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Boeing Co. v. Movassaghi

June 18, 2010

THE BOEING COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MAZIAR MOVASSAGHI, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS THE ACTING DIRECTOR OF THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF TOXIC SUBSTANCES CONTROL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland E. Burrell, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER TRANSFERRING VENUE

The Court sua sponte required the parties to show cause why this case should not be transferred to the United Stated District Court for the Central District of California, under 28 U.S.C. U.S.C. § 1404. See Costlow v. Weeks, 790 F.2d 1486, 1488 (9th Cir. 1986) (stating a court may "transfer a case sua sponte under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, as codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), so long as the parties are first given the opportunity to present their views on the issue"). Plaintiff responded arguing venue should not be transferred. Defendant argues in his response that the Central District of California is a more appropriate forum for this case.

Background

This case involves Plaintiff The Boeing Company's ("Boeing") challenge to California Senate Bill 990, codified at California Health and Safety Code section 2539.20 ("SB 990"), which "mandates a site-wide cleanup process for [the Santa Susana Field Laboratory ("the Santa Susana")]." (Compl. ¶ 9.) The Santa Susana is located in the Central District of California. Boeing alleges that SB 990 "by its terms applies nowhere in California other than the Santa Susana Site." (Id. ¶ 8.) Boeing seeks a declaration that SB 990 is invalid, both facially and as applied, and "a preliminary and permanent injunction precluding Defendant from enforcing or taking any action against Boeing based on SB 990." (Id. ¶ 11.)

The "Santa Susana occupies approximately 2,850 acres in the Simi Hills in southeastern Ventura County, California." (Id. ¶ 28.) "Boeing owns 2,398 acres of the site." (Id.) Legislative findings in SB 990 concerning the Santa Susana state:

Founded in the late 1940s, the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) was a facility dedicated to the development and testing of nuclear reactors, rockets, missiles, and munitions. The location of SSFL was chosen for its remoteness in order to conduct work that was considered too dangerous to be performed in more densely populated areas. In subsequent years, however, southern California's population has mushroomed. Today, more than 150,000 people live within five miles of the facility, and at least half a million people live within 10 miles.

(SB 990 Sec. 2(a).) The findings further discuss various "accidents" at the Santa Susan Field Laboratory "[t]hroughout the years" including "meltdowns", fires, and "[t]he most famous accident" involving a partial core meltdown which "may have caused hundreds of cancer cases in the Los Angeles area." (SB 990 Sec. 2(b)-(e).) Plaintiff alleges:

"Today, the only remaining activity [at the research and development center of the Santa Susana site] involves the cleanup of the waste materials associated with the nuclear research and other [Department of Energy]-related programs[.]" (Compl. ¶ 34.)

Legal Standard

28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) prescribes that "a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought," "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interests of justice . . . ." "Section 1404(a) reflects an increased desire to have federal civil suits tried in the federal system at the place called for in the particular case by considerations of convenience and justice." Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964). The parties do not dispute that this action could have originally been brought in the Central District.

When considering whether "to transfer venue under § 1404(a) . . . the court . . . weigh[s] multiple factors in its determination whether transfer is appropriate in a particular case." Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000). "In rendering this decision, courts consider a range of public and private interest factors, including access to proof, calendar congestion, where the relevant events took place, and whether the action and potential outcomes have a localized impact." Back-country Against Dumps v. Abbott, 2010 WL 2349194, at *2 (E.D. Cal. 2010). "No single factor is dispositive, and a district court has broad discretion to adjudicate [transfers of venue] on a case-by-case basis." Ctr. For Biological Diversity v. Kempthorne, 2008 WL 4543043, at *2 (N.D. Cal. 2008).

Analysis

The essence of Boeing's arguments against transfer is that since this case "presents purely legal questions," those questions should be decided in the forum it selected. (Plt.'s Response 6:9-11.) If the action just presents purely legal questions, the transfer decision at issue is informed "by weighing plaintiff's choice of forum against the competing interest in 'having localized controversies decided at home.'" Ctr. for Biological Diversity & Pac. Env't v. Kempthorne, 2007 WL 2023515, at *5 (N.D. Cal. 2007); see also Rabbi Jacob Joseph School v. Province of Mendoza, 342 F. Supp. 2d 124, 131 (E.D.N.Y. 2004) (indicating where the Court is asked to decide purely legal issues many of the transfer factors generally considered "are of no moment").

The Court must afford some deference to the plaintiff's choice of forum. Sec. Investor Prot. Corp. v. Vigman, 764 F.2d 1309, 1317 (9th Cir. 1985). However, "plaintiff's choice of forum 'is entitled to only minimal consideration' when 'the forum of original selection . . . has no particular interest in the parties or the subject matter.'" Gemini Capital Group, Inc. v. Yap Fishing Corp., 150 F.3d 1088, 1091 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Pac. Car & Foundry Co. v. Pence, 403 F.2d 949, 954 (9th Cir. 1968)); see also Saleh v. Titan Corp., 361 F. Supp. 2d 1152, 1157 (S.D. Cal. 2005) ("numerous courts have given less deference to the plaintiff's choice of forum where the action has little connection with the chosen forum" and compiling cases). Similarly, "[t]he degree to which courts ...


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