Judge Albright Of The Western District Of Texas Grants Motion To Transfer On Convenience Grounds
On December 8, 2021, Judge Albright of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas issued a sealed opinion granting the defendants’ motion to transfer venue to the Northern District of Georgia. Lynk Labs, Inc v. Home Depot USA, Inc., No. 6:21-cv-00097-ADA (W.D. Tex. Dec. 8, 2021). A public, redacted version has since published, in which the court addresses the public and private interest convenience factors, finding that the Northern District of Georgia was a clearly more convenient forum.
28 U.S.C. § 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.” As we have previously written when discussing other transfer decisions (including several involving Judge Albright), the district court addresses two questions in a transfer analysis. First, the court must determine whether the action could have been brought in the transferee forum. Second, if so, the court weighs a number of private and public “convenience” factors to determine whether the transferee forum is “clearly more convenient.” The private factors include: “(1) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (2) the availability of compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses; (3) the cost of attendance for willing witnesses; and (4) all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive.” In re Volkswagen AG, 371 F.3d 201, 203 (5th Cir. 2004). The public factors include: “(1) the administrative difficulties flowing from court congestion; (2) the local interest in having localized interests decided at home; (3) the familiarity of the forum with the law that will govern the case; and (4) the avoidance of unnecessary problems of conflict of laws or the application of foreign law.” Id.
In this case, the defendants (three Home Depot entities) moved to transfer the case to the Northern District of Georgia—its Atlanta “home” where the bulk of the evidence resides—arguing that it was a clearly more convenient forum.
On the first question, there was no dispute that the case could have been brought in the Northern District of Georgia.
On the second question, the court walked through the public and private interest factors. The court found particularly persuasive that the relevant Home Depot custodians were in Atlanta where Home Depot is headquartered, and that the Northern District of Georgia had the power to compel certain third-party witnesses (unlike the Western District of Texas).
This is an interesting decision, as it has historically been difficult to transfer cases before Judge Albright out of the Western District of Texas, absent mandamus by the Federal Circuit.