Can the Venue - or Place - of trial be Changed if it is More Convenient for the Witnesses to Attend Trial in another Place?
In general, a trial court has the authority to change the place of trial if a defendant makes a written request by way of filing a motion for change of venue. One ground to make this request successfully is to establish that the transfer of the action would promote “the convenience of witnesses and the ends of justice." CCP §397.
A venue motion based on the convenience of witnesses may not be entertained prior to the filing of a defendant’s answer. This is because until the issues are joined, a court is incapable of determining what testimony will be material.
In considering the merits of a timely motion based on witness convenience, a court may generally give weight only to the convenience of nonparty witnesses. Absent extraordinary or unusual circumstances of hardship, such as severe illness or debilitation coupled with a risk to endangerment of life in the event of travel to the trial court for the rendition of material testimony, a party’s own convenience may not be considered.
A defendant is required to establish an extensive factual showing when requesting from the court to change the venue based on witness convenience grounds. The defendant must support his or her request by way of admissible declarations that contain relevant facts, not statements of hearsay or conclusion. The supporting declarations must set forth, among other statements, (1) the names of the witnesses expected to testify for both parties; (2) the substance of the testimony of each witness; (3) why the testimony expected from the witnesses is relevant, necessary, and material to some issue made in the pleadings; (4) that the witness testimonies are admissible; (5) the reasons why the ends of justice would be promoted by the transfer of the action to a different county; and (6) the reasons why it is inconvenient for the witnesses to attend trial at the place where the action is commenced. With respect to this last point, it is important to note that the witness’s place of residence is generally irrelevant to the issue of witness convenience. The issue is a witness’s convenience in attending trial, not where a witness resides.