Court Jurisdiction

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Default Court Jurisdiction


1. Power of a court to adjudicate cases and issue orders.
2. Territory within which a court or government agency may properly exercise its power.


One of the most fundamental questions of law is whether a given court has jurisdiction to preside over a given case. A jurisdictional question may be broken down into three components:
  1. whether there is jurisdiction over the person (in personam),
  2. whether there is jurisdiction over the subject matter, or res (in rem), and
  3. whether there is jurisdiction to render the particular judgment sought.

The term jurisdiction is really synonymous with the word "power". Any court possesses jurisdiction over matters only to the extent granted to it by the Constitution, or legislation of the sovereignty on behalf of which it functions. The question of whether a given court has the power to determine a jurisdictional question is itself a jurisdictional question. Such a legal question is referred to as "jurisdiction to determine jurisdiction."

Subject matter jurisdiction is the court's authority to decide the issue in controversy such as a contracts issue, or a civil rights issue. State courts have general jurisdiction, meaning that they can hear any controversy except those prohibited by state law (some states, for example, deny subject matter jurisdiction for a case that does not involve state citizens and did not take place in the state) and those allocated to federal courts of exclusive jurisdiction such as bankruptcy issues. Federal courts have limited jurisdiction in that they can only hear cases that fall both within the scope defined by the Constitution in Article III Section 2 and Congressional statutes.

Territorial jurisdiction is the court's power to bind the parties to the action. This law determines the scope of federal and state court power. State court territorial jurisdiction is determined by the Due Process Clause of the Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment and the federal court territorial jurisdiction is determined by the Due Process Clause of the Constitution's Fifth Amendment.

Other forms of jurisdiction include appellate jurisdiction (the power of one court to correct the errors of another, lower court), concurrent jurisdiction (the notion that two courts might share the power to hear cases of the same type, arising in the same place), and diversity jurisdiction (the power of Federal courts to hear cases in which the parties are from different states). An example showing the interplay of diversity jurisdiction with subject-matter jurisdiction is Grupo Dataflux v. Atlas Global Group, L. P. (02-1689), 541 U.S. 567 (2004)

Retrieved from Jurisdiction - Wex


Personal jurisdiction in United States law refers to a court's power over a particular defendant (in personam jurisdiction) or an item of property (in rem jurisdiction). If a court does not have personal jurisdiction over a defendant or property, then the court cannot bind the defendant to an obligation or adjudicate any rights over the property. Personal jurisdiction is to be distinguished from subject-matter jurisdiction, which is the power of a court to render a judgment concerning a certain subject matter, or territorial jurisdiction, which is the power of a court to render a judgment concerning events that occurred within a territory. Unlike subject-matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction may be waived, even unintentionally, by a defendant. Personal jurisdiction, territorial jurisdiction, subject-matter jurisdiction, and proper notice to the defendant are the most fundamental constitutional prerequisites for a valid judgment.

In the United States, a court must have both personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. Each state establishes a court system for the territory under its control. This system allocates work to courts or authorized individuals by granting both civil and criminal jurisdiction (in the United States, this is termed subject-matter jurisdiction). The grant of power to each category of court or individual may stem from a provision of a written constitution or from an enabling statute. In English law, jurisdiction may be inherent, deriving from the common law origin of the particular court.


Public international law provides a framework within which nations and states (in the political sense of the words) can come into being and relate to each other.

For more information see Jurisdiction in the international dimension


In starting a lawsuit, the first matter to resolve is which court has jurisdiction, or the authority to resolve the controversy.

Federal courts have jurisdiction over matters involving controversies between the states, questions of federal law, and controversies between parties from different states in which the amount involved exceeds $50,000. Others matters are to be brought in state courts. Under federal law, it is the requirement of the plaintiff to establish that the court has jurisdiction over the controversy.

State courts typically have a two or three tier system. Each system has a threshold dollar amount, or authority based upon subject matter. For example, small claims courts might have jurisdiction over controversies less than $5,000, municipal court for controversies less than $25,000 and superior court for controversies in excess of $25,000. In addition, there may be rules which establish special courts for certain matters (traffic courts, family law courts, juvenile law, landlord/tenant court, and probate court). In state court, it is usually the responsibility of the defendant to raise the issue that the court lacks jurisdiction over the matter, (although a judgment from a court that lacks jurisdiction can be challenged in the future).

In addition to jurisdiction, proper venue must be established in both federal and state court. Venue is where the court is located with respect to both the parties involved and the controversy. Venue for a matter is usually based upon residence of the defendant, although with some actions the venue is based upon where the plaintiff resides.

Contributors: forum_admin, sandra, top_admin
Created by sandra, Mar 6th, 2008 at 07:37 AM
Last edited by forum_admin, Feb 6th, 2016 at 12:16 AM
0 Comments , 8606 Views

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