United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, District Judge.
In this in rem civil forfeiture proceeding, the Government seized $776, 670.00 from a bank account held in the name of Shin's Trading d/b/a Cala Products ("Shin's Trading" or "the Company"). The co-owners of Shin's Trading, Jung Min Shin and Heebok Shin ("the Shins"), now move to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Central District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.
Shin's Trading is a beauty products wholesaler located in Los Angeles, California. Verified Compl. ("Compl.") ¶ 18, ECF No. 1. Shin's Trading maintained an account with Bank of America (the "Account"). Id. ¶ 2. Between March 7, 2012 and March 19, 2013, unidentified individuals made upwards of 100 deposits into the Account at bank branches located in eight different states. Id. ¶ 21. Just a single deposit in the amount of $8, 500.00 was made in New Jersey. Id. Four deposits totaling $22, 000.00 were made in California. Id. Taking the position that the deposits were structured, laundered, or the product of narcotics trafficking, the Government seized $776, 670.00 in the Account pursuant to a warrant issued in April 24, 2013. Id. ¶¶ 6-28. Five days after the seizure, two Drug Enforcement Administration agents from the New Jersey office interviewed the Shins along with a Shin's Trading employee, Evelyn Escobedo, at the Shin's Trading facility in Los Angeles, California. Id. ¶¶ 29-32.
On July 3, 2013, the Government filed a Verified Complaint for forfeiture in rem against the defendant funds in this Court. Compl. On August 2, 2013, the Shins filed a verified claim with respect to the defendant funds. ECF No. 5. On August 26, 2013, the Shins moved to dismiss. ECF No. 6. On April 28, 2014, the Court denied the motion. U.S. v. $776, 670.00, No. 13-4108, 2014 WL 1669929 (D.N.J. Apr. 28, 2014). The Shins now move to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
Title 28, Section 1404(a) ("Section 1404") provides:
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.
Section 1404 vests "discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions to transfer according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness." Stewart Organization, Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 23 (1988). To prevail on a motion to transfer, the moving party must demonstrate, first, that the case could have been brought in the transferee forum, and second, that "in the interest of justice, the proposed transferee forum is more convenient for the parties and witnesses." Medidata Solutions, Inc. v. DATATRAK Int'l, Inc., 2013 WL 1989854, at *5 (D.N.J. May 13, 2013). Since there is no dispute that this case could have been brought in the Central District of California, the Court restricts its analysis to considerations of justice and convenience. In Jumara v. State Farm. Ins. Co., the Third Circuit explained that besides from considering justice and convenience, courts should weigh a host of private interests and public interests in determining whether to grant a transfer motion. 55 F.3d 873, 879-80 (3d Cir. 1995).
A. The Private Interest Factors Weigh in Favor of Transfer.
The private interest factors implicated in a transfer include, but are not limited to:
[the] plaintiff's forum preference as manifested in the original choice, the defendant's preference, whether the claim arose elsewhere, the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition, the convenience of the witnesses-but only to the extent that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora, and the location of books and records (similarly limited to the extent that the files could not be produced in the alternative forum).
Id. at 879 (internal citations omitted). The Court considers these factors in turn.
First, the Court considers the plaintiff's choice of forum. Id. In Jumara, a case between a motorist and an insurance company, the Third Circuit explained that "the plaintiff's choice of venue should not be lightly disturbed." Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted). Moreover, a plaintiff's forum choice is generally "entitled to greater deference" where the plaintiff chooses to litigate in its "home forum, " Ricoh Co. Ltd. v. Honeywell, Inc., 817 F.Supp. 473, 480 (D.N.J. 1993). However, where the plaintiff is the Government, this deference is lessened. See U.S. ex rel. Hollander v. MTD Products, Inc., No. 9-5507, 2011 WL 3501749, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 9, 2011). Deference is further lessened where, as here, a plaintiff's forum choice has "little connection to the operative facts of the lawsuit." Maxtak Capital Advisors, LLC v. ParkerVision, Inc., No. 11-7549, 2012 WL 4673244, at *4 (D.N.J. Oct. 1, 2012). Indeed, the only connection New Jersey has to this lawsuit is that ...