Federal Circuit IP
In Re Planned Parenthood Federation of America 5th Cir. (Fed. Cir. October 31, 2022)
In Re Planned Parenthood Federation of America 5th Cir. Case No. 22-11009, Decided October 31, 2022 (Elrod, Graves, Ho)
Overview: The Fifth Circuit made some statements about its venue law that contradict the Federal Circuit’s recent interpretation of Fifth Circuit venue case law. Thus, transferring a case out of the Eastern and Western Districts of Texas may have become more challenging.
- Relator filed complaint in the Amarillo Division of the Northern District of Texas against Planned Parenthood, alleging false and fraudulent claims under the Medicaid system.
- Petitioners (Planned Parenthood) moved to transfer to Austin Division of the Western District of Texas.
- Ct. denied Petitioners’ motion because both private and public interest factors weighed against transfer.
- Petitioners filed mandamus petition.
Issue on Appeal: Did the D. Ct. clearly abuse its discretion in finding that the W.D. Tex. was not a clearly more convenient venue than the N. D. Tex.?
Holding: No, because:
(1) Private interest factors weighed against transfer.
- Vast majority of evidence was electronic, and therefore accessible from any district; some remaining documentary evidence was in both districts.
- Petitioners failed to identify any witness unwilling to testify in existing venue.
- Cost of flights and availability of flights did not weigh in any direction.
- Petitioners’ failure to seek relief until seven months after case was unsealed.
(2) Public interest factors weighed against transfer.
- Case was not delayed in Northern District.
- Austin citizens had no more interest in this case.
- Forum’s familiarity with the law and avoidance of conflicts-of-law.
Takeaways (Fifth Circuit Contradicting Federal Circuit’s Interpretation of Fifth Circuit Law):
- Location of electronic evidence (most of evidence today) may receive less weight because it can easily be electronically transmitted to any forum.
- Witnesses are presumed willing to appear in a venue unless shown to be unwilling.
- Relative cost of lodging/meals in the two districts may be considered. Expect to see Plaintiffs in W.D. Tex. and E.D. Tex. using hotel and restaurant costs as a fact against transfer.
- Appeals court deferred to district court’s own estimation of relative docket congestion.