United States District Court, D. Alaska
GWICH'IN STEERING COMMITTEE, ALASKA WILDERNESS LEAGUE, DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE, and THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY, Plaintiffs,
U.S DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, U.S. BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, and U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, Defendants.
Russel Holland United States District Judge
Motion to Transfer and to Extend Time to Answer or Otherwise
to transfer this case to the U.S. District Court of the
District of Columbia, or in the alternative to extend the
time for them to answer or otherwise respond to
plaintiffs’ complaint. This motion is
opposed. Oral argument has not been requested and
is not deemed necessary.
the Gwich’in Steering Committee, the Alaska Wilderness
League, Defenders of Wildlife, and The Wilderness Society
filed the instant action on July 31, 2019. They allege that
defendants the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Bureau
of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
have violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), or in
the alternative, the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).
Plaintiffs allege that “[f]rom December 21, 2018 -
March 8, 2019, ” they submitted nine FOIA requests
“relating to the implementation of an oil and gas
leasing program on the Coastal Plain” of the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge. Plaintiffs allege that defendants
“have exceeded FOIA’s statutory final decision
deadlines.” Plaintiffs allege that “[d]efendants
have unlawfully withheld records from the public concerning
the agency processes related to oil and gas extraction on the
Coastal Plain.” Plaintiffs allege that “[d]efendants
failed to make any determination within FOIA’s
statutory time limits and have not released records in
response to [p]laintiffs’ requests” and
“have violated FOIA because they failed to notify
[p]laintiffs of estimated dates when they expect to complete
processing these requests.” Plaintiffs request that the
“[c]ourt declare that [d]efendants are in violation of
FOIA[, and] compel [d]efendants to immediately produce by a
date certain all records responsive to [p]laintiffs’
nine FOIA requests[.]”
November 8, 2018, the Defenders of Wildlife filed a FOIA suit
in the District of Columbia against the same defendants as
are named in this case. This FOIA suit also seeks documents
related to the oil and gas leasing program on the Coastal
Plain. Although the FOIA requests in the D. C. case are not
identical to the FOIA requests involved in this case, there
is some overlap. The D.C. case is on a production schedule
and the parties are submitting periodic status reports to the
court, with the next due on October 7, 2019.
to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), defendants now move to transfer
this action to the U.S. District Court for the District of
Columbia. In the alternative, defendants move for an
extension of time to file their answer or otherwise respond
to plaintiffs’ complaint.
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.”
“When determining whether a transfer is proper, a court
must employ a two-step analysis.” Park v. Dole
Fresh Vegetables, Inc., 964 F.Supp.2d 1088, 1093 (N.D.
court must first consider the threshold question of whether
the case could have been brought in the forum to which the
moving party seeks to transfer the case.” Id.
On complaint, the district court of the United States in the
district in which the complainant resides, or has his
principal place of business, or in which the agency records
are situated, or in the District of Columbia, has
jurisdiction to enjoin the agency from withholding agency
records and to order the production of any agency records
improperly withheld from the complainant.
5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B). Thus, this case could have been
brought in the District Court for the District of Columbia.
venue would be appropriate in the transferee court, then the
court must make an ‘individualized, case-by-case
consideration of convenience and fairness.’”
Inherent.com v. Martindale-Hubbell, 420 F.Supp.2d
1093, 1098 (N.D. Cal. 2006) (quoting Jones v. GNC
Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir.
2000)). The court considers several factors when deciding
convenience and fairness, including
(1) plaintiff’s choice of forum, (2) convenience of the
parties, (3) convenience of the witnesses, (4) ease of access
to the evidence, (5) familiarity of each forum with the
applicable law, (6) feasibility of consolidation of other
claims, (7) any local interest in the controversy, and ...