United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. MARKS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Ham-Let, USA, Inc. (“Ham-Let”) filed this action
on July 20, 2018, against defendants Barbara Guthrie
(“Guthrie”) and Compart Systems Corporation
(“Compart”) asserting claims of breach of
contract, misappropriation of trade secrets under the Federal
Defend Trade Secrets Act pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1836,
and misappropriation of trade secrets under the Alabama Trade
Secrets Act, Ala. Code § 8-27-3 (1975). Specifically,
Ham-Let alleges that Guthrie, prior to the termination of her
employment with Ham-Let, accessed, downloaded, and retained
Ham-Let's confidential and proprietary trade secrets, and
then used that information in her new employment with
Compart, Ham-Let's direct competitor. The Court granted
the Plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order
(doc. 8), restraining the Defendants from using Ham-Let's
confidential, proprietary information. (Id.).
Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331 and the specific statutory grant of jurisdiction
contained in 18 U.S.C. § 1836(c). In addition to the
general federal question jurisdiction, the Defend Trade
Secrets Act contains a specific grant of jurisdiction.
“The district courts of the United States shall have
original jurisdiction of civil actions brought under this
section.” 18 U.S.C.§ 1836(c). Finally, the Court
has supplemental jurisdiction over the Plaintiff's state
law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
pending before the court is the Defendants' motion to
transfer venue to the United States District Court for the
Western District of Texas (doc. 39). The Plaintiff opposes
the motion to transfer venue (doc. 41). The motion has been
fully briefed and is ripe for resolution. After careful
consideration of the motion, the Plaintiff's responses,
and the arguments in favor of and against the motion, the
Court concludes that the motion to transfer venue should be
is a corporation formed under the laws of the State of
California with its principal place of business in Sugarland,
Texas. (Doc. 44, at 1, para. 1). Guthrie is a citizen of the
state of Alabama. (Id. at para. 2). Compart is a
corporation existing under the laws of the state of Delaware,
with its principal place of business in Austin, Texas.
(Id. at 2, para. 3).
Defendants argue that this case should be transferred to the
Western District of Texas for the convenience of parties and
witnesses because Ham-Let has “no apparent connection
to this District” and it primarily does business in
Sugarland, Texas which is significantly closer to the Western
District of Texas than the Middle District of Alabama. (Doc.
39 at 2). The Defendants further argue that they “have
substantial connections to the Western District of Texas,
” and the Western District of Texas is significantly
closer for potential witnesses than the Middle District of
Alabama. (Id., at 2-3). The Defendants contend that
“[a]lthough Guthrie resides in Alabama, she . . .
spends most of the work week in Austin, Texas, or traveling
to California for Compart, ” and Guthrie
“consents to personal jurisdiction in the Western
District of Texas.” (Id. at 3). Finally, the
Defendants argue that “Texas is home to potential
third-party witnesses.” (Id.) According to the
Defendants, the Western District of Texas is a “clearly
more convenient” forum. (Id. at 10).
opposes transfer to that court because venue is proper in
this District, and is its chosen forum. (Doc. 41). In
addition, Ham-Let contends that the motion to transfer is
untimely because the Defendants waited over six months to
file the motion, has actively defended the case in this
District, and that the motion is a delaying tactic.
(Id. at 2). More importantly, Ham-Let argues that
this forum is more convenient because the principal witness,
Guthrie, resides in this District, and she downloaded and
retained proprietary confidential information in this
District. (Doc. 41 at 5-6; Doc. 74 at 1). Finally, Ham-Let
asserts that the Defendants fail to identify a single
non-party witness located in the Western District of Texas.
(Doc. 41 at 4). Thus, Ham-Let contends the case should remain
in the Middle District of Alabama.
parties do not dispute that venue is proper in the Middle
District of Alabama. Instead, the Defendants' motion is
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) which provides, in
pertinent part, that “[f]or the convenience of the
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.” (emphasis added). Usually, the Court
accords “considerable deference” to the
Plaintiff's choice of forum and “in the usual
motion for transfer under section 1404(a), the burden is on
the [Defendants] to establish that the suggested forum is
more convenient.” In re Ricoh Corp., 870 F.2d
570, 573 (11th Cir. 1989).
In the typical case not involving a forum-selection clause, a
district court considering a § 1404(a) motion (or a
forum non conveniens motion) must evaluate both the
convenience of the parties and various public-interest
considerations. Ordinarily, the district court would weigh
the relevant factors and decide whether, on balance, a
transfer would serve “the convenience of parties and
witnesses” and otherwise promote “the interest of
justice.” § 1404(a).
Atl. Marine Const. Co., Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Court for W.
Dist. of Texas, 571 U.S. 49, 62-63 (2013) (footnote in
case, the Defendants do not seek to enforce a forum-selection
clause, and thus, the Plaintiff's choice of forum weighs
in favor of Ham-Let. The Court recognizes that “when
the plaintiff's choice is not [its] home forum, . . . the
presumption in the plaintiff's favor ‘applies with
less force,' for the assumption that the chosen forum is
appropriate is in such cases ‘less
reasonable.'” Sinochem Int't Co., Ltd. v.
Malaysia Int'l Shipping Corp., 549 U.S.
422, 430 (2007) (quoting Piper Aircraft Co. v.
Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 255-56 (1981)). It is undisputed
that the Middle District of Alabama is not the home forum of
Ham-Let. Thus, while Ham-Let's choice of this form is
entitled to less weight, it is still entitled to more weight
than the Defendants have attributed to it.
decision to transfer a case is within the discretion of the
trial court with the propriety of transfer being decided
based on the facts of each individual case. See
Brown v. Connecticut General Life Ins. Co., 934
F.2d 1193, 1196 (11th Cir. 1991). And the burden is on the
Defendants to establish the suggested forum is more
convenient, and would be “in the interest of
justice.” In re Ricoh Corp., 870 F.2d at
572-73. In considering whether the Defendants have
demonstrated that their suggested forum is more convenient
and serves the interest of justice, the court considers a
variety of case-specific factors such as
(1) the convenience of the witnesses; (2) the location of
relevant documents and the relative ease of access to sources
of proof; (3) the convenience of the parties; (4) the locus
of operative facts; (5) the availability of process to compel
the attendance of unwilling witnesses; (6) the relative means
of the parties; (7) [the suggested] forum's familiarity
with the governing law; (8) the weight accorded a
plaintiff's choice of ...