In the United States, the admiralty jurisdiction is authorized by the U.S. Constitution. See Const. Art. III, § 2, Cl 1. Conferred by the U.S. Constitution, federal district courts have original subject matter jurisdiction over any civil case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction. Federal courts are called admiralty courts when exercising admiralty or maritime jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1333.
The law adopted by admiralty courts includes the general maritime law insofar as it is acceptable to the courts, modifications of that law by congressional amendment, the common law of torts and contracts, and international prize law. This body of law is always subject to modification by the paramount authority of Congress acting in pursuance of its powers.
In the United States, the admiralty court exercises jurisdiction over all admiralty and maritime actions, comprising two types of cases: (1) those involving acts committed on the high seas or other navigable waters, including prize cases and torts, injuries, and crimes committed on the high seas, and (2) those involving contracts and transactions connected with shipping employed on the seas or navigable waters.
Admiralty courts operate under unique maritime law rules and have differences in procedure from civil courts. The most significant one is that admiralty courts do not impanel juries. Without a jury trial, the cases are heard by a judge.
[Last updated in December of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]