What is a Change of Venue?

Charity Delich

As used in reference to a court case, the term venue means the court in which a case can properly be heard. A change of venue occurs when a court case is moved from one court to another court. The new court may be in the same judicial district or in a different district. This change can occur for a number of different reasons, such as improper venue or convenience of the parties.

Only a judge can order a change of venue.
Only a judge can order a change of venue.

As a general rule, the party wishing to change courts must file a change of venue motion with the court in which the suit was brought. A hearing may then be scheduled, and a judge will listen to each party’s stance on the issue when determining whether to grant the motion. If the motion is granted, the judge will issue an order for a venue change. The case will then be transferred to the new jurisdiction.

A defendant may request a venue change because he or she thinks that the plaintiff initially selected an inappropriate venue under applicable procedural rules. If that is the case, the judge will grant the defendant’s motion, and the case will be moved to the proper forum. Typically, a defendant must make his or her request for a change of venue for improper venue before the filing an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint. If the defendant fails to do so, venue is generally waived.

Sometimes venue changes are requested for the convenience of the parties or the witnesses in the case. This is referred to as forum non convenience. For example, suppose that a plaintiff files a suit in Court A against a large clothing company for an injury sustained as a result of wearing flammable slippers manufactured by the company. Assume that the clothing company and all of the witnesses in the case are located in an area under Court Z’s jurisdiction. The company may file a motion requesting that the case be tried in Court Z for reasons of convenience.

Venue change cases may occur for the purpose of ensuring that the parties receive a fair trial. For instance, John Doe is on trial for a murder, and the prosecution has filed the charges in Court A. Court A happens to be located in John’s hometown, and the local press has covered the story extensively. John may file a change of venue request asking to move the case to a more neutral court to ensure that he is not unfairly prejudiced by a jury made up of his hometown peers during the trial.

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Discussion Comments


I think some defense attorneys consider a change of venue to be an advantage for their client, but I've seen that strategy backfire. Once the change of venue is granted, the original prosecutors can recuse themselves and a special prosecutor is appointed. These special prosecutors can be especially vigilant about winning a conviction, so some defendants may have had a better chance for acquittal back in their hometowns.


We've had several high-profile murder cases in my area, and I think every single defendant made a motion for a change of venue. The judge only granted one or two of those motions. I didn't realize that the only thing that changes most of the time is the venue, not the prosecutor or the defense attorneys. They all have to take everything with them to the new courtroom.

There were some cases I thought should have been moved just because of all the local publicity. Practically everyone was convinced the man was guilty before the case even came to trial. Every newspaper and every TV station had stories about the murder and how they captured the defendant. I couldn't see how the court could find 12 people who had never heard of the man or the crime in this area.

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