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Venue Shopping: Manipulating the System or Playing by The Rules?

March 26, 2015

While the concept has been around for years, venue shopping has recently been brought to light by a federal judge’s ruling in Texas. The judge ruled against President Obama’s immigration executive action after lawyers filed a lawsuit in Brownsville toward this end. Why the favorable ruling? The lawyers’ decision to file in Brownsville was more calculated than it might first appear.

There are currently two judges in Brownsville’s district court. One, who received the immigration case, is an appointee of George W. Bush actively opposed to the President’s immigration policies. The other, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, assumes a contrary stance. The lawyers filed in Brownsville knowing that they had a fifty-fifty chance of their case going to U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, Bush’s appointee. Venue shopping is the reason behind their decision.

What Is Venue Shopping and Is It Wrong?

Venue shopping occurs when a lawyer carefully picks a court in which to file their case where the chances of a judge ruling favorably are strong. This is especially common in politically sensitive cases, as the overall goal is to move them up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to experts, venue shopping is frequently used amongst conservative groups and those looking for a huge reform, similar to the lawyers in Brownsville. One professor of law noted that it is a lawyer’s responsibility to show that a case has a relationship to the court it was filed in. This is furthered through venue shopping.

While venue shopping may appear like an underhanded tactic, the opinions on the matter seem to be split. An immigration attorney in Arizona simply said that rather than manipulating the system, the lawyers in Texas played their cards right. How venue shopping will affect future cases, however, remains to be seen.