Holmes-Hamilton v. FBI, No. 21-00702, 2021 WL 5166376 (D. Md. Nov. 5, 2021) (Hazel, J.)
Homes-Hamilton v. FBI, No. 21-00702, 2021 WL 5166376 (D. Md. Nov. 5, 2021) (Hazel, J.)
Re: Requests for records concerning FBI involvement in investigation of deaths in Dominican Republic
Disposition: Granting defendant's motion to dismiss
- Litigation Considerations, Venue: The court finds that "[f]rom a plain reading of the FOIA venue provision, it is clear that venue in this district is only proper as to [two of the] Plaintiffs . . . , who are residents of Prince George's County, Maryland." "[The remaining non-resident] Plaintiff . . . does not reside in this district and he does not allege that he has his principal place of business here, or that Defendant's agency records are located here." "Plaintiffs urge that this Court 'can and should exercise jurisdiction over the [non-resident] Plaintiff's claims,' despite FOIA's clear venue provision, because the [non-resident plaintiff's] FOIA was 'nearly identical' to the [resident plaintiffs'] FOIA request and because the requests and legal issues involved are 'substantially similar,' . . . however, the Court is unaware of any authority showing that other courts have exercised pendant venue in a FOIA records action in a similar circumstance." "In fact, at least one court has previously cautioned against doing so because of concerns over forum shopping." "Because 'Congress explicitly laid venue in FOIA cases' in the locales enumerated in the statute, . . . Plaintiffs' general recitation of the doctrine of pendant venue . . . and related argument . . . is insufficient to overcome Section 552(a)(4)(B)'s venue provision." "Though [the] Court agrees that Plaintiffs' claims should remain together for the sake of judicial efficiency, this does not require the exercise of pendant venue over [the non-resident] Plaintiff['s] . . . claims when the statute provides a venue where all three Plaintiffs' claims can remain together: The District of Columbia." "'Section 552(a)(4)(B) reflects an express congressional design to render the District of Columbia an all-purpose forum in FOIA cases . . . first to provide plaintiffs with an opportunity to bring complaints in a court which has substantial expertise in working with the FOIA; second, to provide a forum convenient to the defendant since attorneys in the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., will have been involved in initial FOIA determinations at the administrative level.'" The court finds that "'[w]hen venue would be proper in another district . . . , transfer is preferred over dismissal.'" "Venue for all three Plaintiffs is appropriate in the District of Columbia under 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(B), which explicitly provides for venue in the District of Columbia." "Consequently, while [the] Court finds that venue as to [the non-resident] Plaintiff . . . is improper, it declines to dismiss the action and instead orders that the case, in its entirety, shall be transferred to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a)."