Venue – State Actions

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Venue refers to the specific court in which an action is filed

Forum non conveniens
Literally, forum non conveniens means “inconvenient forum”. It does not refer to a judicial forum that is improper; rather it refers to a judicial forum that is inconvenient or not as appropriate as another forum may be.

The rules for proper venue vary from state to state, as each state has created its own venue rules.

In state actions, proper venue usually depends on where the defendant resides. Where the cause of action arose, where the tort (if applicable) occurred and where the defendant does business are also factors on which proper venue may depend, depending on the type of case or controversy.

Although specific venue rules vary from state to state, following are some general rules that apply to many jurisdictions.

  • If all parties to a controversy reside out of a state, the proper venue is usually in the county in which the transaction or event that gave rise to the cause of action occurred.
  • If the case is to determine the status of real property, or if jurisdiction is based on attached real property (i.e., cases based on quasi-in-rem jurisdiction), the proper venue is usually the county in which that property is located. Many states extend this rule so that all cases involving real property should be tried where the property is located.
  • Where one or more parties lives in the state that is hosting the case, proper venue is often the home county of either party, although some states favor the home county of the defendant as the ideal venue.

The proper choice of venue, however, is not absolute. A court may decide to use the doctrine of forum non conveniens to move the case to another district, even if the original district is the most proper district in which to bring the action. It should be noted that, in addition to applying to civil cases, this doctrine is sometimes implicated in criminal cases, where the population from which the jury pool is taken may be prejudiced by media reports. Where moving the case to another part of the state will alleviate concerns, the case may be transferred to another jurisdiction within the state. See People v. Boss, 261 A.D.2d 1 (N.Y. A.D. 1st Dept. 1999). Where an in-state transfer is inadequate, however, sometimes the case can be transferred out of state.

There are many factors a state court will consider in considering whether to apply the doctrine of forum non conveniens, but some are more important than others. For example, the court will consider the plaintiff’s residence. If the plaintiff is a resident of the original jurisdiction, keeping the case in the original jurisdiction is given preference. Where the witnesses and evidence are located are also important. If all of the witnesses and the evidence is located in Wyoming, and the case is filed in Wyoming, an argument to move the case to Idaho may not be as persuasive. Finally, a choice of law issue may persuade the court to grant a motion for transfer based on forum non conveniens. For example, if Wyoming’s law controls, an argument to move the case to Idaho may not be persuasive. If, however, a case filed in Wyoming is governed by Idaho law, moving the case to Idaho may be appropriate.

It is important to read your state’s venue laws and to become familiar with them if you practice in the field of litigation, as venue laws tend to vary greatly from state to state.

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