MR. JUSTICE MINTON delivered the opinion of the Court.
The three petitioners, dining car employees, filed separate suits in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, against the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co. They sued under the Federal Employers' Liability Act for injuries received upon the
Since the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit had held, in All States Freight v. Modarelli, 196 F.2d 1010, that the order for transfer was not appealable, the petitioners filed applications for mandamus or prohibition to the district judge in order to require him to set aside his orders of transfer. The Court of Appeals denied the applications, and we granted certiorari. 348 U.S. 870.
The cases of the three petitioners present identical questions of law, were consolidated for argument here, and will be disposed of in this opinion.
The district judge in granting the motions to transfer stated that if he had been free to construe § 1404 (a) as he did in the case of Naughton v. Pennsylvania R. Co., 85 F.Supp. 761, he would have denied the transfers because, in his view, it called for an application of the stricter rule of forum non conveniens as recognized in decisions of this Court. See Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501. But since the Naughton case, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit had held, in All States Freight v. Modarelli, supra, that the district judge had a broader discretion in the application of the statute than under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The district judge, therefore, followed the rule laid down in the All States Freight case, supra. We think the Court of Appeals correctly rejected the narrower doctrine of forum non conveniens and properly construed the statute.
Judge Maris, who was Chairman of the Judicial Conference Committee on the revision of the Code and approved the text submitted to Congress, sat on the Court of Appeals en banc when All States Freight was decided. And Judge Parker of the Fourth Circuit, consultant to the Advisory Committee, writing for the court in Jiffy Lubricator Co., Inc. v. Stewart-Warner Corp., 177 F.2d 360, 362, also construed the statute as we understand it:
See also Moore, Commentary on the Judicial Code (1949 ed.), p. 208.
When Congress adopted § 1404 (a), it intended to do more than just codify the existing law on forum non conveniens. As this Court said in Ex parte Collett, 337 U.S. 55-61, Congress, in writing § 1404 (a), which was an entirely new section, was revising as well as codifying. The harshest result of the application of the old doctrine of forum non conveniens, dismissal of the action, was eliminated by the provision in § 1404 (a) for transfer. When the harshest part of the doctrine is excised by statute, it can hardly be called mere codification. As a consequence, we believe that Congress, by the term "for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice," intended to permit courts to grant transfers upon a lesser showing of inconvenience. This is not to say that the relevant factors have changed or that the plaintiff's choice of forum is not to be considered, but only that the discretion to be exercised is broader.
It is conceded by the petitioners that if the district judge was correct in exercising his discretion to transfer these cases under § 1404 (a) without regard to the stringent requirements of forum non conveniens, then the Court of Appeals properly denied the applications for mandamus and prohibition. Since we agree that the district judge correctly construed the statute in evaluating the evidence, we do not find it necessary to detail the facts considered by him in reaching his judgment. It was correct in law and warranted by the facts.
The judgment is
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE CLARK, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS concur, dissenting.
Under this judgment, Alexander Norwood, who lives in Philadelphia where he filed this suit for damages against the railroad, will have to go to South Carolina if he wishes to prosecute it. Joseph Tunstall and John Smallwood, both of whom live in Washington, D. C., will likewise have to go all the way to South Carolina if they hope to recover any damages against the railroad. All three allegedly suffered permanent injuries when a passenger train on which they were employed was derailed. The derailment, with which the plaintiffs had no connection whatever, is sufficient in itself to support a finding of negligence. See Jesionowski v. Boston & Maine R. Co., 329 U.S. 452. Despite these circumstances, the district judge deprived Norwood of a trial in his home town, and Tunstall and Smallwood of one within 150 miles of theirs. This Court's decision, sustaining that result, sends the case to South Carolina, perhaps preventing it from ever being prosecuted because of the financial condition of the plaintiffs.
This is thought justified by an interpretation of § 1404 (a) of the 1948 revision of the Judicial Code, 28 U. S. C. § 1404 (a). It provides:
But, fortunately, the command of § 1404 (a) is accompanied by both history and explanation. The Reviser's Notes state:
The federal courts, in exercising their discretion under this provision, are thus not set adrift on an uncharted sea, to order transfers according to their personal notions of justice. They are explicitly referred to the body of doctrine in Anglo-American law known as forum non conveniens,
The basic issue in this case is whether the district judge should exercise his discretion in the light of these opinions, and in the light of forum non conveniens doctrine generally (of which these Supreme Court decisions are a particularization), or whether § 1404 (a) expands the range of his discretion to an as yet unstated degree, and removes these decisions and other forum non conveniens cases as guiding precedents. The Courts of Appeals have divided on the issue. With the opinions cited by the majority, compare Ford Motor Co. v. Ryan, 182 F.2d 329; Nicol v. Koscinski, 188 F.2d 537; Wiren v. Laws, 90 U. S. App. D. C. 105, 194 F.2d 873. But see Amalgamated Assn. v. Southern Bus Lines, 172 F.2d 946, 948. The section itself is merely a restatement, in very generalized form, of the considerations thought to govern the question of forum non conveniens. The particular words or their equivalents recur in the cases and literature on the subject.
We held the doctrine was applicable to such cases.
But now it is argued that since § 1404 (a) has changed the judicial response to the inconvenient forum, providing for transfer rather than dismissal, the trial judge may exercise a broader discretion than was permissible under the old rule. The opinion of the Court, adopting this view, goes far toward assigning to the trial judge the choice of forums, a prerogative which has previously rested with the plaintiff. In so doing, the majority completely ignores the judicial and legislative background of forum non conveniens in cases arising under the Federal Employers' Liability Act.
Section 6 of the FELA was amended in 1910 to permit suits to be brought "in the district of the residence of the defendant, or in which the cause of action arose, or in which the defendant shall be doing business at the time
Removal of the "judicial gloss" would merely repeal the Kepner doctrine and thus make FELA suits, along with any civil action, subject to forum non conveniens. This Court asserted just that in Pope v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 345 U.S. 379, 383:
Again in Kerotest Mfg. Co. v. C-O-Two Fire Equipment Co., 342 U.S. 180, 186, we said:
And as late as 1953, JUSTICES JACKSON, BLACK, and MINTON, dissenting in Wells v. Simonds Abrasive Co., 345 U.S. 514, 522, made this statement:
None of these cases is even mentioned by the majority. In each is implicit the principle that § 1404 (a) embodies the doctrine of forum non conveniens; in each there is the uniform understanding of members of this Court that the language of § 1404 (a) is merely a paraphrase of that rule. Instead, the majority applies a variation of the old Jennings Bill, which Congress refused to adopt at the same session in which it inserted § 1404 (a) into the new Code. There is certainly nothing even remotely connected with the enactment of § 1404 (a) to indicate that when the section and the Reviser's Notes referred
Much is made of the fact that there is no legislative record of opposition to the adoption of § 1404 (a). This, if true, is explained by the fact that the Reviser's Notes, as well as Congress' refusal to adopt the Jennings Bill, may well have lulled any opposition into a false feeling of security. The statements in Gulf Oil and Koster that the plaintiff's choice could be disturbed only if "the balance is strongly in favor of the defendant" and that this "rarely" is the case, together with the defeat of the Jennings Bill, is certainly sufficient evidence that Congress had no intention of seriously interfering with an FELA plaintiff's choice of forum. In this connection, we note the emphasis in Collett, 337 U. S., at 64, on the difference between the Jennings Bill and § 1404 (a); this is narrowed considerably if we permit a larger discretion in the district judge than was available under forum non conveniens.
It is said that we must uphold a clear change in the statute made by the Congress. We certainly agree. But the language of § 1404 (a), considered against the background of judicial discussion in this area, could mean nothing but the doctrine of forum non conveniens, and the Reviser's Notes state that the purpose of the change was to apply forum non conveniens rules to the transfer of civil cases in the federal courts. The direction of Congress is clear and unmistakable. Our duty is so to interpret § 1404 (a), not to expand and enlarge upon it. Changes of this type should be made by the legislative branch. And the fact that Congress has through codification extended a previously recognized procedure to civil cases generally, with one slight change (i. e., transfer rather than dismissal), does not give this Court
Concluding that the prior tenets of forum non conveniens apply, embracing the standards laid down in Gulf Oil and Koster, we cannot help but agree with the district judge that his discretion would have been exercised differently in the instant case if he had applied the law of those decisions. Without detailing all the facts here involved, we note that one of the plaintiffs resided in the district where this suit was brought. Under the usual forum non conveniens approach, this would virtually suffice, in and of itself, to preclude a refusal to retain the case for trial. See Blair, supra, at 413; Braucher, supra, at 916-917, 919; Dainow, supra, at 880. After all, the forum non conveniens situation generally envisaged is one involving a foreign cause of action and nonresident parties. See Blair, supra, at 34; Foster, supra, at 53. Apparently but one jurisdiction stands squarely behind the proposition that a court may decline to hear a personal injury suit, brought by a bona fide resident, in order to spare the defendant inconvenience and expense. Williamson v. North-Eastern R. Co., supra. That is the law in Scotland, a jurisdiction long noted for its distinctive doctrines in this area.
The district judge admitted that he had not exercised his discretion in light of Koster and Gulf Oil, the applicable decisions of this Court; he felt bound by a contrary decision of the Court of Appeals. He indicated very clearly that his decision would have been otherwise if he were free to follow the opinions we consider controlling. We should reverse and give the trial judge an opportunity to exercise his discretion under the proper standards.
The question is one of considerable importance in the administration of the lower federal courts, and, considering the inadequacy of appeal, should be settled in this case if it is to be settled at all in the near future. Every appellate court which has passed on § 1404 (a) implicitly recognizes the necessity for settling issues of law under
I would reverse and direct that the transfer application be determined under forum non conveniens, and particularly the Gulf Oil and Koster decisions. The answer to the majority's contention that this would unduly curtail a desirable reform is simply that this dispute involves not merely "forum shopping," but the whittling away by judicial interpretation of the privileges and benefits of working men under the Federal Employers' Liability Act. The battle over the scope of their rights should be fought out in the Congress—as it was in the case of the Jennings Bill—and not in the courts.
The Reviser's Notes say that § 1404 (a) goes no further than forum non conveniens. That was what Congress acted upon, not the private opinion of some of the members of the Reviser's Committee. These distinguished participants may have thought their reform went beyond Collett. If so, they should have communicated their thought to the Congress where the final responsibility rests.
The reasoning in Gore v. United States Steel Corp., 15 N.J. 301, 104 A.2d 670 (1954), may be consistent with the Williamson result, but that case, decided after § 1404 (a) and relying on litigation under that section, involved nonresidents. And dicta to the same effect in Universal Adjustment Corp. v. Midland Bank, supra, 281 Mass., at 315, 184 N. E., at 159, must be read in the context of the litigation before the court: suit by a resident assignee of a foreign claim against a foreign corporation. Compare United States Merchants' & Shippers' Ins. Co. v. A/S Den Norske Afrika Og Australie Line, 65 F.2d 392.