United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MISSOURI ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES, d/b/a Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, et al., Plaintiffs,
STATE OF MISSOURI, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to
transfer venue. I conclude that transfer of this case to the
United States District Court for the Western District of
Missouri, Central Division (Jefferson City) is appropriate
under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), and so I will transfer the
case to that Court.
case was filed on December 7, 2016, challenging certain
provisions of Missouri's campaign finance law. Article
VIII, Section 23 of the Missouri Constitution became
effective on November 8, 2016, after it was passed by a vote
of the people under Missouri's initiative petition
process. The provisions of Section 23 that plaintiffs in this
case challenge restrict certain types of corporations and
committees from making contributions to political parties and
to certain types of committees.
in this case are the State of Missouri and the Missouri
Ethics Commission as well as the individual Commission
members. Plaintiffs are suing the individual defendant
commissioners only in their official capacities.
Plaintiffs' amended complaint alleges that defendant
George Ratermann, one of the commissioners, resides in the
Eastern District of Missouri and that venue is proper in this
district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1). The Missouri
Ethics Commission has its offices in Jefferson City, which is
in the Western District of Missouri.
the case was initially filed, plaintiffs did not seek
immediate emergency relief. On December 19, however, they
filed their Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and
Preliminary Injunction. After defense counsel entered an
appearance and plaintiffs' counsel requested a hearing,
the Court held a telephone conference with counsel and then
scheduled a temporary restraining order hearing for December
29. At that hearing and after the Court indicated that a
prompt preliminary injunction hearing could be set,
plaintiffs' counsel agreed to withdraw the Motion for
Temporary Restraining Order. The Court then set that hearing
for January 13, 2017, and set a schedule for briefing the
motion. Both sides have filed multiple, extensive briefs.
filed their First Amended Complaint on January 4 and the next
day Todd Jones, through counsel, filed a motion to intervene
as a defendant. On January 10, 2017, I held a telephone
conference (on the record) with counsel for the parties as
well as counsel for the intervenor, to determine whether the
proposed intervenor was seeking to participate in the
preliminary injunction hearing. Counsel for the proposed
intervenor indicated that he was not seeking to participate
in the hearing, and so all parties indicated they would brief
the motion to intervene as required by the local
separate case that also challenges the same new campaign
finance law was filed in the United States District Court for
the Western District of Missouri on December 23, 2016.
Free & Fair Election Fund, et al. v. Missouri Ethics
Comm'n, et al., Case No. 2:16-CV-04332-ODS. That
case is brought by different plaintiffs and different
plaintiffs' counsel. The Missouri Ethics Commission and
the individual commissioners are defendants in both cases and
are represented by the same defense counsel from the Missouri
Attorney General's office. No answer or other responsive
pleading has yet been filed in either case, as the deadline
for such filings has not yet arrived. Both cases, in other
words, are in their infancy.
first telephone conference with counsel and again during the
January 10 telephone conference, I questioned whether venue
was proper in this district. On January 11, 2017, defendants
filed their Motion to Change Venue and/or Consolidate. I then
held another telephone conference with counsel for the
parties, and entered an Order that the previously scheduled
preliminary injunction hearing would not go forward. The
Order also set a deadline for plaintiffs to show cause why I
should not transfer this case to the United States District
Court for the Western District of Missouri, where venue is
undoubtedly proper. Plaintiffs filed their brief opposing the
transfer on January 12, 2017.
amended complaint asserts that venue is proper here under 28
U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1), which provides that a civil action
may be brought in “a judicial district in which any
defendant resides, . . . .” Plaintiffs initially relied
on the residence of one commissioner as the basis for venue
in this district. In their brief opposing transfer, however,
plaintiffs present two other arguments: that venue is proper
under § 1391(b)(2) because the effects of the challenged
Missouri law will be felt in both Missouri districts, and
that the Missouri Ethics Commission is deemed a resident of
both districts under § 1391(c)(2). Although I initially
told the parties that I did not believe venue was proper
here, I now conclude that venue is proper under 28 U.S.C.
suit against a state official in his or her official capacity
is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit
against the official's office. As such, it is no
different from a suit against the State itself.”
Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S.
58, 71 (1989) (citations omitted). See also Hafer v.
Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991) (real party in interest in
an official-capacity suit is the governmental entity and not
the named official); Zajrael v. Harmon, 677 F.3d
353, 355 (8th Cir. 2012) (“A suit against state
employees in their official capacities is the functional
equivalent of a suit against the State.”).
general rule is that if a suit is brought against a state
official in his official capacity, the official's
residence is where he performs his official
duties.See Simon v. Ward, 80 F.Supp.2d
464, 468-69 (E.D. Pa. 2000) (collecting cases but holding
that because the officials were sued in their individual
capacities, venue did not depend on where they performed
their official duties); Republican Party of N.C. v.
Martin, 682 F.Supp. 834, 835-36 (M.D. N.C. 1988);
Procario v. Ambach, 466 F.Supp. 452, 454 (S.D.N.Y.
1979). Some courts have recognized that some state officials
may perform their duties in multiple judicial districts, and
so venue based on residence may be appropriate in more than
one district. See, e.g., Taylor v. White, 132 F.R.D.
636 (E.D. Pa.1990) (state officials can be sued where they
maintain their offices, either in the state capitol or in
district where regional offices are located in which
substantial activities related to the claims took place);
Buffalo Teachers Fed'n, Inc. v. Helsby, 426
F.Supp. 828 (S.D.N.Y. 1976). At least one court has concluded
that state officials by definition must perform their duties
throughout the state. Bay Cnty. Democratic Party v.
Land, 340 F.Supp.2d 802, 806-808 (E.D. Mich. 2004).
office of the Missouri Ethics Commission is in Jefferson
City, in the Western District. Plaintiffs contend, however,
that the majority of the Commission meetings are held by
teleconference, and that therefore Commissioner Ratermann
performs most of his work from his home in St. Louis. I need
not determine whether this is correct, however, because under