Judge Orders Transfer of Upper Lake TLE Case to Kansas

Sep 11, 2017 | News

A federal district judge in Illinois granted a motion to transfer venue to Kansas on September 8th in a case pitting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) against four tribal lending entities (TLEs) owned and operated by the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake. The TLEs maintain a call center and underwriting facility in Kansas and argued a venue in the Sunflower State was more appropriate. The federal court agreed and granted their motion.


The federal district judge looked at both the convenience of the two parties and the interest of justice in determining whether to transfer the suit. First, the court found that the material events to the this case, while some occurred in Illinois, also transpired in 16 other states according to the CFPB’s complaint. As the judge reasoned, “there is nothing special about Illinois for this case.” Further, the CFPB had failed to name any witnesses in Illinois, whereas 12 witnesses had already been identified as pertinent in Kansas. Moving the case to Kansas would bring those 12 witnesses under the court’s subpoena power. The court concluded its convenience analysis by noting the CFPB was not relying upon attorneys from its Chicago office to litigate this lawsuit. The travel for the CFPB’s Washington, D.C. based attorneys would be mostly the same whether they went to Chicago or Kansas.


Finally, the court looked at the interest of serving justice in weighing the motion to transfer venue. The federal judge decided that the interests of justice did not favor Illinois or Kansas. Caseloads were slightly lighter in Kansas, but not enough to tip the scales. The CFPB argued for the application of Illinois case law, but the court pointed out that the complaint alleged violations of two federal statutes and 17 different states’ laws; the use of Illinois law would not be dispositive to the interests of justice.


The CFPB’s suit against the Upper Lake TLEs represents a serious attack on tribal sovereignty. In its complaint, the Bureau alleged that the TLEs’ failure to comply with state laws amounted to a violation of federal unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices (UDAAP). NAFSA is committed to the promotion of responsible and sustainable financial solutions, while also defending the sovereign rights of tribal nations to self-determine economic policies that bring prosperity and hope to Indian Country. The CFPB’s actions against the Upper Lake tribe are in direct conflict with our mission.

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