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Revis v. T&A Farms

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division

May 17, 2017

LAWRENCE C. REVIS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
T&A FARMS, TIMOTHY DALE DAVIS, ALPHINE DAVIS, and STACEY DINWIDDIE, Defendants.

          ORDER

          LISA GODBEY WOOD, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Lawrence C. Revis, Jr.'s motion to transfer venue and examine jurors will be DENIED, but his motion to submit voir dire questions will be GRANTED. Dkt. No. 105.

         Background

         Plaintiff, Sheila Smallwood, and her husband John Smallwood are suing Defendants, their former employers, alleging race discrimination and retaliation. Nos. 5:14-CV-86 (S.D. Ga.), 5:14-CV-87 (S.D. Ga.), 5:14-CV-88 (S.D. Ga.). Their suits are being litigated in the Southern District of Georgia's Waycross Division.

         John Smallwood's trial took place there on April 24-26, 2017. Dkt. Nos. 106-08, No. 5:14-CV-87 (S.D. Ga.). Of the fourteen impaneled jurors, four were African-American. One was excused for cause with the consent of both parties. Three were stricken by Defendants. Dkt. No. 113, No. 5:14-CV-87 (S.D. Ga.). One was reinstated following John Smallwood's successful challenge under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). Dkt. Nos. 106, 113, No. 5:14-CV-87 (S.D. Ga.). The jury unanimously reached a verdict finding Defendants not liable. Dkt. No. 117, No. 5:14-CV-87 (S.D. Ga.).

         Plaintiff's trial is set for July 12, 2017. Dkt. No. 104. On May 15, 2017, his attorneys moved to transfer venue, examine jurors, and modify voir dire questions. Dkt. No. 105.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         Transfer of Venue

         "For 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 . . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). This decision is discretionary. Ross v. Buckeye Cellulose Corp., 980 F.2d 648, 654 (11th Cir. 1993). The party seeking transfer of venue bears the burden of "establish[ing] that the suggested forum is more convenient." In re Ricoh Corp., 870 F.2d 570, 573 (11th Cir. 1989) (per curiam). The court must first determine whether the action could have been brought in the suggested forum. Osgood v. Discount Auto Parts, LLC, 981 F.Supp.2d 1259, 1263 (S.D. Fla. 2013). Then, it must weigh "(1) the convenience of the parties; (2) the convenience of the witnesses; and (3) the interest of justice." Greely v. Lazer Spot, Inc., No. CV 411-096, 2012 WL 170154, at *2 (S.D. Ga.

         Jan. 19, 2012) (citation omitted). "[T]he fact that Plaintiff [ ] requested the transfer can be considered as one factor in favor of allowing a change of venue." Id. at *3.

         Examining Witnesses

         "As for . . . attorneys not being allowed to directly question the venire members, a district court has discretion about how to conduct voir dire, including whether to have counsel submit questions in writing." United States v. Hill, 643 F.3d 807, 831 (11th Cir. 2011).

         Voir Dire Questions

The court may permit the parties or their attorneys to examine prospective jurors or may itself do so. If the court examines the jurors, it must permit the parties or their attorneys to make any further inquiry it considers proper, or must itself ...

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