Beaumont Division. More importantly, the
witnesses through which such documentary evidence would be introduced and developed both
during discovery and at trial are nearly 200 miles closer to Beaumont than Marshall. The Court
agrees with Defendants that it seems illogical to require such sources of proof to travel nearly
200 miles when they can be accessed much closer to their current location. Accordingly, the
Court finds this factor weighs in favor of transfer.
3. The Availability of Compulsory Process to Secure the Attendance of Witnesses
The parties agree that either the Marshall Division or the Beaumont Division has the
availability of compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses. Therefore, the Court
concludes that this factor is neutral.
C. Public Factors
1. Administrative Difficulties Flowing from Court Congestion
Plaintiffs argue that a transfer to Beaumont will cause delay because (1) it will lose its
place in the rotation for a scheduling conference and (2) the Beaumont division has a heavier
caseload. In their Reply, Defendants indicate that while there may be more cases filed in the
Beaumont Division than in the Marshall Division, there are more judges in the Beaumont
Division to handle the higher case load. Defendants cite case-filing statistics from Chief Deputy
for the Eastern District of Texas to support their contentions. Defendants state that there have
been 166 cases filed per judge in the Beaumont Division in the past year, and 234 cases filed per
judge in the Marshall Division.
While this case has been set for a scheduling conference in Marshall on March 21, 2012,
such conference has yet to occur. This Court has full confidence in the Beaumont Division’s
ability to quickly set the case for a scheduling conference. Additionally, the Court finds merit in
Defendants’ characterization of the caseload between the Beaumont and Marshall Divisions.
Accordingly, the Court finds it is more convenient for the parties to litigate in Beaumont than in
Marshall. Thus, the Court concludes this that factor weighs in favor of transfer.
2. Local Interest in Having Localized Interests Decided at Home
Transfer is appropriate where none of the operative facts occurred in the division and
where the division had no particular local interest in the outcome of the case. See In re
Volkswagen, 545 F.3d at 318. In such a case, courts may look to where the incident occurred,
where the witnesses live, where the evidence is located, and where the parties live. Id. As
discussed earlier, the facts giving rise to this lawsuit occurred in the Beaumont Division. All of
the Plaintiffs live in the Beaumont Division. Four of the five Defendants are in the Beaumont
Division. The clear majority of the witnesses are located within the Beaumont Division. Finally,
very little, if any, evidence related to the lawsuit is located outside of the Beaumont Division.
Given these facts, the Court finds that the Beaumont Division clearly has a greater local
interest in this case than the Marshall Division. The populace of Lumberton, Texas has a vested
interest in seeing this matter tried in a division which is conducive to attendance by citizens
within the community. Accordingly, the Court concludes that this factor weighs in favor of
3. The Avoidance of Unnecessary Problems of Conflict of Laws
The parties agree there is no unnecessary problem of conflict of laws. Accordingly, the
Court finds this factor is neutral.
4. Judicial Economy
Both the Beaumont Division and this division are equally capable of resolving this case
efficiently, with little impact to judicial economy. Therefore, the court finds this factor is
The Court finds that, in this case, the Beaumont Division is clearly more convenient than
the Marshall Division. Despite the great degree of deference which justly attaches to the
Plaintiffs’ choice of forum, the factors in favor of transfer in this case are nothing less than
overwhelming. While this Court agrees with Plaintiffs that their choice of forum is important
and entitled to significant deference, the facts in this particular case are compelling and cannot be
ignored. As in all transfer decisions, each set of facts is unique and must be decided on a caseby-case basis. Here, that analysis shows Beaumont to be unquestionably more convenient than
Marshall. Therefore, the court GRANTS Defendants’ Motion to Transfer Venue. The clerk is
hereby ORDERED to take all steps necessary to effectuate such transfer.
SIGNED this 19th day of December, 2011.
So ORDERED and SIGNED this 19th day of March, 2012.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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