Jurisdiction is the key to providing the power to the decisions of a court so that they are upheld and followed through. The entire case can be dismissed, even after the trial is over if it is established that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.
Courts must establish jurisdiction over the persons involved in the case, known as personal jurisdiction, and also ensure subject matter jurisdiction. In suits that involve property, a court also has to establish in rem jurisdiction, which means jurisdiction over things. Similarly, the court will also have to see if they have original jurisdiction or appellate jurisdiction over the case filed. If you feel that the court does not have the legal authority to listen to a certain case, you can file a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.
How To Properly Challenge Jurisdiction?
Jurisdiction can be challenged if you are able to prove that the court either does not have a subject matter, personal, territorial, appellate, or in rem, jurisdiction over the dispute or the parties involved. Keep in mind that in some cases jurisdiction can be obtained. For instance, if you challenge jurisdiction on the grounds that the opposing party did not submit its claims by following the due claims, you may only delay the case for a time being. The opposing side might just correct the discrepancies and move ahead with the trial. However, if there is a time limit, known as a statute of limitations that the other party is not able to adhere to, you may be able to avoid the case altogether.
Just like any other procedure of law, challenging jurisdiction certain follows rules and regulations. Here are a few tips to help you properly challenge jurisdiction:
- If you respond to the court notice, you automatically submit to the court’s jurisdiction. Therefore, it is important that you do not take any legal action, except challenging the jurisdiction of the court. If you submit a reply or submit a motion to have the claim dismissed, or make a counterclaim, you are considered to have submitted to the court.
- Submit an application to contest the jurisdiction of the court. Your attorney will have a better understanding of which forms to fill and which additional documentation to provide with the application. These vary within each state and jurisdiction. Make sure that you pay all the fees for filing the application to the court.
- Serve the notice to the other party. After you have filed your application, you must serve a notice to the other party, the plaintiff. The plaintiff then bears the burden to prove whether the court has the right jurisdiction or not. If proven, the defendant will have very little time to submit the answer to the original complaint. If jurisdiction is not proven, the case will be dismissed.
To make sure that you are properly challenging jurisdiction with the due process, you should consult an attorney. Representing yourself may not be the best idea, as you might not be familiar with the technicalities of the court.
Motion To Dismiss For Lack Of Jurisdiction
A motion is a request made by any party to the case to the court to pass a legal ruling in a matter. They are not trials that determine the outcome of the case, but rather they are aimed at trying to ensure that the legal requirements are met, or they aim to have the law carry out a certain act that will assist in the case itself.
One of the most common motions brought to court are motions to dismiss the case. A motion to dismiss can be brought forth due to insufficient service of process, expiration of the statute of limitations, lack of subject matter or personal jurisdiction, setting an improper venue for the hearing, and the plaintiff’s failure to state a reasonable claim against the defendant. Out of these, we will look at the motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.
Before you move to challenge the jurisdiction, make sure you have a solid ground to do so. The most common type of requests for dismissals are motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Broadly speaking, the grounds for the filing of a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction will exist if:
- If no competent witness or notarized affidavit exists to duly verify or demonstrate an injury or claim
- If there exists no statutory or common law basis for the remedy of the injury or claim
A lack of personal jurisdiction exists if:
- The defendant does not live in the state where the case is filed
- The defendant does not even operate a business within the jurisdiction of the court
- The defendant does not own property within the jurisdiction
- The harm or injury allegedly committed by the defendant was not within the jurisdiction of the court.
Likewise, the jurisdiction of the court itself can be challenged as well. For instance, the court may not have original jurisdiction to hear a case, and may instead refer it to a special court for a hearing.
Dismissed For Lack Of Jurisdiction
If your case is dismissed, your court may allow you to refile the case within a certain time limit, which is normally 90 days. The court allows this even if the statute of limitations has expired so that the plaintiff can have another chance at his or her case if the proceedings take too long and the statute of limitations expires. The refiling of the case is treated as the original case filing i.e it is treated as if it is filed on the date of the original case. Another effect of dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction is that the venue may be changed to a court that does have jurisdiction over the case.
Challenge Jurisdiction In Family Court
Unlike the popular belief that the court where the case was filed first has jurisdiction over it, the jurisdiction of family courts is determined by the domicile, the place of residence, the citizenship, and the claims, etc. You may challenge the jurisdiction in family court and move it to a state more suited to you as each state has its own laws of filing the case, giving evidence in the case, and the rules and procedures to adjudicate the case may be relaxed in some states and stringent in others.
To summarise, make sure that you take the counsel of an expert domain lawyer if you are served a notice from the legal authorities. Challenging jurisdiction is the most underutilized tool in the legal system, and many defendants can be easily spared much of the hassle if they can have the case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.