What is Forum Shopping?

Forum shopping is an informal term used to describe the practice of lawyers, as well as of plaintiffs or defendants, having their cases heard in a court that they think would provide them the most favorable judgment.

There are many ways to “shop” for a favorable court judgment. One of the most popular ones is to file a single case or theoretically similar complaints in numerous courts under several jurisdictions. In doing so, the goal of the plaintiff or his or her lawyers is to repetitively avail several judicial remedies in different courts either simultaneously or successively.

Another way a party practices forum shipping is by having the case heard in a jurisdiction known for having either relaxed or stringent laws and legal proceedings. Specific examples include transnational cases in which foreign litigants choose the United States for its lenient acceptance of personal jurisdiction or the United Kingdom for its stricter defamation laws and generous divorce settlements.

In a more particular example, specifically in the U.S. legal landscape, a defendant can make an argument to have his or her case removed from the court where it was originally filed by the plaintiff. The defendant can cite a particular reason, to include removal jurisdiction, change of venue request, and inconvenience.

Forum shopping can certainly benefit a particular party. However, courts have been discouraging it, and in certain jurisdictions, it is illegal. Note that there are several disadvantages or drawbacks to this practice. These include congesting court dockets, prolonging the process, additional costs, and undermining the capabilities of the entire judiciary.