Changing Venue – When Is It Appropriate?

Many people who choose to represent themselves completely misunderstand two of the basic principles of law, venue and jurisdiction. To be honest, a lot of lawyers know it when they see it, but are hard pressed to explain it.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, you have to be careful what you read on the internet and especially when it is published by someone that has no legal experience. Our writer(s) have all been to law school or, at least, are qualified paralegals and so have the background to write on these issues.

In the short form, venue is where a court is supposed to hear a case, jurisdiction is which type of court has the power to hear it. Venue can be, and often is, waived, jurisdiction cannot be waived.

Just recently I was involved in what was basically an argument online with someone about their case and it involved the concept of venue and jurisdiction so I thought I'd write an article on it for the website in the hopes that it will prevent some of you from looking foolish if you file the wrong motion.

A change of venue is used ONLY in the same state. The argument I mentioned above was with a gentleman who "knew the law" and wanted to file a Motion to Change Venue to a different state. There is no such animal no matter what you read on the internet. Let me say it again, a Motion to Change Venue is only filed when you are trying to change the case to a different part of the state. 

The proper response to a case filed in the wrong state is some form of a plea to the  jurisdiction. These are also known as Special Appearances and by a few mother names depending on the state.

One final note, since venue can be waived, if you file the wrong thing at the wrong time you have "submitted yourself to the jurisdiction of the court" and "waived venue", which means that you'll be fighting the case in the wrong court.

If you have any questions you can usually buy an hour or so of an attorney's time to figure out what needs to be done. It's better to spend a few bucks than to lose the whole case because you filed the wrong papers.

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