Not all courts have jurisdiction on every matter. It is important to establish the jurisdiction of a court so that the integrity of the sentence and the case is upheld. The judgement of the court may be deemed invalid if it had no jurisdiction, or legal right, to hear a case and decide upon it.
How To Determine Jurisdiction In Court Case?
The jurisdiction in a court case is determined by the location where the issue took place and the kind of case that it is. To determine jurisdiction in court cases, three factors are evaluated:
- Does the court have personal jurisdiction in the case?
- Does the court have jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case?
- Does the court have jurisdiction to award the judgement particularly being sought in the case?
Types Of Jurisdiction
The type of jurisdiction can be classified according to a number of different factors.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Courts are restricted with respect to the type of cases they may grant a hearing to. Certain courts have limited jurisdiction and may dismiss a case prior to hearing if it finds that it does not have jurisdiction over its subject matter. For example, the United States Tax Courts can only entertain cases concerned with tax-related issues, like fraud, embezzlement, and theft etc of taxes. They may not listen to cases involving child custody, business lawsuits, criminal offences and property disputes. In this way, the jurisdiction of the US Tax Courts is limited to the subject matter of the courts.
There are three types of personal jurisdiction:
- In personam jurisdiction: In personam means against a person. In personam jurisdiction, also known as personal jurisdiction, is the power a court has to grant judgement against a person, whatsoever it may be. The court must have minimum contact with the person in question to have this jurisdiction. For instance, if the defendant does not live in California, but committed a crime against a person in California then that constitutes as minimum contact with the defendant of the California State Court. The defendant is bound to accept any punishment or fine awarded against him by the California State Court since it has in personam jurisdiction.
- In rem jurisdiction: In rem means against a thing or affecting a thing. In rem jurisdiction is the power that the court may use against a thing, for example, a business or property, whether it is real or movable. This means that if a person is accused in a case, the court has the power to seize the property of the defendant that is within the physical boundaries of the location on which the court resides. For instance, if a defendant has properties in Texas and Ohio, and a case is brought against him in Ohio, the Ohio State Court has power to only give decisions against his property in the state of Ohio. It can not give any sentence against the property in Texas.
- Quasi in rem jurisdiction: Quasi in rem means as if against a thing. This type of jurisdiction is obtained against the property or belongings of a person who is unobtainable and can not be brought before the court. Quasi in rem jurisdiction is granted to the court if the disputed property is within the court’s jurisdiction but the court does not have in personam jurisdiction for the defendant.
Territorial jurisdiction means any geographical area over which a court may have the power to exercise its authority. Territorial jurisdiction can be used in regard to the international territory, marine territory or national territory. For instance, the International Court Of Justice has jurisdiction to hear cases regarding disputes between all countries, whereas the District Court of Minnesota is only authorised to decide cases that involve persons, properties or events within the geographical boundaries of Minnesota.
Pecuniary means relating to money. Some courts may not have jurisdiction over certain cases that exceed the money limit or pecuniary limit allotted to them. For example, a district court may have a limit of $50,000. If a lawsuit involving more money than $50,000 is brought to the court, it will not have the authority or jurisdiction to entertain the case. The case will move to the State court which may have a larger pecuniary limit to accommodate the dispute.
Jurisdiction Of Courts
Within a country, the jurisdiction of courts may be distributed with respect to the level of the court as well. The subject matter of the case, personal, territorial and pecuniary jurisdiction should be respected when exercising the jurisdiction of courts with respect to its level. Jurisdiction of courts can be classified as
- Original Jurisdiction
- Appellate Jurisdiction
- Exclusive Jurisdiction
Original jurisdiction refers to the jurisdiction that the court has to hear the case for the first time.
That is, the case has never been brought in front of any court before and this would be the first time the concerned parties would come to trial. Generally, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over all cases within it’s constitutionally defined state. But it is not very often that the Supreme Court grants hearing to original cases. An original jurisdiction example will be for instance a family law court. A family law court will have original jurisdiction to hear a child custody case filed for the first time but it will reject a case of theft if it was filed with it as the jurisdiction does not permit it. Another example is an appeal. If a party is not happy with the decision of the court and goes for an appeal, the court with the original jurisdiction cannot listen to the appeal. It has to be filed with a higher level court.
Appellate jurisdiction refers to the power of higher courts to listen to appeals made by lower courts. An appeal is a request to review, modify, or overrule a sentence passed by a lower court. Generally, the first level of court is the district court or trial court. It has original jurisdiction over all cases of the district. Then come the circuit courts which have appellate jurisdiction over the district courts. They are the first level of an appeal. The Supreme Court forms the final and highest level of appeal. It has appellate jurisdiction over all cases in the country.
Exclusive jurisdiction refers to the sole right or exclusive power that a court has in deciding a matter. No other court has jurisdiction to hear that case. Exclusive jurisdiction may be granted as a result of a particular subject matter or as a clause entered into a contract. For instance, only the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the only court that will hear appeals for death sentences awarded in Texas.
Courts have some times found themselves in a position where they are not able to exercise their jurisdiction and hence have had to dismiss the case brought before them. For instance, say a husband, who is a substance abuser, is guilty of assault against his wife, and she files for divorce. The family court will judge between the custody of their children, but it will not be able to charge the husband with the assault charges as it does not have jurisdiction over those charges.
Another example of jurisdiction is in bankruptcy cases. Under the US Constitution, only district courts have the exclusive jurisdiction to hear bankruptcy cases.
Judicial review is the process by which all legal, executive and administrative decisions that are taken in a state are subjected to scrutiny to determine whether they are within the bounds of law and satisfy all legal conditions which are set by the constitution or the legislation of the state. It is a means of determining whether any decision awarding body is overstepping its legal boundaries or not. Judicial reviews ensure respect for the separation of powers. It does not concern the actual decision – whether it is right or wrong is not the decision of the court – rather, how those decisions were reached. Which statues were implied? Were there any precedents and if so, were they respected? Did the court have jurisdiction in the case?
To conclude, jurisdiction in a court case can be determined based on a number of factors. Determining jurisdiction is of the utmost importance so that the court may decide on the case with confidence and complete authority.