Federal Circuit Grants Another Petition For Mandamus Ordering Judge To Transfer A Case Out Of The Western District Of Texas On Convenience Grounds
On April 20, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”) issued an order granting a petition for a writ of mandamus directing Judge Alan D. Albright of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas (“WDTX”) to transfer a case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida (“SDFL”), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). In re TracFone Wireless, Inc., __ F. App’x __ (Fed. Cir. April 20, 2021). The CAFC found that Judge Albright clearly abused his discretion when, in denying TracFone’s motion to transfer, he found that SDFL was not a clearly more convenient forum to litigate the case between the parties.
Section 1404(a) 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 or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.”
On transfer motions, the CAFC follows regional circuit law (here, the Fifth Circuit). Under Fifth Circuit precedent, when a movant “clearly demonstrate[s] that a transfer is ‘[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, [and] in the interest of justice,’” the district court “should” grant transfer. In re Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 545 F.3d 304, 315 (5th Cir. 2008) (en banc) (citing § 1404(a)). As the Federal Circuit has found, this determination focuses “on a comparison of the relative convenience of the two venues based on assessment of the traditional transfer factors.” In re HP Inc., 826 F. App’x 899, 901 (Fed. Cir. 2020) (citing In re Radmax, Ltd., 720 F.3d 285, 288 (5th Cir. 2013)).
In this matter, the CAFC found that Judge Albright rested his denial “largely, if not entirely” on the premise that the willing witness factor weighed against transfer. According to the CAFC, this conclusion was “clearly flawed,” as it “was reached despite several of TracFone’s likely employee witnesses residing in the transferee venue and without relying on the location of a single potential witness within or even close to Waco, Texas.”
Against this backdrop, the CAFC determined that SDFL was clearly more convenient, as several factors favored transfer and none weighed against transfer.
This order is the latest in a recent string of CAFC orders granting defendants’ petitions for writs of mandamus ordering Judge Albright to either (i) decide the transfer issue or (ii) transfer the underlying cause. In fact, it was the second order in this case alone.