United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER ON MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE
Z. SINGAL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue (ECF
No. 12), which seeks to transfer this case to the United
States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.
Having reviewed the Motion as well as the related memoranda
filed by both parties (ECF Nos. 17 & 18), the Court
DENIES the Motion for the reasons explained below.
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a district court may “[f]or
the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of
justice … transfer any civil action to any other
district or division where it might have been brought.”
This statute “is intended to place discretion in the
district court to adjudicate motions for 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) (quoting Van
Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)). In the
exercise of that discretion, courts in the First Circuit
consider not only “the convenience of parties and
witnesses, ” but also “the availability of
documents; the possibility of consolidation; and the order in
which the district court obtained jurisdiction.”
Coady v. Ashcraft & Gerel, 223 F.3d 1, 11 (1st
Cir. 2000) (citing Cianbro Corp. v. Curran-Lavoie,
Inc., 814 F.2d 7, 11 (1st Cir. 1987)); see Ahmed v.
Mohammad, No. 08-257-P-H, 2008 WL 4457866, at *3 (D. Me.
Oct. 1, 2008) (discussing other factors relevant to the
interest of justice). No. single factor is determinative in
the transfer analysis. Ashmore v. Northeast Petroleum
Div. of Cargill, Inc., 925 F.Supp. 36, 38 (D. Me. 1996).
the First Circuit has explained, ‘[t]he burden of proof
rests with the party seeking transfer.'”
Multibene Ingredients Oy Ltd. v. Sturm Foods, Inc.,
658 F.Supp.2d 250, 252 (D. Me. 2009) (alteration in original)
(quoting Coady, 223 F.3d at 11). Ordinarily, there
is “a strong presumption in favor of the
plaintiff's choice of forum, which may be overcome only
when the private and public interest factors clearly point
towards trial in the alternative forum.” Johnson v.
VCG Holding Corp., 767 F.Supp.2d 208, 212 (D. Me. 2011)
(quoting Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235,
255 (1981)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Although a
plaintiff's choice of forum is entitled to less deference
where, as here, the plaintiff is a government agency, the
presumption is not eliminated. E.E.O.C. v. Texas
Roadhouse, Inc., No. 1:11-cv-11732-DJC, 2012 WL 5894910,
at *1 (D. Mass. Nov. 9, 2012); cf. Ashmore, 925
F.Supp. at 39 (noting that the First Circuit “has not
established the rule … that when plaintiffs sue in a
forum that is not their residence, their choice of venue is
entitled to only minimal consideration”).
Hirschbach Motor Lines, Inc. (“Hirschbach”) is a
trucking company incorporated in Iowa with its principle
place of business in Dubuque, Iowa. Hirschbach currently
employs 264 office workers in Dubuque and 415 truck drivers
who reside throughout the United States. Of those truck
drivers, forty-nine reside in Iowa and one resides in Maine.
2013, a former Hirschbach truck driver who resided in Maine,
Michael Cote (“Cote”), filed a charge of
discrimination against Hirschbach with the Maine Human Rights
Commission (“MHRC”). Among other allegations,
Cote claimed that Hirschbach failed to provide him with a
reasonable accommodation for his disability. The MHRC
investigated and issued Cote a right-to-sue letter in March
2015, which prompted the United States Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) to launch an
investigation into Hirschbach through its Boston office. In
May 2015, Cote filed suit in Maine Superior Court, but
ultimately settled his case in July 2016. In April 2017, the
EEOC completed its investigation and issued a determination
that Hirschbach had engaged in systemic disability
discrimination through its pre-employment examination
practices. Following the release of its determination, the
EEOC filed the instant suit alleging-pursuant to the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42
U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Civil Rights
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1981a-that Hirschbach had engaged in
discriminatory practices against disabled individuals
of this case, Hirschbach expects to call at least six
witnesses. Those witnesses include three employees, all based
in Iowa, and three outside medical professionals, of whom two
are based in Iowa and one is based in Springfield,
Massachusetts. According to Hirschbach, all three outside
medical professionals have performed pre-employment medical
examinations for the company and can testify as to what those
examinations involve. The EEOC likewise suggests that it
plans to call at least six witnesses. It represents that two
of those potential witnesses, Michael Cote and
“Aggrieved Individual” Aldon Dixon, reside in
Maine. It also notes that, of the four remaining
witnesses-some of whom are presumably other “Aggrieved
Individuals”-two reside in Michigan, one resides in New
Jersey, and one resides in Georgia.
argues that a transfer to the Northern District of Iowa is
warranted by the convenience of the parties and witnesses and
would serve the interest of justice for various reasons.
However, the Court concludes that Hirschbach has failed to
sustain its burden of proving that the relevant factors
“clearly” militate in favor of trial in Iowa.
Johnson, 767 F.Supp.2d at 212.
Potential Jurisdiction in Transferee District
preliminary question” in resolving a motion to transfer
venue “is whether the lawsuit could have been brought
in the proposed transferee district.” Canales v.
Univ. of Phoenix, Inc., No. 2:11-cv-00181-JAW, 2012 WL
2499019, at *3 (D. Me. June 27, 2012). Here, the Court agrees
with the parties that the EEOC could have originally filed
the case in the Northern District of Iowa under the
applicable venue provision of the ADA. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 12117(a) (incorporating by reference the procedures of
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5); see also 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-5(f)(3) (stating that for purposes of motions to
transfer venue “the judicial district in which the
respondent has his principal office shall in all cases be
considered a district in which the action might have been
brought”). Thus, the jurisdictional pre-requisite to
transfer is satisfied.