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International Metaphysical Ministry Inc. v. Schaefer

United States District Court, D. Arizona

July 24, 2018

International Metaphysical Ministry Incorporated, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Matthias Schaefer, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

         At issue is the Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction or, in the alternative, Motion to Transfer (Doc. 21, Mot.) filed by Defendant Wisdom of the Heart Church, d/b/a University of Metaphysical Sciences (“UMS”), to which Plaintiffs International Metaphysical Ministry Incorporated and Paul Leon Masters Revocable Living Trust (collectively, “IMM”) filed a Response (Doc. 27, Resp.), and UMS filed a Reply (Doc. 30, Reply). The Court finds the Motion appropriate for resolution without oral argument. See LRCiv 7.2(f).

         I. BACKGROUND

         IMM alleges the following facts in its Complaint. (Doc. 1, Compl.) International Metaphysical Ministry is a 501(c)(3) non-profit religious and educational organization headquartered in Sedona, Arizona, and UMS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit distance learning school located in Arcata, California. Both schools teach a metaphysical approach to spiritual practice and ministry. IMM is suing UMS and its founder, Christine Breese, seeking damages and injunctive relief for copyright and trademark infringement as well as under various Arizona state law theories.[1] UMS now moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, to transfer the case to the Northern or Central Districts of California. (Doc. 21.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The change of venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), provides that “[f]or the convenience of the 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.” The purpose of this statute “is to prevent the waste of time, energy and money and to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.” Airbus DS Optronics GmbH v. Nivisys LLC, No. CV-14-02399-PHX-JAT, 2015 WL 3439143, at *2 (D. Ariz. May 28, 2015) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). It is the defendant's burden to show transfer is warranted, and “[t]he defendant must make a strong showing of inconvenience to warrant upsetting the plaintiff's choice of forum.” Decker Coal Co. v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 805 F.2d 834, 843 (9th Cir. 1986); see also Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 499 (9th Cir. 2000).

         Courts employ a two-step analysis when determining whether a transfer is proper. Airbus DS Optronics, 2015 WL 3439143, at *2. First, a court considers whether “the case could have been brought in the forum to which the moving party seeks to transfer the case.” Id. In order to meet this requirement, the court in the proposed transferee district “must have subject matter jurisdiction and be a proper venue, and the defendant must be amenable to service of process issued by that court.” Id. “Second, a court must consider whether the proposed transferee district is a more suitable choice of venue based upon the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interests of justice.” Id. The Ninth Circuit has set forth factors that a court may consider in making this determination:

(1) the location where the relevant agreements were negotiated and executed,
(2) the state that is most familiar with the governing law, (3) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (4) the respective parties' contacts with the forum, (5) the contacts relating to the plaintiff's cause of action in the chosen forum, (6) the differences in the costs of litigation in the two forums, (7) the availability of compulsory process to compel attendance of unwilling non-party witnesses, and (8) the ease of access to sources of proof.

Jones, 211 F.3d at 498-99.

         III. ANALYSIS

         UMS moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, to transfer this action to the Northern or Central Districts of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). As part of its Motion, UMS asks the Court to transfer this matter regardless of whether the Court has personal jurisdiction over UMS. (Mot. at 13-14.) IMM opposes UMS's Motion to the extent it seeks dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction or for failure to state a claim, but IMM does not challenge the Motion to Transfer. If anything, IMM requests that the Court allow jurisdictional discovery (Resp. at 13-14), but this is not particularly pertinent to UMS's Motion to Transfer under § 1404(a). A court may allow jurisdictional discovery to assist in determining whether personal or subject matter jurisdiction exists, but a motion to transfer does not raise most of the same concerns. See Wells Fargo & Co. v. Wells Fargo Exp. Co., 556 F.2d 406, 430 (9th Cir. 1977).

         On account of IMM's failure to substantively respond to UMS's Motion to Transfer, UMS is entitled to summary disposition of that portion of its Motion. See LRCiv. 7.2(i). The Court will nonetheless briefly examine the relevant factors to determine if the transferee district is a more suitable venue. See Jones, 211 F.3d at 498-99.

         It is undisputed that this case could have been brought in California. In its Motion, UMS enumerates the following factors in favor of transfer:

         A. State Most Familiar ...


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