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Juan Antonio Garcia-Villa v. Attorney General of the United States

July 6, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joyner, C.J.


Presently pending before this Court is a Motion to Transfer this matter to the Northern District of Texas filed by the Attorney General of the United States, the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons, Federal Correctional Institute at Big Spring, and UNICOR*fn1 ("Defendants") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1404(a) (Doc. No. 10). For the reasons set forth in the paragraphs which follow, the motion shall be granted.

Factual Background

According to the allegations of the complaint*fn2 , Plaintiff, Juan Antonio Garcia-Villa, was threatened, pressured, intimidated, and forced to sign a financial agreement stating he would pay a fine and an assessment totaling $2,800, while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Big Spring, Texas ("FCI Big Spring"). Since Plaintiff did not have the money to satisfy this financial agreement, he alleges that he was again threatened and pressured into signing a second financial agreement, in which he agreed to pay half of the salary he received from working in UNICOR toward his debt. Plaintiff also alleges that working in UNICOR violated Immigration Law and the policy of the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") because he is an illegal alien and therefore not permitted to work for UNICOR.

On November 23, 2010, Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking to recover damages from Defendants for these alleged violations. Plaintiff served the Defendants on February 2, 2011 and on April 4th, 2010, Defendants moved to transfer this case to the Northern District of Texas.

Standard of Review

The complaint seeks to assert a federal question claim, so venue is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), which states:

A civil action wherein jurisdiction is not founded solely on diversity of citizenship may, except as otherwise provided by law, be brought only in (1) a judicial district where any defendant resides, if all the defendants reside in the same State, (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated, or (3) a judicial district in which any defendant may be found, if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be brought.

28 U.S.C. §1391(b).

In this case, Defendants have requested a change of venue, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1404(a). That statute provides, that "[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 or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. §1404(a). The decision whether to grant a transfer under §1404(a) lies within the discretion of the trial court. Wice v. Gen. Motors Corp., Civ A. No. 96-6194, 1996 WL 724936 at *1 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 13, 1996). The movant has the burden of establishing the need for transfer, Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3rd Cir. 1970), cert denied, 401 U.S. 910, 91 S. Ct. 871, 27 L. Ed. 2d 808 (1971), and that venue is proper in the transferred district, Wice, Civ A. No. 96-6194, 1996 WL 724936 at *1. See also, Indasetimat v. Wabash Metal Prods., Inc., Civ. A. No 01-0197, 2001 WL 1526270 at *1 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 29, 2001); Lindley v. Caterpillar, Inc., 93 F. Supp 2d 615, 617 (E.D. Pa. 2000). Furthermore, when ruling on a defendant's motion to transfer, "the plaintiff's choice of venue should not be lightly disturbed." Jumara v. State Farm, 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting 15 CHARLES A. WRIGHT ET AL., FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: JURISDICTION AND RELATED MATTERS § 3848, at 385 (2d ed. 1986))

However, in a case where a plaintiff chooses a forum in which he or she does not reside and the incident giving rise to the claim occurred outside of the chosen forum, the plaintiff's choice is entitled to less deference. Barbera v. Lowe's Home Centers, Inc., Civ. No. 09-1617, 2009 WL 1362698 at *2 (E.D. Pa May 15, 2009). See also, Cameli v. WNEP-16 the News Station, 134 F. Supp 2d 403, 405-06 (E.D. Pa. 2001)("The deference given to a plaintiff's choice of forum is reduced when the operative facts that give rise to the action occur in another district."); Tranor v. Brown, 913 F. Supp 388, 391 (E.D. Pa. 1996)(" Here, since plaintiffs, non-district residents, have no connection with this district, their choice of forum is not entitled to great weight.").


Plaintiff may have brought this case originally in the Northern District of Texas. See, 28 U.S.C. §1391(b). The case satisfies the requirement of §1391(b)(2) because most, if not all, of the events and occurrences at issue took place at FCI Big Spring, which is located in the Northern District of Texas.

In deciding whether a transfer should be granted, the 3rd Circuit, when ruling on a §1404(a) motion, has not only considered the convenience of parties, convenience of witnesses, or interest of justice, but also considers "all relevant factors to determine whether on balance the litigation would more conveniently proceed and the interest of justice be better served by transfer to a different forum." Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879 (quoting WRIGHT ET AL., supra, § 3847). While there is no absolute list of factors, courts have considered many private and public interests. Id. The private interest factors have included: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the defendant's choice of forum; (3) where the claims arose; (4) the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition; (5) the convenience of the witnesses, but only to the extent that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora; and (6) the location of books and records (similarly limited to the extent that the files could not be produced in the alternative forum). Id. The public interest factors have included: (1) the enforceability of the judgment; (2) practical considerations that could make the trial easy, ...

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