Civil procedure: Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: Venue + Change of venue + Forum non conveniens


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Criminal venue.

The perceived abuse of English criminal venue law was one of the enumerated grievances in the United States Declaration of Independence, which accused George III of the United Kingdom of "transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses." Article Three of the United States Constitution provides: "Trial of all Crimes . . . shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed."

The "where the said Crimes shall have been committed" language refers to the locus delicti, and a single crime may often give rise to several constitutionally permissible venues. "he locus delicti must be determined from the nature of the crime alleged and the location of the act or acts constituting it." Thus, venue may be constitutionally permissible even if an individual defendant was never personally present in the relevant state. For example, conspiracy may be prosecuted wherever the agreement occurred or wherever any overt act was committed.

For the purposes of constitutional venue, the boundaries of the states are questions of law to be determined by the judge, but the location of the crime is a question of fact to be determined by the jury.

The venue provision of Article 3 (regulating the location of the trial) is distinct from the Vicinage Clause of the Sixth Amendment (regulating the geography from which the jury pool is selected). The unit of the former is the state; the unit of the later is the state and judicial district. Unlike judicial districts under the Vicinage Clause, consistent with Article III, Congress may "provide a place of trial where none was provided when the offense was committed, or change the place of trial after the commission of the offense."

A change of venue is the legal term for moving a trial to a new location. In high-profile matters, a change of venue may occur to move a jury trial away from a location where a fair and impartial jury may not be possible due to widespread publicity about a crime and its defendants to another community in order to obtain jurors who can be more objective in their duties. This change may be to different towns, and across the other sides of states or, in some extremely high-profile federal cases, to other states.

Forum non conveniens (Latin for "an inconvenient forum") (FNC) is a mostly common law legal doctrine through which a court acknowledges that another forum or court where the case might have been brought is a more appropriate venue for a legal case, and transfers the case to such a forum. A change of venue might be ordered, for example, to transfer a case to a jurisdiction within which an accident or incident underlying the litigation occurred and where all the witnesses reside.

As a doctrine of the conflict of laws, forum non conveniens applies between courts in different countries and between courts in different jurisdictions in the same country. Forum non conveniens is not applicable between counties or federal districts within a state.

A concern often raised in applications of the doctrine is forum shopping, or picking a court merely to gain an advantage in the proceeding. This concern is balanced against the public policy of deferring to a plaintiff's choice of venue in claims where there may be more than one appropriate jurisdiction. The underlying principles, such as basing respect given to foreign courts on reciprocal respect or comity, also apply in civil law systems in the form of the legal doctrine of lis alibi pendens.

Forum non conveniens is not exclusive to common law nations: the maritime courts of the Republic of Panama, although not a common law jurisdiction, also have such power under more restrained conditions.

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