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Civil Resource Manual

42. Change Of Venue

Section 1404(a) of Title 28 provides that: "for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district may transfer any civil action to any other district where it might have been brought."

Any party, including plaintiff, may move for a transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). I-T-E- Circuit Breaker Co. v. Regan, 348 F.2d 403 (8th Cir. 1965); American Standard, Inc. v. Bendix Corp., 487 F. Supp. 254, 260 (W.D. Mo. 1980). A party may move for transfer, even if it has waived any objection to venue. Montgomery Ward & Co. v. Anderson Motor Service, Inc., 339 F. Supp. 713, 718 n.3 (W.D. Mo. 1971). The court may also transfer an action sua sponte. Lead Industries Association, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 610 F.2d 70, 79 n.17 (2d Cir. 1979); Mobil Corp. v. S.E.C., 550 F. Supp. 67, 69 (S.D.N.Y. 1982). While 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) contains no time limit for the filing of a motion, the motion may be denied if the passage of time or any delay causes undue prejudice or is considered dilatory. See American Standard, Inc., 487 F. Supp. at 261, and cases cited. "The moving party has the burden of proof, and must make a convincing showing of the right to transfer." Id.

The power of the court to transfer is limited to those districts or divisions where the case "might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); American Standard, 487 F. Supp. at 261, and authorities cited. Thus, a transfer would be denied where some defendants would not be subject to jurisdiction or where the venue would be improper in the transferee forum as to any defendant. See Hoffman v. Blaski, 363 U.S. 335, 344 (1960); In re Fine Paper Antitrust Litigation, 685 F.2d 810, 819 (3d Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1156 (1983); Security State Bank v. Baty, 439 F.2d 910, 912 (10th Cir. 1971); Lamont v. Haig, 590 F.2d 1124, 1131 n.45 (D.C. Cir. 1978).

One of, if not the most important factors to be considered, is that of convenience of the witnesses. In this regard, the inquiry is directed not at the numbers, but rather at the nature and quality of the witnesses' testimony and the question of whether they can be compelled to testify. See Hotel Constructors, Inc. v. Seagrave Corp., 543 F. Supp. 1048, 1051 (N.D. Ill. 1982); Schmidt v. Leader Dogs for the Blind, Inc., 544 F. Supp. 42, 48 (E.D. Pa. 1982); Capitol Cabinet Corp. v. Interior Dynamics, Ltd., 541 F. Supp. 588, 591 (S.D.N.Y. 1982).

Another of the very important factors is the "interest of justice" -- a factor susceptible to a wide variety of definitions. For example, a court might properly consider the degree "of uncertainty in transferor state law." See Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612 (1964). Other examples of matters considered under rubric of "interest of justice" are: efficient use of judicial resources and avoidance of unnecessary waste and expense, Continental Grain Co. v. The FBL-585, 364 U.S. 19, 26-27 (1960); Smithkline Corp. v. Sterling Drug, Inc., 406 F. Supp. 52, 55 (D.C. Del. 1975); avoidance of inconsistent adjudications and "possibility of prejudice to the plaintiffs flowing from that transfer," Amoco Production Co. v. U.S. Dept. of Energy, 469 F. Supp. 236, 244 (D.C. Del. 1979); "familiarity of the court with the state law to be applied and the desirability of having localized controversies decided at home," Mutual of Omaha Ins. Co. v. Dolby, 531 F. Supp. 511, 514 (E.D. Pa. 1982), and cases cited; and permitting the transferee judge to interpret his outstanding protective order and familiarity of transferor judge with relevant documents. Mobil Corporation, 550 F. Supp. at 71. "The factor of the convenience of parties and witnesses must also be measured in terms of the interest of justice." See American Standard, 487 F. Supp. at 264. The level of congestion of the respective courts, dockets and the speed with which the dispute can be resolved are also proper matters to be considered. See Securities and Exchange Commission v. Savoy Industries, Inc., 587 F.2d 1149, 1156 (D.C. Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 440 U.S. 913 (1979).

[cited in USAM 4-2.200]