United States District Court, S.D. Indiana
Barry Fischer United States District Judge.
lawsuit involves disputes between the Washington Wild Things
professional baseball team and the League Office of the
Frontier Professional Baseball League of which it is a member
and participates. (Docket No. 12). This is one of three
actions that Plaintiff Washington Frontier League Baseball,
LLC has initiated emanating from the same set of facts
involving an attempted acquisition of another team in the
League by a rival owner. (Id.). In November of 2014,
Plaintiff and one of its owners, Stuart Williams, sued
Defendant Frontier Professional Baseball, Inc. another member
club and a few owners in an ongoing lawsuit in the United
States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
See Washington Frontier League Baseball, LLC and Stuart
Williams v. Michael E. Zimmerman, et al., Civ. A. No.
1:14-cv-01862-TWP0DML (S.D. In). Later, in June of 2016,
Plaintiff initiated an arbitration proceeding against
Defendant in the Southern District of Indiana. (Docket No. 12
at ¶ 49). Plaintiff admits that the arbitration remains
pending and sets forth claims against Defendant that are
identical to those pled in this lawsuit, which was not filed
until October 11, 2016. (Docket Nos. 24, 30).
before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant
arguing that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
over the matter and that Plaintiff has failed to state a
claim for relief. (Docket Nos. 21, 22). In response,
Plaintiff contends that it has pled sufficient facts to state
a claim against Defendant and that this Court has
jurisdiction. (Docket Nos. 23, 24, 30). In doing so,
Plaintiff relies heavily on a decision by the U.S. District
Court for the Southern District of Indiana interpreting the
relevant terms of the Bylaws and the arbitration provision in
the related litigation. (Id.). Defendant suggests in
the alternative that if the Court determines that subject
matter jurisdiction is appropriate, that it will separately
move to stay the litigation and compel the arbitration.
(Docket No. 22). Upon careful consideration of the
parties' positions, the relevant terms of the Bylaws and
the arbitration provision contained therein, the decision of
the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana
interpreting same, and after evaluating the relevant private
and public factors under Jumara v. State Farm Insurance
Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995), this Court will
exercise its broad discretion and transfer this matter to the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
discretionary transfer statute, 28 U.S.C. § 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.”
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). It is well established
that this Court retains “broad discretion” to
transfer venue when justice so requires after weighing the
private and public factors set forth in Jumara v. State
Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 883 (3d Cir. 1995). See
also Ogundoju v. Attorney General of U.S., 390
F. App'x. 134, 137 n.2 (3d Cir. 2010). The relevant
private interests include: (1) each party's forum
preference; (2) where the claims arose; (3) the convenience
of the parties; (4) the convenience of the witnesses; and (5)
the location of the books and records. Jumara, 55
F.3d at 879. The cited public interests include: (1) the
enforceability of the judgment; (2) practical considerations
of expediting trial and reducing costs; (3) administrative
difficulties in the two fora due to court congestion; (4) the
local interest in deciding local controversies; (5) public
policies of the fora; and (6) the familiarity of the trial
judge with the applicable state law. Id.
Court's estimation, the relevant private and public
factors under Jumara strongly weigh in favor of
transferring this matter to the U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of Indiana, where both the arbitration and
the related lawsuit are pending. The Court finds that the
following factors favor such a transfer: the parties'
forum preferences; where the claims arose; the convenience of
the parties and witnesses; the enforceability of a judgment;
practical considerations; and, administrative difficulties in
this forum. See Jumara, 55 F.3d at 883. As
the remaining factors are neutral, the Court will transfer
respect to Plaintiff's choice of venue in this district,
where its professional baseball team is based in Washington
County, the same is lightly disturbed by a transfer to the
Southern District of Indiana. Plaintiff is a member of the
League and regularly does business in Indianapolis as a part
of same. See Northgate Processing, Inc. v.
Spirongo Slag McDonald, L.L.C., 2015 WL 7308675, at *3-4
(W.D. Pa. Nov. 19, 2015) (forum preference is lightly
disturbed when facts showed that the parties actively sought
to do business in the transferee forum). Plaintiff also
voluntarily initiated the arbitration in the Southern
District of Indiana several months before filing this case
based upon the arbitration clause in the League Bylaws
providing that venue for same is “at the League
Offices” in Indianapolis. Cf. Turner
Construction Co. v. Independence Excavating, Inc., Civ.
A. No. 16-337, 2016 WL 1408120, at *1 (W.D. Pa. Apr. 11,
2016) (active litigation in other district weighs in favor of
transfer). Further, Plaintiff is presently litigating the
companion lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of Indiana. Id.In light of these facts, it
is reasonable to infer that the only reason for the instant
filing is strategic as Plaintiff may perceive this District
as a more favorable venue.
appears to this Court that Plaintiff's breach of contract
claims arose out of activities centered in the Southern
District of Indiana because they relate to the alleged
failure of the League to pursue an investigation into a
proposed transaction involving other teams and owners and
Plaintiff seeks recompense for attorney's fees and costs
arising from its efforts to conduct such investigation and
litigate those disputes in Indiana, not here. (Docket No.
12). Since that litigation is ongoing and related to this
case, a transfer will most likely be more convenient to the
parties and witnesses than litigating this dispute in
Pittsburgh. See Turner Construction Co.,
2016 WL 1408120, at *1. The final factor, the location of the
books and records, is neutral in the Court's evaluation
of the private factors, as those materials may be produced in
either District. See Armstrong Dev. Properties,
Inc. v. Ellison, No. CIV.A. 13-1590, 2014 WL 1452322,
at *6 (W.D. Pa. Apr. 14, 2014) (“the location
of the books and records, neither favors nor disfavors a
transfer because the evidence in this case could more than
likely be produced electronically in either forum.”).
Overall, the Court finds that the private Jumara
factors strongly weigh in favor of the transfer to the U.S.
District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
See Jumara, 55 F.3d at 883.
to the public Jumara factors, the threshold issue in
this case is whether this federal lawsuit should proceed,
despite the fact that Plaintiff voluntarily submitted its
claims to arbitration. (See Docket Nos. 21-26, 30).
This Court believes that the U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of Indiana is better situated to resolve
this dispute. Initially, this Court is mindful that there is
a strong federal policy in favor of arbitration and
“federal law presumptively favors the enforcement of
arbitration agreements.” Harris v. Green Tree Fin.
Corp., 183 F.3d 173, 178 (3d Cir. 1999). Plaintiff
suggests that the decision by the U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of Indiana interpreting the Bylaws and
arbitration provision demonstrates that subject matter
jurisdiction is appropriate in federal court. (Docket Nos.
24, 30). But, that decision is not binding on this Court and,
at most, represents persuasive authority. See
United States v. Mitlo, 714 F.2d 294, 298 (3d
Cir.1983) (citation omitted) (“precedents set by
higher courts are conclusive on courts lower in the judicial
hierarchy.”). While this Court has the capacity to
conduct the same type of analysis, it is in the interests of
judicial economy for this litigation to proceed in the
Southern District of Indiana before the same Judge who is
handling the related matter. See 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a); cf. U.S. ex rel. Frank M. Sheesley Co.
v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 239 F.R.D. 404,
415 (W.D. Pa. 2006) (“Judicial economy is not a
principle that operates exclusively to the courts'
advantage. Litigants also benefit when the consolidation of
related actions results in the most expedited determination
of debts and liabilities.”). A prompt transfer for the
purpose of achieving these types of judicial efficiencies is
also supported by Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure which directs the Court to “secure the just,
speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and
proceeding.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 1.
Plaintiff argues that there is no precedent supporting
Defendant's position that the filing of the arbitration
undermines Plaintiff's assertion of subject matter
jurisdiction here, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
has held that “a ‘party who voluntarily submits
an issue to arbitration without challenging the arbitrability
of that issue' may be deemed to have waived judicial
review.” Lucey v. FedEx Ground Package Systems,
Inc., 305 F. App'x 875, 878 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting
Pa. Power Co. v. Local 272, Int'l Bhd. of Elec.
Workers, 886 F.2d 46, 50 (3d Cir. 1989)). In its briefs,
Plaintiff admits that it voluntarily submitted these claims
to arbitration in the Southern District of Indiana but has
not demonstrated that it did anything to preserve an
objection to the arbitrator's authority to determine
whether the parties' disputes were subj ect to the
arbitration clause. (Docket Nos. 24, 30). Hence, it may be
appropriate to stay this matter and compel the parties to
arbitrate this dispute in the ongoing arbitration rather than
litigate these issues in federal court. See Lucey,
305 F. App'x at 878.
this Court lacks the authority to order the parties to
arbitrate in a location outside of this Court's judicial
district and any judgment to that effect would be
unenforceable. See e.g., Econo-Car Intern., Inc. v.
Antilles Car Rentals, Inc., 499 F.2d 1391, 1394 (3d Cir.
1974) (“the unambiguous statutory language [of 9
U.S.C. § 4] limit[s] the district court's power
to order arbitration outside of the district” and
district court in Virgin Islands erred by ordering parties to
arbitrate in New York City); Port Erie Plastics, Inc. v.
Uptown Nails, LLC, 173 F. App'x 123, 127 (3d Cir.
2006) (“Following Econo-Car, the majority of
district courts to address the issue before us have held that
they lacked authority to compel arbitration at all, even in
their own districts, when the agreement specifies that
arbitration is to take place in a different venue.”).
As the parties expressly agreed to arbitrate their disputes
“at the League Offices, ” which are located in
the Southern District of Indiana, and an arbitration
proceeding is already pending in that locale, it is
appropriate to transfer this matter to the U.S. District
Court for the Southern District of Indiana for consideration
of whether Plaintiff waived the ability to challenge the
arbitrability of this dispute by submitting its claims to the
arbitration. See Shaffer v. Graybill, 68 F.
App'x 374, 377 (3d Cir. 2003) (district court must
dismiss or transfer an action to the location of the
as this Court has stated previously, this District is
presently operating with four empty District Judge seats, out
of a total of ten seats, with three of those seats being
vacant for a number of years.SeeSloane v. Gulf
Interstate Field Services, Inc., Civ. A. No. 15-1208,
2016 WL 4010965, at *8 (W.D. Pa. Jul. 27, 2016)
(noting in July of 2016 that three seats had been vacant for
three years). It is unknown when the vacancies may be filled
and it is likely that there will be another vacancy on this
Court in the near future. A review of the statistics produced
by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts
indicates that there is one empty District Judge seat in the
Southern District of Indiana out of a total of five seats.
See Federal Court Management Statistics, September 2016,
(last visited 2/13/17). Thus, because the judicial seats in
this District are staffed at a rate of sixty percent (60%)
and the Southern District of Indiana is at eighty percent
(80%) this factor similarly weighs in ...