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Posted: January 16, 2018

Judge Block Denies Motion to Change Venue from the EDNY to the SDNY in lawsuit by former Rikers Island Inmate

In a January 4, 2018 ruling, Judge Frederic Block denied the City of New York’s motion for a change of venue from the EDNY to the SDNY. (Kennedy v. City of New York, et al., 17-CR-5042 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 4, 2018) (FB)(VMS)). Not surprisingly, the court rejected the City’s claim that the SDNY was a more convenient forum than the EDNY. For those not familiar with the geography of the SDNY and EDNY, the SDNY courthouse on Pearl Street in Manhattan is a pleasant spring-time walk over the Brooklyn Bridge from the EDNY courthouse on Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn.

The plaintiff, a former inmate at Rikers Island, brought a lawsuit in the EDNY based on injuries he received when he was allegedly beaten by two other inmates. The plaintiff sued the City, City officials and corrections officers. The City moved for a change of venue arguing that Rikers Island was in the Bronx (within the SDNY), the officers involved would have worked at Rikers Island, and the events occurred in the SDNY.

Judge Block explained that the location of the underlying events would only be relevant if venue was based on 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) (venue based on substantial part of the events), but not relevant where venue was based on § 1391(b)(1) (residency of defendants). The residence of an entity defendant (the City) is equated with personal jurisdiction under § 1391(b)(1). In other words, venue for an entity defendant is proper in any district where it would be subject to personal service if the district were its own state. Since the City is subject to jurisdiction in the Eastern District, venue is proper so long as all the other defendants reside in New York State.

”Under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), a civil action may be brought in: (1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents 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.” . . .

For the purpose of venue, “an entity with the capacity to sue and be sued in its common name . . . shall be deemed to reside, if a defendant, in any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(2). Section 1391(c) thus “equates jurisdiction with venue . . . for corporate defendants.” PDK Labs, Inc. v. Proactive Labs, Inc. , 325 F. Supp. 2d 176, 182 (E.D.N.Y. 2004) (quoting Laumann Mfg. Corp. v. Castings USA, 913 F. Supp. 712, 719 (E.D.N.Y.1996)). If a state has multiple judicial districts and has personal jurisdiction over a corporation at the beginning of the suit, the corporation is deemed to reside in any district that would have sufficient contacts for personal jurisdiction if the district were a separate state. Id. § 1391(d).

Here, venue is proper under § 1391(b)(1): All Defendants are residents of the State of New York, and the City is “subject to personal jurisdiction in the Eastern District and is thus deemed a ‘resident’ of the Eastern District.” Springle v. City of New York, 2013 WL 592656, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 14, 2013).

(Kennedy v. City of New York, et al., 17-CR-5042 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 4, 2018) (FB)(VMS)).

The court then rejected the City’s argument that venue should be changed for the convenience of the parties. “[T]he Eastern and Sourthern District are equally convenient from Rikers Island and both are within the state[.]”

Posted by Solomon N. Klein, Litigation Partner

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