United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the court is the May 10, 2018 Report and
Recommendation (“Report”) of United States
Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson. (Doc. 2). In his Report,
Judge Carlson recommends that the instant action be
transferred to the United States District Court for the
Western District of Washington. (Id.). On May 25,
2018, the plaintiff filed objections to Judge Carlson's
Report on the day after the deadline for filing such
objections had elapsed. (Doc. 3). For the following reasons,
the Report will be ADOPTED IN ITS ENTIRETY,
and the instant action will be TRANSFERRED
to the Western District of Washington.
noted in Judge Carlson's Report, the plaintiff, a
resident of Washington State, filed the above-captioned civil
rights case against thirty-one individual and institutional
defendants, all of whom appear to reside in Washington State.
(Doc. 1; Doc. 2). The plaintiff alleges violations of federal
law and Washington State law arising from events that
occurred in Washington State. (Id.). Inexplicably,
however, this case was filed in this United States District
Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, even though
the plaintiff's Complaint directly states that the
“acts and omissions alleged . . . occurred within the .
. . boundaries of the . . . Western District of Washington by
persons located and residing therein.” (Doc. 1). Judge
Carlson thus recommended transferring this action to the
United States District Court for the Western District of
Washington to preserve any substantive legal rights the
plaintiff may have while ensuring those rights are
adjudicated in the appropriate venue. (Doc. 2).
the prescribed deadline, the plaintiff filed objections to
Judge Carlson's Report. (Doc. 3). When objections are
timely filed to the Report and Recommendation of a magistrate
judge, the district court reviews de novo those
portions of the Report to which objections are made. 28
U.S.C. §636(b)(1); Brown v. Astrue, 649 F.3d
193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011). Although the standard of review is
de novo, the extent of review is committed to the
sound discretion of the district judge, and the court may
rely on the magistrate judge's recommendations to the
extent it deems proper. Rieder v. Apfel,
115 F.Supp.2d 496, 499 (M.D. Pa. 2000) (citing United
States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980)).
those sections of the Report to which no objection is made,
the court should, as a matter of good practice,
“satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the
face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), advisory committee
notes. See also Henderson v. Carlson, 812 F.2d 874,
878 (3d Cir. 1987) (explaining that district judges should
give some review to every Report and Recommendation).
Nonetheless, regardless of whether or not timely objections
are made to the Report, the district court may accept, not
accept, or modify in whole or in part the magistrate
judge's findings or recommendations. 28 U.S.C.
§636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).
objections to Judge Carlson's Report, the plaintiff first
contends that a “clerical error” in her original
Complaint is what prompted her erroneous statement of venue.
(Doc. 3). The plaintiff then asserts that “she has
exercised her right to amend the [C]omplaint to correct these
errors” and that “the [A]mended [C]omplaint has
added the Pennsylvania Bar Association as a defendant . . .
to achieve one of the remedies requested in this suit, which
is to direct the [Pennsylvania Bar Association] to allow the
plaintiff to become a member of the Pennsylvania Bar in spite
of her so- called disbarment.” (Id.). On the
same day as her untimely objections to Judge Carlson's
Report, the plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint that names
the Pennsylvania Bar Association as both the thirty-second
defendant in this case and the sole defendant in this case
that is not wholly situated in Washington State. (Doc. 4).
the seventy numbered paragraphs in the Amended Complaint
describing the factual bases for alleged violations of
federal law and Washington State law, sixty-nine paragraphs
set forth facts occurring in Washington State.
(Id.). A seventieth paragraph then asserts in a
cursory and conclusory fashion that the plaintiff also
“requested the right to be a Pennsylvania attorney from
the Pennsylvania Bar Association . . . but was denied without
due process [of law] . . . by agents of the [Pennsylvania Bar
Association].” (Id.). It is on this basis that
the plaintiff now attempts to argue, in her objections to
Judge Carlson's Report, that venue is proper in the
Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 3).
civil action may be brought, ” and venue is thus
proper, in “(1) a judicial district in which any
defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the
State in which the district is located; (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) if there is no district in which an action
may otherwise be brought as provided in this section, any
judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the
court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such
action.” 28 U.S.C. §1391(b). These rules
“govern the venue of all civil actions brought in
district courts of the United States.” Id.
that “a substantial part of the events or omissions
giving rise to the claim occurred in the . . . Western
District of Washington” and that “the defendants
may be found in Washington [S]tate, ” Judge Carlson
appropriately recommended transferring this action. (Doc. 2).
The plaintiff's addition of the Pennsylvania Bar
Association as a defendant in her Amended Complaint does not
alter this outcome. (Doc. 4).
the plaintiff's Complaint and her Amended Complaint
detail an elaborate conspiratorial scheme, allegedly taking
place in Washington State and involving high-ranking
officials from Washington State, to deprive the plaintiff of
her license to practice law. (Doc. 3; Doc. 4). Specifically,
the plaintiff claims that the Washington State Bar
Association leadership conspired with members of the federal
judiciary to disbar her in retaliation for her protected
activities as a news journalist. (Doc. 4). The
plaintiff's sole reference to her newly-added defendant,
the Pennsylvania Bar Association, is appended to the very end
of the plaintiff's factual allegations, and it asserts
only that the Pennsylvania Bar Association
“denied” the plaintiff “the right to be a
Pennsylvania attorney.” (Id.). Every other
factual allegation, however, sets forth an intricate
conspiracy taking place in Washington State and bearing no
connection to Pennsylvania. (Id.).
noted above, when construing the plaintiff's Amended
Complaint, venue is proper in “a judicial district in
which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving
rise to the claim occurred.” 28 U.S.C. §1391(b).
The Third Circuit has further held that “in determining
whether a substantial part of the events or omissions giving
rise to a cause of action occurred in a specific
jurisdiction, the test . . . is not the defendant's
contacts with a particular district, but rather the location
of those events or omissions giving rise to the claim.”
Bockman v. First Am. Mktg. Corp., 459 Fed.Appx. 157,
161 (3d Cir. 2012). “In assessing whether events or
omissions giving rise to the claims are substantial, it is
necessary to look at the nature of the dispute.”
Cottman Transmission Sys., Inc. v. Martino, 36 F.3d
291, 295 (3d Cir. 1994). The nature of this dispute is a
complaint predicated on Washington State law arising from
facts occurring entirely in Washington State and initiated
against defendants predominantly residing in Washington
State. (Doc. 4). The fact that the Pennsylvania Bar
Association is located in Pennsylvania, therefore, is largely
immaterial to the determination of proper venue, as it
“is not the defendant's contacts with a particular
district” that matter here. Bockman, 459 F.
A'ppx at 161. Had the plaintiff set forth factual
allegations giving rise to the claim that took place in
Pennsylvania, then venue might be appropriate in this
district, but no such factual allegations here exist.
Instead, the location of the events giving rise to the claim
occurred substantially, if not wholly, in Washington State.
(Doc. 1; Doc. 4). “Substantiality is intended to
preserve the element of fairness so that . . . defendant[s]
[are] not haled into a remote district having no real
relationship to the dispute.” Martino, 36 F.3d
at 294. Considerations of fairness would not require the
thirty-one Washington State defendants named in this
Washington-based action to defend themselves in the Middle
District of Pennsylvania.
district court of a district in which is filed a case laying
venue in the wrong . . . district shall dismiss, or if it be
in the interest of justice, transfer such case to any
district . . . in which it could have been brought.” 28
U.S.C. §1406(a). In this case, venue over this matter
appears to lie in the United States District Court for the
Western District of Washington. As such, to protect the
plaintiff's rights as a pro se litigant, this
case should be transferred to the Western District of
Washington for further proceedings. Such a transfer avoids
any prejudice to the plaintiff that might result from an
outright dismissal of this action on venue grounds. See
Burnett v. New York Cent. R. Co., 380 U.S. 424, 430
(1965). Moreover, addressing the lack of venue in this
fashion would not constitute a ruling on the merits of the
plaintiff's claims, assuring that the plaintiff can have
her case heard on its merits in the proper forum.
plaintiff's Complaint and her Amended Complaint both
indicate that the crux of this case occurred in Washington
State, and the addition of a single Pennsylvania defendant,
along with a threadbare factual basis of liability, does not
suffice to keep this action out of the venue in which it
rightfully belongs. (Doc. 1; Doc. 4). Judge Carlson's
Report will therefore be ADOPTED IN ITS
ENTIRETY, and in the interest of justice, this case