Jurisdiction

definition

  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.See, e.g. Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co. et al., 526 U.S. 574 (1999).

jurisdiction: an overview

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 (see 28 U.S.C. § 1334). 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 (See 28 U.S.C. §1251, §1253, §1331, §1332).

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)

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Category: Courts and Procedure