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Mitchell v. City of New York

United States District Court, Second Circuit

November 6, 2013

CURTIS MITCHELL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

KATHERINE POLK FAILLA, District Judge.

On August 2, 2012, Plaintiffs initiated the instant action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and New York State law, alleging claims of assault, false imprisonment, false arrest, and malicious prosecution. For the reasons discussed throughout this Opinion, the Court sua sponte transfers this case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

The Complaint ("Compl.") alleges that Plaintiffs were residing at an apartment in Brooklyn, New York, on May 5, 2011, when members of the New York City Police Department (the "NYPD") forcibly and without permission entered the premises at 6:25 a.m. (Compl. ¶¶ 17, 18, 19).[1] Plaintiffs allege that various police officers, including Defendant Officer Lambert and Defendant Officers Jane and John Doe, handcuffed, threatened, and verbally assaulted Plaintiffs, and searched for contraband in the apartment but could not find any. (Compl. ¶¶ 21-35). Plaintiffs allege that the responding officers destroyed personal effects, inflicted emotional and psychological harm, and caused significant damage to the apartment. (Compl. ¶¶ 45-91).

Plaintiff Curtis Mitchell was arrested and subsequently transported to the 79th Precinct in Brooklyn, where he was charged with possession of heroin. (Compl. ¶¶ 36-39). Mitchell alleges that he was innocent of the crime charged against him and there was no basis upon which to arrest him. (Compl. ¶¶ 39-41). The grand jury declined to indict Mitchell, and the case against him was dismissed. (Compl. ¶ 43).

B. The Instant Action

Plaintiffs initiated this action in the Southern District of New York on August 2, 2012. (Dkt. #1). Defendants filed an answer on April 29, 2013, raising as an affirmative defense that "[t]he Southern District of New York is an improper venue for this action because all the acts or omissions alleged occurred in Kings County." (Dkt. #10 at 11).

On June 28, 2013, this case was reassigned to the undersigned (Dkt. #11). In a status letter dated September 5, 2013, Defendants wrote that while they did not contest venue, they questioned whether it was proper, writing "[h]ere, all of the acts performed by the individually-named defendants occurred in either Kings or Queens County. In addition, all of the events or omissions giving rise to plaintiff's claims occurred in Kings or Queens County. The proper venue for this matter is therefore the Eastern District of New York." (Dkt. #13).

At the initial pretrial conference held on September 20, 2013, the Court raised the issue of venue. Plaintiffs' counsel explained that he elected to bring this case in the Southern District of New York "out of convenience to me, " and because the NYPD is headquartered in Manhattan, which is in the Southern District of New York. (Sept. 20 Tr. 3). The Court questioned whether venue was proper, given that all relevant events occurred in the Eastern District of New York, and notified the parties of the Court's inclination to transfer the case to the Eastern District. (Sept. 20 Tr. 3-7). However, upon learning that the parties were near settlement, the Court allowed the parties two weeks to settle the case. (Sept. 20 Tr. 5-7). On October 4, 2013, the parties notified the Court that they were unable to reach a settlement in the case. (Dkt. #14).

DISCUSSION

A. Applicable Law

Courts have discretion to transfer a case sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1404. See Barnet v. Elan Corp., 236 F.R.D. 158, 164 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) ("Although a transfer pursuant to § 1404(a) is typically premised on the motion of a party, the statute is broad enough that a court can transfer a case on its own initiative." (citing Lead Industries Ass'n, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Admin., 610 F.2d 70, 79 n.17 (2d Cir. 1979))). Ordinarily, "[a] court may sua sponte transfer an action under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)" only "after giving both parties notice and an opportunity to be heard." Bona v. Barasch, No. 01 Civ. 2289 (MBM), 2003 WL 1395932, at *36 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 20, 2003), reconsidered on other grounds sub nom. Martinez v. Barasch, No. 01 Civ. 2289 (MBM), 2004 WL 1555191 (S.D.N.Y. July 12, 2004). Here, it is proper to consider a sua sponte transfer because the Court gave the parties notice of its intention to transfer venue at the September 20, 2013 conference, and permitted each party to be heard on the topic. (See generally Sept. 20 Tr.).

In determining whether transfer to another district is appropriate, courts generally consider the following ...


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