10 ELR 20292 | Environmental Law Reporter | copyright © 1980 | All rights reserved

National Preservation Law Center v. Landrieu

No. 80-0514 (D.D.C. April 11, 1980)

In a suit charging the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Commerce with violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act in connection with their financial support of a hotel and convention center project in Charleston, South Carolina, the court grants defendants' motion for a transfer of venue to the district court for that jurisdiction. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), an action may be transferred to any other district where there is venue if the transfer would serve the interests of justice through greater convenience to the parties and witnesses. In light of the fact that many of the parties and witnesses are located in or near South Carolina, that there is currently another civil action pending in that district concerning similar issues and many of the same parties, and that this court may not have personal jurisdiction over one of the defendant municipalities, the court concludes that the interests of justice favor transfer of the case and orders that defendants' motion for transfer be granted.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Theodore L. Garrett, Patricia A. Barald, William M. Paul, David F. Williams
Covington & Burling
888 16th St. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 452-6000

Counsel for Federal Defendants
Charlotte Bell
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-4150

Timothy Hartzer
Office of the General Counsel
Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington DC 20410
(202) 755-7244

Heidi Solomon, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Courthouse, Charleston SC 20402
(803) 724-4381

Counsel for City of Charleston
William B. Regan, Alice Paylor
Office of the Corporation Counsel
P.O. Box 1237, Charleston SC 29404
(803) 577-6970

Marc L. Fleischaker, Charles R. Claxton
Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin & Kahn
1815 H St. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 857-6000

[10 ELR 20292]

Greene, J.:

Memorandum Order

This action arises out of a proposal by the City of Charleston, South Carolina, to build a hotel and convention center in downtown Charleston with the assistance of grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Economic Development Administration of the Department of Commerce. Plaintiffs seek an injunction, claiming, among other things, that the federal agencies have failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq., the National Historic Preservation Act, 16 U.S.C. § 470 et seq., the Housing and Community Development Act, 42 U.S.C. § 5301 et seq., and several regulations. Pending before the Court are defendant City of Charleston's motion to dismiss or in the alternative for a transfer of venue, and federal defendants' motion for transfer of venue. For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss will be denied without prejudice and the motions for transfer of venue will be granted.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), an action may be transferred to any other district where it might have been brought, if the Court determines that such a transfer will serve the interests of justice through greater convenience to the parties and witnesses. The project under review in this case is primarily local in nature. The proposed construction is entirely located in Charleston; it does not concern any large-scale national interests; and indeed, it involves an urban redevelopment plan apparently of great concern to that City. This Court has recently drawn a distinction between projects having essentially local impact (National Wildlife Federation v. Andrus, Civil Action No. 78-2090 (D.D.C. 1979))1 with those which are national in scope and concern issues which reach beyond any particular locality's interest (Peshlakai v. Duncan, Civil Action No. 78-2416 [9 ELR 20690] (D.D.C. 1979)).2

Three of the four plaintiffs are organizations located in the City of Charleston, and it is reasonable to believe that these three plaintiffs, who claim to represent persons directly injured by the proposed project, would not be inconvenienced by having the U.S. District Court in that jurisdiction decide the case. Likewise, most of the federal officials involved in the proposed project are located either in South Carolina or in Georgia, and would be closer to the place of litigation if the case were transferred to South Carolina.3 Finally, on this aspect of the motion, it appears that, if the case proceeds to trial without a transfer, most of the witnesses would have to travel from South Carolina to the District of Columbia, a distance of hundreds of miles. It would obviously serve the convenience of the majority of the witnesses if the action were transferred to the district wherein they reside.

The City of Charleston, which is also included as a defendant, alleges that it should be dismissed from the present action because it does not conduct business within the District of Columbia, and that therefore this Court lacks jurisdiction over it. Without passing on the merits of this claim, it is apparent that these jurisdictional defenses would be obviated if the cases were transferred to the federal district where the City is located. Since the City is arguably an indispensable party to some, if not all, of plaintiffs' claims, it would serve the interests of justice to transfer the entire case to a district where an indispensable party would clearly be subject to the jurisdiction of the appropriate court.

Finally, there is now pending before the District Court for the District of South Carolina a civil case concerning some of the same issues present here. City of Charleston, South Carolina v. National Center for Preservation Law, Civil Action No. 80-136-1 (D.S.C.). While the parties are aligned in a rather different order there than they are here,4 a single court in South Carolina can best decide the extent to which the issues are or are not related.

To be sure, plaintiffs chose this forum to bring their case and one of the plaintiffs is located here. However, the Court concludes that, on balance, the test of § 1404(a) has been met, and that the case should be transferred.

Therefore, it is this 10th day of April 1980,

ORDERED That the motion to dismiss of defendant City of Charleston be and it is hereby denied without prejudice, and it is further

ORDERED That the motions to transfer venue filed on behalf of all defendants be and they are hereby granted, and it is further

ORDERED That the record in the above-captioned case be and it is hereby transferred to the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina.

1. Federal funding of highway to be built in a limited section of the State of Washington.

2. Mining and development of uranium reserves with a potential for nationwide impact.

3. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e), a civil action may be brought against an official of the United States in a judicial district in which the cause of action arose or where any real property involved is situated. In the present case, both criteria are present, and the action could have been brought against the federal defendants in South Carolina.

4. In that case, the City brought suit against some of these same federal defendants and one of the plaintiffs.

10 ELR 20292 | Environmental Law Reporter | copyright © 1980 | All rights reserved