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W. Watersheds Project v. Nat'l Park Serv., No. 21-00219, 2021 WL 5828028 (D. Idaho Dec. 8, 2021) (Nye, C.J.)


W. Watersheds Project v. Nat'l Park Serv., No. 21-00219, 2021 WL 5828028 (D. Idaho Dec. 8, 2021) (Nye, C.J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning management of livestock grazing and associated infrastructure in four units of National Park System located in Utah and Colorado

Disposition:  Granting defendant's motion to transfer venue

  • Litigation Considerations, Venue:  "[T]he Court will exercise its discretion and grant [defendant's] Motion to Transfer."  First, "[t]he Court finds the action might have been brought in Utah . . . ."  The court finds that "[w]hile a plaintiff may at times reside, and have its principal place of business, in the same location, equating plaintiff's principal place of business with its place of residence would render portions of the FOIA venue provision redundant and thus contrary to a fundamental rule of statutory interpretation."  "[Plaintiff's] substantial contacts with the District of Utah, and willingness to litigate in Utah in a case involving the majority of the FOIA requests at issue in this suit – despite its principal place of business in Idaho – suggest that this case could have initially been filed in Utah."  "Moreover, even if [plaintiff] does not 'reside' in Utah, [plaintiff] does not dispute that, under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B), venue might have been brought in Utah because most of the original records are located in Utah."  Second, "the Court finds [plaintiff's] choice of forum is entitled to minimal weight."  The court finds that "'[e]nvironmental cases such as this one typically are resolved by the court examining the administrative record to decide cross-motions for summary judgment . . . .'"  "'There are no witnesses to consider, and documentary evidence is as easily provided in one venue as another, especially in this age of electronic transmission.'"  "Further, 'because all federal courts are competent to decide federal issues correctly' there is no reason that the District of Utah would be more familiar with the applicable law."  "Finally, although Idaho has a more congested docket and fewer active federal district judges than Utah, the difference is not so stark as to weigh in favor of transfer."  "Thus, the majority of the convenience factors are essentially neutral, 'distilling the Court's focus down to the strain between' [plaintiff's] choice of forum and Utah's more localized interest in this dispute."  The court finds that "[h]ere, [plaintiff] identifies one operative fact that occurred in Idaho:  [plaintiff's] staff attorney . . . helped develop this FOIA action from her office in Idaho."  "Apart from this, [plaintiff] argues Idaho also has a particular interest in the parties and the subject matter because [plaintiff's] principal place of business has been in Idaho since its inception in 1993."  "While [plaintiff] may have a significant interest in Idaho, the underlying suit has little, if anything, to do with Idaho."  "Despite [plaintiff's] connection with Idaho, the Court finds its choice of forum is entitled to less deference because the environmental impact with which the FOIA requests are concerned – the livestock grazing in four national parks, three of which are entirely or at least partially located in Utah – has no relationship to Idaho."  "Moreover, as NPS highlights, the instant suit directly concerns documents that are also at issue in the pending Utah litigation."  "The majority of FOIA requests at issue in this case are, in [plaintiff's] own words, designed to seek 'the underlying administrative records' and other records to support [plaintiff's] case in the pending Utah litigation."  "That [plaintiff] chose to file this suit in Idaho, when the related case remains pending in Utah, suggests the possibility of forum shopping."  "While the Court is not accusing [plaintiff] of forum shopping, the possibility alone justifies lessening the deference given to [plaintiff's] choice of forum."  Regarding the interests of justice, the court finds that, "[i]n sum, Utah has a much greater connection to this suit than does Idaho and the interests of justice accordingly overcome [plaintiff's] original choice of forum in this District."  The court finds that "Idaho has little to no connection with the facts giving rise to [plaintiff's] complaint."  "By contrast, Utah has a particular interest in this case because the majority of the FOIA requests at issue concern Utah's Capitol Reef National Park."  "Further, the Government has already filed the completed administrative record – consisting of more than 33,000 pages – in the Utah litigation and has thereby produced the underlying administrative records and/or other records that [plaintiff] originally sought through the Capitol Reef National Park FOIA requests."  "As such, it is possible that the filing of the administrative record in the pending Utah litigation resolved or mooted some or all of the Capital Reef National Park FOIA requests which are the centerpiece of this suit."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, Venue and Removal
Updated January 12, 2022