12. What is “Venue”?
Venue is the physical location (within the state or federal circuit) where the trial is conducted. A state may contain more than one federal courthouse. Further, states generally have courthouses located in every county, district, or precinct within the state. Once the court establishes subject-matter jurisdiction over the type of case and personal jurisdiction over the defendant, there is a question as to the appropriate venue for the trial or hearing. The appropriate venue is generally the courthouse located in the county, district, or precinct that is most closely related to the matter in controversy. This could be the location where the controversial activity (such as the tort or breach of contract) took place. Alternatively, it could be the locale where the plaintiff or defendant resides. If the parties live in different towns, the place where the activity in controversy occurred or the defendant’s locality is generally the appropriate court.
A court may transfer venue to another court in the state if mutually requested by both parties or other equities require a transfer. The reasons for transferring the venue of a trial to another court in the state are to avoid one party having a home-field advantage or one party being subject to a biased jury pool. For example, one party’s home locality may be more likely to find in her favor at trial. Similarly, an individual accused of a horrible crime in a community may be subject to undue bias by prospective jurors.
• Discussion: Can you think of any famous trials in which venue was transferred to another court? Do you think that parties to a contract should be able to choose the venue where any controversies must be litigated?
• Practice Question: Beth is a resident of Sonoma County in Northern California. Samantha is a resident of San Diego County in Southern California. Last month, while visiting Disney Land, which is located in Orange County in Southern California, Samantha accidentally hit Beth with her car when she was crossing the parking lot. Beth suffered some injuries and decides to sue Samantha in the Sonoma County Superior Court for damages. What is the likely result if Samantha disputes venue for the court proceeding?