United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division
January 28, 2015
LESLIE D. COFFEY, Plaintiff,
PAULA SUE COFFEY, Individually; ELIZABETH HILL, Individually; KATHLEEN OVERTON, Individually; RICK RUSHWORTH, Individually; ANGELA MORGAN FORBES, Individually; ANNA JONES LEDFORD, Individually; TOBY LEDFORD, Individually; PATRCIK, BEARD, SCHULMAN, AND JOCOWAY, PLLC; HAMILTON COUNTY TENNESSEE SCHOOL SYSTEMS; HAMILTON COUNTY SHERIFF JIM HAMMOND; HAMILTON COUNTY TENNESSEE; CITY OF LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, TENNESSEE; RANDY BOWDEN, in his Official Capacity as Chief of Police of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee; CITY OF CHATTANOOGA TENNESSEE POLICE DEPARTMENT; and WILLIAM E. (BILL) YOUNG, ADMINISTRATOR OF COURTS FOR THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, Defendants
Leslie D. Coffey, Plaintiff, Pro se, Trumann, AR.
For Elizabeth Hill, Patrcik Beard Schulman and Jacoway PLLC, Defendants: Michael Alan Anderson, Patrick, Beard, Schulman & Jacoway, P.C., Chattanooga, TN.
Kathleen Overton, Defendant, Pro se, Hixson, TN.
For Rick Rushworth, Hamilton County Tennessee School Systems, Defendants: David Scott Bennett, LEITNER WILLIAMS DOOLEY & NAPOLITAN PLLC-Chattanooga, Chattanooga, TN.
For Angela Morgan Forbes, city of Chattanooga Tennessee Police Department, Defendants: Phillip Noblett, LEAD ATTORNEY, Chattanooga City Attorney's Office, Chattanooga, TN; Keith Jay Reisman, Office of City Attorney, Chattanooga, TN.
For Jim Hammond, Hamilton County Sheriff, Hamilton County Tennessee, Defendants: R. Dee Hobbs, LEAD ATTORNEY, HAMILTON COUNTY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Chattanooga, TN.
For City of Lookout Mountain Tennessee, Randy Bowden, In his official Capacity as Chief of Police of the City of Lookout Mountain Tennessee, Defendants: Edward J. McKenney, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, HARRIS SHELTON HANOVER WALSH, PLLC., Memphis, TN; William J. Wyatt, Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh, PLLC, Memphis, TN.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON THE MOTION TO DISMISS FILED BY DEFENDANTS ELIZABETH HILL AND PATRICK, BEARD, SCHULMAN & JACOWAY, P.C.
DIANE K. VESCOVO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
On November 24, 2014, the plaintiff, Leslie D. Coffey (" Coffey"), a resident of Trumann, Arkansas, filed a pro se complaint against the above-listed defendants alleging deprivations of rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and violations of the American with Disabilities Act (" ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) This case has been referred to the United States Magistrate Judge for management and for all pretrial matters for determination and/or report and recommendation as appropriate. (Admin. Order 2013-05, Apr. 29, 2013.)
Now before the court is the motion filed by defendants Elizabeth Hill (" Hill") and Patrick, Beard, Schulman & Jacoway, P.C. (collectively " the defendants") to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and for improper venue. (Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 32.) Coffey responded to the motion on January 21, 2015. (ECF No. 47.) For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that Coffey's complaint be dismissed in its entirety for improper venue.
I. PROPOSED FINDINGS OF FACT
This complaint arises out of Coffey's custody battle with Paula Sue Coffey, the mother of his children. Coffey alleges that defendants Paula Sue Coffey, Hill, Kathleen Overton, Rick Rushworth, Angela Morgan Forbes, Anna Jones Ledford, and Toby Ledfords " committed several ongoing acts of civil rights violations by interfering with the custody of [Coffey's] children, taking of false warrants for [Coffey's] arrest, numerous ex-parte Temporary Protective Orders, filing false police reports, making false and slanderous statements, abusive litigation and harassing [Coffey]." (Id. at 5.) According to Coffey, the defendants Hamilton Schools, Jim Hammond, Hamilton County, City of Lookout Mountain, Randy Bowen, the City of Chattanooga Police Department, and Patrick, Beard, Schulman & Jacoway P.C. assisted in the civil rights violations described above. (Id. at 5-6.)
Further, Coffey alleges that the Sheriff of Hamilton County, the State of Tennessee, and the Court denied him access to the legal system in violation of the ADA. (Id. at 4-5.) On January 30, 2014, Coffey filed a notice with the Hamilton County Circuit Court that due to his medical condition he was unable to attend future hearings in a civil matter before the Hamilton County Court Division III. (Id. at 4.) Coffey requested that he be allowed to attend a hearing set for February 10, 2014, by phone. (Id.) Nevertheless, Coffey alleges, the court made no efforts to provide Coffey with access to the hearing and held the February 10, 2014 hearing without him. (Id.) Coffey states that the " Sheriff of Hamilton County, [the] State of Tennessee and [the] Court continue to refuse to provide [him] any viable resolution to attending hearings." (Id. at 5.)
II. PROPOSED CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
A. Improper Venue
The defendants have moved to dismiss Coffey's complaint for improper venue. (ECF No. 32.) On a motion to dismiss for improper venue, " the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that venue is proper." Gone To The Beach, LLC v. Choicepoint Servs., Inc., 434 F.Supp.2d 534, 537-38 (W.D. Tenn. 2006). " The Court may examine facts outside the complaint but must draw all reasonable inferences and resolve factual conflicts in favor of the plaintiff." Id. at 537 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
The federal venue statute 28 U.S.C. § 1391 governs venue of all civil actions brought in the district courts of the United States. It provides in pertinent part:
(b) Venue in general. - A civil action may be brought in -
(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are resident of the State in which the district is located;
(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated;
28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). An individual party is " deemed to reside in the judicial district in which that person is domiciled." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c). If the defendant is a corporation, venue will lie in the district where the corporation would be " subject to the court's personal jurisdiction, " and if more than one such district exists, the corporation will be deemed to reside in any district " within which its contacts would be sufficient to subject it to personal jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c), (d).
The residence of an agency or a public official sued in an official capacity is " the judicial district where he maintains his official residence, that is, where he performs his official duties." O'Neill v. Battisti, 472 F.2d 789, 791 (6th Cir. 1972)(citing 1 Moore's Federal Practice 1487-88); see also Harris v. Kasich, No. 1:11CV311, 2011 WL 646748, at *3 (N.D. Ohio Feb. 15, 2011)(finding that the Governor of Ohio and other government employees conducted their official business in the Ohio Statehouse, the Ohio Senate, and the State Board of Education, which were situated in Columbus, Ohio, making the Southern District of Ohio the proper district).
Venue in this district is not proper under § 1391(b)(1) because none of the defendants reside in the Western District of Tennessee. All of the individual defendants named in the complaint are residents of the Eastern District of Tennessee. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.) In his response to the current motion to dismiss, Coffey does not dispute that all of the individual defendants reside in the Eastern District of Tennessee; rather, he maintains that the Western District of Tennessee " is a good common ground that all parties are able to litigate in." (ECF No. 47.) As to defendant Patrick, Beard, Schulman & Jacoway P.C., Section § 1391(c) places proper venue in any district where the corporation has minimum contacts. Defendant Patrick, Beard, Schulman & Jacoway P.C., is a law firm with residence in Chattanooga, Tennessee,  and the court has been provided no facts to determine that the corporation conducts business in this district.
Further, Hamilton County School System, Hamilton County Sheriff, Hamilton County, City of Lookout Mountain, Randy Bowden, and the City of Chattanooga Police Department all conduct their official business in the Eastern District of Tennessee. William Young, the prior Director of the Administrative Office of Courts in Tennessee, conducted his official business in Nashville, Tennessee, which is located in the Middle District of Tennessee. Therefore, all of the government agencies and government employees named in the complaint are residents of either the Eastern District of Tennessee or the Middle District of Tennessee.
Venue in this district is also not proper under § 1391(b)(2) because none of the events giving rise to Coffey's claims occurred in the Western District of Tennessee. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.) All of Coffey's allegations relate to events that occurred in Hamilton County, Tennessee, which is in the Eastern District of Tennessee. Accordingly, Coffey has not carried his burden of proving that venue in the Western District of Tennessee is proper.
Lastly, if the court finds that venue is improper, the court has discretion on whether to dismiss or transfer the complaint to another district. 28 U.S.C.A. § 1406(a); First of Michigan Corp. v. Bramlet, 141 F.3d 260, 262 (6th Cir. 1998). In his response to the current motion, Coffey states that he did not file in another district because he is " unable to travel distances, " and another venue " is less desirable" for him. (ECF No. 47.) Because Coffey does not request transfer to a proper district, the court recommends dismissal of Coffey's complaint without prejudice.
For the foregoing reasons, it is recommended that Coffey's complaint be dismissed without prejudice for improper venue.