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Venue - Venue And The Oklahoma City Bombing Case, Further Readings

court federal defendant district

A place, such as the territory from which residents are selected to serve as jurors.

A proper place, such as the correct court to hear a case because it has authority over events that have occurred within a certain geographical area.

A basic principle of U.S. law is that a civil or criminal action will be decided by a court in the locality where the dispute or criminal offense occurred. This principle is expressed in the concept of venue. In accordance with this principle a civil action must be started where either the plaintiff or the defendant resides, where the CAUSE OF ACTION arose, or, if real property is at issue, where the real property is situated. In criminal cases proper venue is in the locality where the crime was committed or where a dead body was discovered.

State and federal venue statutes govern where a case will be tried. State venue statutes list a variety of factors that determine in which county and in which court a lawsuit should be brought, including where the defendant resides, where the defendant does business, where the plaintiff does business, or where the seat of government is located.

A plaintiff may bring his action in any of the places permitted by state law. Most commonly, states allow a lawsuit to be brought in the county where the defendant resides. Choosing the wrong place is not fatal to the plaintiff's action, however. Statutes usually provide that a judgment rendered by a state court is valid even if venue is improper. If a defendant believes the suit is being tried in the wrong venue, she usually must object at the outset of the case, or she will be presumed to have waived the right to object.

In criminal cases the defendant must be tried in the venue where the crime was committed or where the body of a victim was discovered. In extraordinary circumstances, however, a court may grant a change of venue. The request for a change of venue is usually made by the defendant, but it can be made by the prosecutor. The court itself may also initiate the transfer of venue.

Changes of venue are governed by statute, but the court has great discretion in applying the statutory grounds. In Alaska, for example, the law gives the court the ability to move a case from one place to another place within the judicial district or to a place in another judicial district. Reasons for a change of venue in Alaska include the belief that an impartial trial cannot be held or that the convenience of witnesses and the ends of justice would be promoted by the change (Alaska Stat. § 22.10.040). The most common reason for a change of venue in criminal cases is PRETRIAL PUBLICITY that makes it unlikely that an impartial jury could be selected in the community where the crime occurred.

Different rules regulate venue in the federal courts. The federal court system is divided into judicial districts, which can cover an entire state or, in the case of populous states, only a portion of the state. The federal venue statute (28 U.S.C.A. § 1391) refers to these districts in the way state venue statutes refer to counties. Except when a special law applies to a particular type of case, proper venue is determined by the factor that allows the case to be brought in federal court.

If the court derives its authority because the plaintiffs and defendants are residents of different states (known as diversity jurisdiction), then the proper venue is the judicial district where all the plaintiffs or all the defendants reside or the district where the claim arose. In lawsuits where the federal court has jurisdiction because a question of federal law is involved (known as federal question jurisdiction), venue lies only in the district where all the defendants reside or where the claim arose.

Special statutes set different rules for ADMIRALTY, patent, and INTERPLEADER lawsuits and lawsuits in which the United States is a party. An alien can be sued in any district in the United States, but if the alien is a defendant along with citizens, venue lies where all the citizens reside. A case transferred by removal from a state court to a federal court goes to the federal court in the district where the STATE ACTION was started.

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