short definition

Venue means the court in which a case or a trial takes place.  

Venue rules tell the plaintiff in which court  he is allowed to start his case.  These rules also enable the defendant to ask a court to dismiss and, in some cases,  transfer a case if venue is inappropriate.  

The federal court system has venue rules and each state court system has venue rules, too.

State Court Venue

States are divided into counties.  For example, New York is divided into 62 counties (Westchester County, Rockland County, etc).  Each county has a court that is part of the New York State court system.  

Now let’s say a driver from Westchester County smashes into a car driven by someone from Dutchess County and the accident takes place in Erie County.

We’ll assume that the driver who was hit decides to sue the other driver in New York State court.  But if New York has 62 counties, in which county should the trial take place?  Remember, each of the courts in each of the counties is part of the New York State court system,  

New York State venue rules tell the plaintiff in which county he may sue the defendant.  Based on our example, assuming that the  rules in New York allow our plaintiff to select a county in which any party resides, he could choose Westchester or Dutchess counties as the venue for this case.

Venue in the Federal Courts

Every state has at least one federal court and many states have more than one federal court.  

The federal courts are organized in “districts.”  For example, New York has four federal courts: the Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western District Courts.   

Let’s say a plaintiff is suing a defendant in a New York federal district court.  To determine which of the four federal district courts in New York is appropriate he would need to look at the federal rules governing venue.  

In both federal and state courts, a defendant can move (request) the court to dismiss the case if venue is inappropriate.  

Transfering venue

A party can also move to transfer a case from one court to another court if an alternative venue is more convenient.  However, a case can never be transferred from a federal court to a state court or vice-versa.  

A federal court has the power to transfer a case from the federal court in one state to a federal court in another state.

Here are some additional notes on venue.