LIBERTY LOBBY, INC., and WILLIS A. CARTO
MARK WEBER, et al.
|Civil Action No.
Willis Carto is a professional fund-raiser for right-wing causes. He is also known by the names Frank Tompkins, E. L. Anderson Ph.D., and Samuel P. Foner. He also represented himself as a defendant in court in San Diego under the name J. W. Young. He is a resident of Escondido, California.
Liberty Lobby is a corporation owned or controlled by Willis Carto. It has offices in Washington, DC, and in Escondido, California, at the same address as the home of Willis Carto.
For several years Carto worked as an unpaid volunteer of defendant Legion for the Survival of Freedom, a tax-exempt corporation with its sole office in California. In 1993 the staff of Legion informed its board of directors that Carto was behaving erratically, and that his actions could result in harm to Legion. The board then severed Carto’s relationship with Legion.
Carto responded to his severance by attempting to seize the Legion office by force, with the help of hired thugs. After failing in that ploy, Carto began to use lawsuits against Legion in an effort to put Legion out of business, and thus avoid accountability for his actions. To date, Carto has filed more than a dozen lawsuits against Legion and various of its employees and directors, some in his own name, others in the names of entities he controls. Attached hereto as Exhibit A is a list of the litigation between Carto and Carto-controlled entities and Legion et al. Most of these suits asked either for substantial monies, or for a “return” of control of the Legion to Carto. Thirteen of these suits were filed in California. Carto has yet to win any of the suits he has brought.
After Carto’s severance, the Legion staff discovered that a multi-million dollar bequest to Legion, which had been under Carto’s control, appeared to have been diverted by Carto for his own use. In 1994, Legion brought legal action in Superior Court in California to recover the funds. This action was successful and Judgment was entered against Carto in the amount of $6.43 million plus interest, and against Liberty Lobby in the amount of $2.65 million plus interest. Attached hereto as Exhibit B is a copy of the opinion letter by Honorable Judge Runston Maino. Also attached hereto as Exhibit C is a copy of the Judgment by Court After Trial in that case. As of October 23, 1998, Carto owes Legion $12,168,476.40, and Liberty Lobby owes $4,383,107.55. Attached hereto as Exhibit D is a copy of the calculations of interest and other costs. Neither Carto nor Liberty Lobby has paid anything on this Judgment, nor have they provided the court-ordered accounting for the funds and uncut gems from the bequest. Additionally, Liberty Lobby continues to refuse to pay for books purchased from Legion prior to Carto’s severance, the amount of which (with interest) is $14,484.50 as of October 23, 1998. Both Carto and Liberty Lobby have now filed for bankruptcy protection to avoid having to pay Legion, and refuse to discuss any meaningful settlement.
Plaintiffs base their claim of jurisdiction on 28 USC Section 1332 et seq. diversity of citizenship and 1343 et seq. and on the allegations that “a substantial number events, conduct, tortious acts and criminal acts” took place in Washington, DC.
Plaintiffs state that the proper venue for this case is the DC court because, among other reasons, both Plaintiffs are in DC. The Complaint, filed January 29, 1998, states that “Willis A. Carto, hereinafter Carto, is a resident of the District of Columbia.” In a Declaration filed in support of the instant lawsuit, signed under penalty of perjury on March 24, 1998, Willis Carto stated, “I am not a resident of the State of California. I am a resident of the District of Columbia.” On May 19, 1998, Carto took the stand in Superior Court in California and stated under oath that he had moved from California to DC in February 1998. Attached hereto as Exhibit E is a copy of that part of Carto’s testimony.
However, in Carto v. Raven, filed in Superior Court in California on August 15, 1997 (case number 783094), Carto stated that he and Elisabeth Carto “are, and at all times herein mentioned were, a husband and wife and residents of San Diego County, California doing business in Orange County, California.” Then, on June 8, 1998, the Cartos filed a Title 7 bankruptcy action in the United State Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of California (case 98-08050-H7), in which they stated under penalty of perjury that at the time of the filing, they were residents of California, and had been residents for 180 days immediately proceeding the date of the petition. Attached hereto as Exhibit F is a copy of part of the Cartos' filing.
If any further proof were needed of Carto’s ties to California, Carto recently purchased a majority holding in Resistance Records, which sells recordings of skinhead music, and moved the operation from the Detroit area to southern California. It is noteworthy that this purchase came at a time when both Carto and Liberty Lobby were enjoying bankruptcy protection from the collection efforts of defendant Legion. Attached hereto as Exhibit G is a copy of a fax from Carto to co-investor Todd Blodgett regarding Resistance Records.
Clearly, Carto lied about being a resident of Washington, DC, in an effort to convince the DC court that the venue was proper. This “forum shopping” is not new for Carto. This court recently saw an example of this when Carto, after failing to block the appointment of a receiver in California, improperly filed suit against the US Postal Service in an attempt to do an “end run” around the ruling of the California court.1 Now, after failing to prevail in any of his suits in California against the Legion, and after failing in a similar suit in Texas against the Legion (making the same meritless claims as in previous California suits), Carto is attempting once again to circumvent accountability for the disappearance of millions of dollars from Legion, by suing the now-impoverished Legion in a forum in which it can ill-afford to appear.
Carto’s misrepresentations about his residence call into question the applicability of the diversity statute. Carto’s false Declaration of residency also effects the jurisdiction of this court, and is relevant to the issue of proper venue.
Likewise, Plaintiffs have not been straightforward with the court about the location of Liberty Lobby. In describing Liberty Lobby as having offices in DC, Plaintiffs fail to inform the court that they also have offices in California. According to the judgment debtor’s examination of Willis Carto, which took place February 27, 1998, Carto has an office in Escondido, California (p. 9, lines 10-14):
Q: Do you have a residence here in Escondido, California?
A: I have an office.
Q: Where is that office located, sir?
A: 1718 Quail Ridge Road.
Attached hereto as Exhibit H are the relevant pages from that judgment debtor’s examination. This statement echoes numerous similar claims in the pages of The Spotlight, published by Liberty Lobby under the direction of Willis Carto, that this property at 1718 Quail Ridge Road is the Liberty Lobby’s “west coast headquarters,” or alternately that “The West Coast office of Liberty Lobby is located at the Carto home.” Attached hereto as Exhibit I is the March 16, 1998, edition of The Spotlight. Clearly, if Liberty Lobby can afford to have an office in California, and fly Willis and Elisabeth Carto back and forth between the two offices at their whim, they will not be prejudiced by moving the venue to California.
As can be seen the sheer volume of prior suits against Legion filed by Carto in California, Carto is amply represented in California, he has the wherewithal to fly in Mark Lane from DC, Joe Izen from Texas, and others from around the US, as he has in prior cases in California.
Based on the foregoing, this case should be dismissed based upon 28 USC Section 1406(a), which provides that:
The district court of a district in which is filed a case laying venue in the wrong division or district shall dismiss, or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or division in which it could have been brought.
Jurisdiction of this matter properly lies in the Central District under 28 USC Section 1391(a). Specifically, the served California defendants (including their counsel) reside in the Central District, a substantial part of the alleged events giving rise to the claim occurred in the Central District, and the served California defendants are subject to personal jurisdiction in the Central District. Therefore, defendant Greg Raven respectfully submits that venue properly lies in the Central District, and this matter should be dismissed or transferred.
The Court may consider if a particular venue was chosen by plaintiffs to vex the defendants. Wheeler v. Societe Nationale Des Chemins De Fer Francais, 108 F. Supp. 652, 653 (SD New York 1952). In the instant case, an intent to attack Legion for prevailing in its case for conversion against Liberty Lobby has been brazenly admitted by plaintiffs in the pages of The Spotlight.
It may interest the Court to learn that Carto, Liberty Lobby, and attorney Mark Lane have been in this Court before on a similar libel complaint. The Court of Appeal has noted that Carto and his nexus of organizations, working with Mark Lane, have consistently used the libel complaint as a “weapon to harass.” Liberty Lobby v. Dow Jones & Co., 838 F. 2nd 1287, 1297 (DC Cir. 1988).
28 USC Section 14049A) states:
For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interests of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought.
In reaching its decision of whether to transfer a matter, a court must consider several factors: the availability and convenience of witnesses and parties, the location of counsel, the location of books and records, the cost of obtaining attendance of witnesses and other trial expenses, the place of the alleged wrong, the possibility of delay and prejudice if transfer is granted, and plaintiffs' choice of forum. Dupre v. Spanier Marine Corp., 810 F. Supp. 823, 825 (SD Texas 1993); see also Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 US 501, 508, 91 L. Ed. 1055, 1062, 67 S Ct. 839 (1947); Stabler v. New York Times Co., 569 F. Supp. 1131, 1137 (1983); Los Angeles, etc. v. National Football League ("NFL"), 89 FRD 497, 499-502 (CD California 1981).
Defendant Raven respectfully submits that a consideration of these factors weighs in favor of transferring this matter to the Central District.
Given the laundry-list of witnesses proposed by plaintiffs, this is arguably the most important factor of those listed. Dupre, supra, 810 F. Supp. at 825; NFL, supra, 89 FRD at 501. In considering the availability and convenience of witnesses, a court must concentrate primarily upon the availability and convenience of key witnesses. The convenience of one key witness may outweigh the convenience of numerous less important witnesses. Id.
For the defendants, nearly all the key players are in southern California. Therefore, the Central District is a more convenient forum for these parties. Additionally, plaintiff Carto lives in San Diego County, and works in both San Diego and Orange Counties; plaintiff Liberty Lobby has an office in San Diego County, on which it pays property taxes. Therefore, Central District is convenient for plaintiffs, as well. The bulk of the witnesses proposed by plaintiffs (21 out of the 23 named) are secondary in nature, by virtue of having no first-hand knowledge of the allegations, as they are not even mentioned in the Complaint. If they truly are important to plaintiffs, presumably they will be encouraged and supported to travel to California to testify on behalf of their employer. Philipp Bros., Inc., v. Schoen, 661 F. Supp. 39 (1987 SD New York).
The Court needs not defer to plaintiffs' choice of forum “when the chosen forum is not the plaintiff’s place of residence.” New Image, Inc. v. The Travelers Indemnity Co., 536 F. Supp. 58, 59 (E.D. Pa. 1981). Plaintiff Carto lives and works in southern California, and plaintiff Liberty Lobby has offices, staff, and counsel in southern California, and even pays the property tax on plaintiff Carto’s home.
Although the location of counsel is generally not entitled to substantial consideration, it is worth noting that plaintiffs and three of the served defendants have counsel in southern California.2 In the majority of these cases, the action was brought by plaintiffs in the instant case. Additionally, plaintiffs in the past have had counsel and other personnel from DC and Texas make court appearances and attend depositions in California.
Plaintiffs have relied heavily on Dooley v. United Technologies Corp.3 in seeking to justify their choice of venue by alleging that Washington, DC, is the district in which counsel for all parties are located. This reliance is unjustified by the facts. Only seven of the named defendants have been served in this case after many months, and of those seven, most if not all are unable to afford local counsel in DC, including defendant Raven.
Therefore, the Central District is a more convenient and cost-effective forum for both plaintiffs and served California defendants.
In some cases, the location of books and records is of paramount importance to whether a case should be transferred. Dupre, supra, at p. 826. In the instant matter, all of defendant’s records are located in southern California. At least some of plaintiffs records are located in southern California, as well, due to Carto’s residence here and Liberty Lobby’s “west coast office.” Additionally, Liberty Lobby has been ordered to furnish documents to Legion as part of the bankruptcy proceedings in DC, so copies of all those documents will be located in southern California, as well. Therefore, the Central District is a more convenient forum for both parties.
As noted above, nearly all of the key witnesses are located in San Diego and Orange Counties in southern California, so cost is not a factor there. However, while plaintiffs have substantial resources available in terms of office and living space in southern California, defendants enjoy nothing of the kind in DC. Furthermore, defendant Raven is impoverished, and cannot afford local counsel in DC, whereas plaintiffs are well-funded. As a result, this case cannot adequately be defended unless venue is in the Central District.
Most of the allegations of robbery, bribery, defamation, interference, and others, are centered in southern California. This weighs heavily in favor of the Central District as the proper venue.
As a trial date has not been set in this matter, transfer of this matter to the Central District at this time would not significantly cause delay or prejudice which would affect the parties' abilities to bring this matter to trial, assuming it is not dismissed first.
Jurisdiction for this matter properly lies in the Central District of the United States District Court. Additionally, for the foregoing reasons, the Central District is a much more convenient forum for the California defendants and their counsel, and plaintiffs and their counsel will not be inconvenienced. Therefore, defendant Raven respectfully requests that this matter either be dismissed, or in the alternative, transferred to the Central District.
Defendant in Pro Se
Dated: October 23, 1998
1. Liberty Lobby and Willis Carto v. US Postal Service and Thomas Lennon, Inc., US District Court (DC) case number CIV 98-1109 (HHK), filed May 11, 1998.
2. See Dupre, supra, at p. 826.
3. 786 F. Supp. (DC 1992).