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United States v. Hobson

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 5, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Plaintiff,
v.
CONLY HOBSON, et. al. Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

CANDY W. DALE, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Defendant Jeffry M. Hobson submitted a motion requesting a change of venue and the return of real property on behalf of himself and his other siblings, Defendants David G. Hobson, D. George Hobson, Conly Mike Hobson, and Norman C. Hobson. (Dkt. 101). The parties have briefed the motion and it is ripe for the Court's consideration. Having fully reviewed the record herein, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the motion will be decided on the record without oral argument. Dist. Idaho L. Rule 7.1(d). Since Defendants have not shown any strong reason for transferring venue nor have they shown proof that the subject property has been seized, the Court will recommend that the motion be denied.[1]

BACKGROUND

All of the Defendants resided in the State of Idaho when the matters described in the complaint occurred. (Dkt. 1 at 3). Defendants, through their family trust, Hobson Children's Trust, owned property physically located at 406 Main Street, in Caldwell, Idaho (the "Property"). (Dkt. 1 at 4). The Property operated as a laundromat and dry cleaning business, but closed in March 2000 and remained unoccupied. (Dkt. 1 at 4).

While Defendants owned the Property, perchloroethylene, or "PCE, " a hazardous substance, was released into the Property's soil beginning in 1999. (Dkt. 1 at 4). The Government concluded the PCE posed a public health threat, and ordered Defendants to remediate the site. Defendants refused. (Dkt. 71).

In response, the Government began a removal action at the Property to excavate and remove the PCE and other hazardous substances from the Property in May 2004, finishing in July 2004. (Dkt. 71 at 6-7). It demolished the laundromat and dry cleaning building on the Property, but the land itself was not seized. (Dkt. 1 at 5). On June 26, 2007, the Government filed this action pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act ("CERCLA") to recover its cleanup costs. On January 15, 2010, the Court entered an order granting the Government's motion for summary judgment and awarding damages of $1, 095, 316, 74, including prejudgment interest, that the Government incurred in the cleanup process. (Dkt. 83.) Final judgment was entered, and a Writ of Execution was granted to the Government, and the United States Marshal timely served a Notice of Levy on all Defendants. (Dkt. 86, 91.)

On January 27, 2013, Defendants moved the Court to transfer venue to the District of Utah, Jeffry Hobson's new place of residence.[2] (Dkt. 100.) The Government's response, timely filed on February, 14, 2013, contended that venue transfer was improper because "four of the five Defendants reside in Idaho." (Dkt. 101). It also relied on a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Jones v. GNC Franchising, 211 F.3d 495, 498-99 (9th Cir. 2000), that lists a number of factors[3] for the Court to weigh when considering whether to change venue. It is the Government's position that a majority of the Jones factors weigh in its favor, warranting no change of venue. Additionally, the Government argues that its lien on the Property is enforceable, and Defendants have not properly claimed that any exemptions apply. Thus, there is no property to return.

DISCUSSION

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), the Government maintains nationwide enforcement of debt collection against a debtor "regardless of where the person is served." 28 U.S.C. § 3004(b)(1)(A) and (B). A debtor may request a change of venue to the district in which he or she resides within twenty days of receiving notice that the government is taking the debtor's property for payment of a debt. 28 U.S.C. § 3004(b)(2). Section 28 U.S.C. §1404(a) states that "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 or to any district or division to which all parties have consented." In a civil case, venue is proper where the defendant resides or where a substantial part of the events took place. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e).

The Court may not "disturb the plaintiff's original choice of forum unless the private interest and the public interest factors strongly favor dismissal." (internal quotations omitted) Tuazon v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 433 F.3d 1163, 1180 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 509 (1947)). There are seven factors the Court considers under the private interests prong:

(1) the residence of the parties and witnesses, (2) the forum's convenience to the litigants, (3) access to physical evidence and other sources of proof, (4) whether unwilling witnesses can be compelled to testify, (5) the cost of bringing witnesses to trial, (6) the enforceability of the judgment, (7) any practical problems or other factors that contribute to an efficient resolution.

Id. at 1180 (citing Gulf Oil, 330 U.S. at 508).

The public interests prong has five ...


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