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Bay.Org. v. Zinke

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 30, 2017

BAY.ORG, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
RYAN ZINKE, ET AL., Defendants. GOLDEN GATE SALMON ASSOCIATION, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
RYAN ZINKE, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER TRANSFERRING ACTIONS TO EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

          Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiffs have brought the above-captioned matters under the Administrative Procedure Act (the “APA”), challenging the Department of Interior's and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Endangered Species Act (the “ESA”) review of the impacts of the California WaterFix project on certain species of wildlife (the “WaterFix Cases”).[1] The Court understands that these cases may involve significant factual and legal overlap with a case pending in the Eastern District of California, Natural Resources Defense Council v. Ryan Zinke , No. 05-CV-1207 (E.D. Cal.) (“Zinke”).[2] Thus, the Court ordered the parties to brief the issues relating to transferring the above-captioned matters to the Eastern District of California.

         The parties filed simultaneous, opening briefs on August 11, 2017, and each filed responsive papers on August 18, 2017. Defendants support transferring the instant actions to the Eastern District, whereas plaintiffs oppose and believe the cases should remain before this Court.

         Having carefully reviewed the papers submitted, the Court Orders that the above-captioned matters be Transferred to the Eastern District of California.

         I. Legal Framework

         “For 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 or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The purpose of section 1404(a) is to “prevent the waste of time, energy, and money and to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.” Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). “A motion for transfer lies within the broad discretion of the district court and must be determined on an individualized basis.” Sierra Club v. U.S. Dep't of State, No. 09-CV-4086-SI, 2009 WL 3112102, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Sep. 23, 2009).

         To support a motion for transfer, the moving party must show: “(1) that venue is proper in the transferor district; (2) that the transferee district is one where the action might have been brought; and (3) that the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and will promote the interest of justice.” Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 820 F.Supp. 503, 506 (C.D. Cal. 1992). With regard to the third factor, courts evaluate the following factors to determine whether a transfer of venue would be appropriate: “(1) plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) convenience of the parties; (3) convenience of the witnesses; (4) ease of access to the evidence; (5) familiarity of each forum with the applicable law; (6) feasibility of consolidation with other claims; (7) any local interest in the controversy; and (8) the relative court congestion and time of trial in each forum.” Sierra Club, 2009 WL 3112102, at *2 (citing Williams v. Bowman, 157 F.Supp.2d 1103, 1106 (N.D. Cal. 2001)). Generally, in environmental cases brought pursuant to the APA, like the instant actions, the “most important factors for [courts] to consider are the plaintiff's choice of forum and any local interest in the controversy” because the other factors are, for the most part, not implicated. Id. (citing Ctr. for Biological Diversity & Pac. Env't v. Kempthorne, No. 07-CV-0894-EDL, 2007 WL 2023515, at * 5 (N.D. Cal. July 12, 2007)).

         II. Background

         The Court provides a brief description of the Zinke matter and the WaterFix Cases:

         A. Zinke Matter

         The Zinke matter was originally filed in the Northern District of California on February 15, 2005 to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (the “FWS”) “analysis in its June 30, 2004 and February 16, 2005 Operating Criteria and Plan Biological Opinions.” (See Order, NRDC v. Norton, No. 05-CV-690-CW, Dkt. No. 122 at 2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 6, 2005) (the “Transfer Order”).) In Zinke, the “FWS concluded that proposed changes in the coordinated operations of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP), which provide water to much of California, would not harm the delta smelt.” (Id.) Plaintiffs alleged in that action that the analysis conducted by the FWS was “arbitrary, capricious[, ] and an abuse of discretion” in violation of the ESA and the APA, in part, because the FWS failed to “consider the available scientific data and the full effects of the action.” (Id.)

         On September 6, 2005, the district court in the Northern District issued an order transferring the action to the Eastern District of California, explaining thus:

Plaintiffs correctly note that the cases do not involve identical factual records and legal duties. However, portions of the lengthy administrative record at issue in this action necessarily overlap with those in [other cases pending in the Eastern District], and Plaintiffs do not deny that trying these actions separately could result in inconsistent evaluations of FWS' analysis regarding the delta smelt, the resolution of which would consume additional judicial resources. There will be some duplication of effort if the two cases go forward in separate fora. Because both cases involve detailed administrative records, the amount of judicial effort at stake is considerable.

(Id. at 6-7.) Thus, on September 23, 2005, the Zinke matter was transferred to the Eastern District of California. (Zinke, Dkt. No. 126.) Since then, the matter has been litigated in the Eastern District and has involved several motions and much discovery. Recently, on March 1, 2017, plaintiffs filed their Fifth Supplemental Amended Complaint (Zinke, Dkt. No. 1071), to which ...


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