Want to know what jurisdiction is and learn more about its types? Read this article to find the answer to what jurisdiction is.
Jurisdiction is a legal term that gets thrown a lot around the courthouse or within any law-related firm. Lawyers extensively use this term whenever they take a case. Jurisdiction holds great importance in the legal world and is imperative for any topic. It is a term that enables those eminent court members, precisely the judge, to take necessary actions and enlist their decision.
This word has the power to give the court the authority to reach a legal decision and implement it. Jurisdiction in court enables judges and other affiliated parties to hear cases and make plausible decisions that favor one of the two parties. This article will assess and understand jurisdiction with clear and concise meanings.
Jurisdiction does not allow the court to act against or pass a decision for personal gain. It gives the court the authority and power to assess and adjudicate a case. The Constitution decides the basis of these decisions, which may allow a specific jurisdiction in one court but not another. Though the question of what jurisdiction is, is relatively simple, we cannot completely grasp its meaning without diving deep into its purpose. Knowing all the ins and outs of this legal term, including its numerous types, is essential.
This article captures the essence of jurisdiction and elaborates on its meaning extensively. Continue to read this article to understand this term better and find the answer: what is jurisdiction?
Table of Contents
What is jurisdiction?
Lawyers and courthouses frequently use the term jurisdiction in the legal world. We have already implicitly defined jurisdiction above but let us elaborate on it a bit more.
Jurisdiction is when a court is given the authority by law to hear, assess, and adjudicate a decision for the concerned parties. This authority enables those parts of the court to make legal decisions. These jurisdiction rules and regulations are acquired and granted based on the Constitution.
A jurisdiction allows the court to issue an order and make legal decisions after weighing the claims made by the plaintiff and defendant. A plaintiff is a legal term for the individual who initiates or files the claim or suit. A defendant is a person or figure sued by the plaintiff. Every court has its own set of defined jurisdictions under which it must follow and issue a legal order. Those who go against the court’s jurisdiction and act on their own accord are penalized. The court cannot take cognizance as per the plaintiff’s request.
As a plaintiff, it is best to acquire a lawyer or attorney who knows all the jurisdiction systems and which court to reach out to for you to make your claim. Defendants also need to be backed up by an experienced lawyer who can assure them whether or not the correct court of jurisdiction handles the case.
Types of jurisdiction
There are many different types of jurisdictions. Each of these types has its own specific role in the formation and application of issued claims and orders. We will look at each of them separately and what role they play when it comes to court-making decisions.
Here is a list of 8 types of jurisdiction:
- Subject-matter jurisdiction
- Personal jurisdiction
- Original jurisdiction
- Appellate jurisdiction
- Federal jurisdiction
- State jurisdiction
- Territorial jurisdiction
- Concurrent jurisdiction
Understanding the difference between each type is very difficult. Therefore, lawyers and attorneys should have explicit knowledge of each jurisdiction, their roles, and the best court of jurisdiction for a particular case.
We will look at each of these types of jurisdictions and enlist all their properties.
What is subject-matter jurisdiction?
Subject-matter jurisdiction is awarded to a court to adjudicate a specific or particular type of ruling. The ruling that takes place falls under the cognizance of the court. In simpler terms, under subject-matter jurisdiction, the court has the right to hear, address, and issue an order for a case.
A court granted subject-matter jurisdiction can make decisions for that specific court. For instance, you cannot take a criminal case to a civil law court. Similarly, bankruptcy courts will not focus on or approve of robbery cases. Such cases should either be ignored or dismissed because the court cannot reach an adjudication. Bankruptcy courts will only assess and issue an order for bankruptcy suits. Because subject-matter jurisdiction allows courts to take action regarding a particular subject, they cannot meddle with other cases. Other than bankruptcy, common subject-matter cases would include immigration rights, probating, and civil rights, to name a few.
However, the question that arises is: why do we need subject-matter jurisdiction? This type of jurisdiction specifically issues orders for particular cases and hearings. Thus, the judge responsible for administering the order should be an expert in that field. They should know the ins and outs of the law pertaining to the case at hand.
The court’s decision is nullified and no longer applicable if a court is not granted subject-matter jurisdiction for a case. As a result, subject-matter jurisdiction cannot be waived, a defining fact that differentiates it from other types of jurisdictions.
Subject-matter jurisdiction further has four types of jurisdictions. Let us assess and understand them.
Exclusive jurisdiction is when one court has the ‘exclusive’ permission and ability to adjudicate a case and reach a decision. This exclusivity is categorized under subject-matter because it relates to a particular case handled by a specific court.
For instance, probate or bankruptcy cases are exclusive to federal court. The plaintiff cannot bring these cases to the state court. This is an example of exclusive jurisdiction.
What is general jurisdiction? A more broad type of subject-matter jurisdiction is the general jurisdiction. This occurs when a court is not limited to taking any case, and they are not only allowed to conduct any hearing in court but also issue a decision. Judges who issue decisions under general jurisdiction are not penalized, unlike those in the limited jurisdiction, which we will discuss further.
Diversity jurisdiction also falls under subject-matter jurisdiction, specifically federal subject-matter. There are two types of courts: federal and state, which we have explored further.
To acquire diversity jurisdiction, you need to go to the federal court. This type of jurisdiction does not focus on what the case is about. Instead, it focuses on the two parties involved in the case: the plaintiff and the defendant.
Certain conditions should be followed in order to acquire diversity jurisdiction at a federal court:
- Both plaintiff and defendant should not be citizens of the same state.
- The amount of controversy requested by the plaintiff should go beyond $75,000.
What is limited jurisdiction? It is when a court is only granted, as the name suggests, limited cases. The court has absolute authority but only in specific matters, such as a civil court cannot rule or pass an order for a bankruptcy case. If such action takes place, the court’s decision is nullified. This is why limited jurisdiction falls under the wing of subject-matter jurisdiction.
What is personal jurisdiction?
Courts that have personal jurisdiction have attained the power and authority to command a party into court. Unlike subject-matter, the court does not need jurisdiction over specific defendants in personal jurisdiction.
Primarily used in civil cases, personal jurisdiction is acquired over an issue when the plaintiff files it. The plaintiff agrees to and is affected by the decision of the judge. In such cases, the plaintiff is the one who chooses the jurisdiction. However, the defendant can ask to waive the jurisdiction.
The grounds on which such personal jurisdictions are laid out are the matter of the defendant’s area of residency. If they are a resident of the state in which they are sued, they must act accordingly. Other than this, if the defendant appears in court to answer back to the plaintiff, he is automatically consenting to the jurisdiction.
Suppose the plaintiff sues the defendant in a civil court and the defendant is only a visitor, not a state resident. In that case, the area’s court cannot take any action against the person or their company.
What is the original jurisdiction?
When the court hears the case from the start, it falls under the umbrella of original jurisdiction. In this regard, the court decides whether any appeal is requested. Plaintiffs initiate the claims against the defendant.
This means that any decision made under original jurisdiction was first introduced there. The plaintiff requesting original jurisdiction follows the judge’s rules and accepts the decision made. Due to its nature, original jurisdiction is associated with District Courts where the claim is first created. Other than District Courts, original jurisdiction is also granted to the Supreme Court. This means that the initial hearing is represented in the Supreme Court, and they have the power to hear and decide. The plaintiff may go directly to the Supreme Court for original jurisdiction.
What is appellate jurisdiction?
Appellate jurisdiction occurs when the plaintiff is not satisfied with the verdict received via the original jurisdiction. This sort of jurisdiction hears appeals and revisits the case. However, to counter the initial ruling, the plaintiff does not go to the District Court but to the Circuit Court. Circuit Courts are solely based on assisting people in winning or hearing an appeal.
Through appellate jurisdiction, the original decision of the lower District court is either reversed or remains the same. An appellate is the person who appeals to the court, the plaintiff and the defendant are called the appellee. Similar to the original jurisdiction, the appellate jurisdiction is also a part of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court has the power to withhold original and appellate jurisdiction. This means that any decision of the Supreme Court is final and mandatory for application unless the plaintiff demands an appeal on proper and legal grounds.
What is federal jurisdiction?
To understand federal jurisdiction, you need to understand federal courts. Federal courts are courts that usually deal with formal and particular cases. For instance, a parking dispute with your neighbor does not fall under the umbrella of federal court.
We discussed subject-matter jurisdiction above and how they relate to a particular case. Federal jurisdiction is a bit similar to that. The only difference is that the Constitution plays an imperative role in this jurisdiction. When federal laws are broken, the case falls under federal jurisdiction.
This implies that the federal court hears and issues an order based on the felony committed under federal regulations.
Bankruptcy, trafficking of any type, and immigrant laws all fall under the umbrella of federal jurisdiction.
What is state jurisdiction?
As the name suggests, state jurisdiction is limited to the state’s ability and power to make and take decisions. The opposite and much lighter version of federal is state jurisdiction. However, it is much broader and takes care of all the nitty-gritty’s that the nation does not deal with. The example of the parking issue with the neighbor is represented and solved through state jurisdiction.
Though state jurisdiction is much broader, it can only rule within the state. Theft and robberies are examples of cases that state jurisdiction takes care of. State jurisdiction gives the court the authority to handle issues at an individual level.
What is territorial jurisdiction?
Territorial jurisdiction resides and gives the court the power to assess cases within its territory. This jurisdiction does not provide the court the authority to issue an order beyond its territory. Committing a felony within the territory gives the police and the entire court privilege over what decision requires immediate action.
However, no court has the right to take any legal decisions over any case that does not fall under their jurisdiction. The Constitution decides which court has jurisdiction over which territory.
There are two possible ways to acquire territorial jurisdiction over a piece of land:
- Either the land was reserved when the state was acquired
- Or the land is purchased to use it for the government, i.e., building and constructing
Only these two options allow the court territorial jurisdiction under the command of the Constitution.
What is concurrent jurisdiction?
Last on the list is concurrent jurisdiction. When two or more courts from various states have jurisdiction over the same case, it falls under concurrent jurisdiction. Through this system, the involved parties, the plaintiff and defendant, will choose the court that would rule in their favor.
More than one court is granted permission, as per the Constitution, to hear and make a decision based on the case. If the plaintiff believes that a specific court will favor his cause, they will request a hearing there of all the courts which have jurisdiction. This gives the plaintiff an open choice to make the decision they deem best to benefit their case.
What does lack of jurisdiction mean?
We have already learned about the jurisdiction of the court. It is when a specific jurisdiction, under the Constitution and governmental law, has the authority to hear, assess, and issue an order for a requested case. But what does “lack of jurisdiction” mean?
When the court is not authorized or has the power to hear and issue an order for a case, legally as per the Constitution, the court has a “lack of jurisdiction.” In a scenario like this, lawyers and attorneys would not appeal to the court, nor would they initiate it for original jurisdiction. In the case they do so, the court should dismiss the case.
The power of the court to make and take such a decision only lies with authority imparted as per the Constitution. Three factors determine a court’s jurisdiction and ability to hear a case. The court should be:
- authorized to have jurisdiction over the plaintiff and the defendant
- allowed a subject-matter
- given the authority to issue an order over said subject-matter.
We already know the meaning of subject-matter jurisdiction. However, to further elaborate, if the court does not have subject-matter jurisdiction over a case, they lack jurisdiction. They cannot undertake any decision regarding it. If, in any case, despite lack of jurisdiction, the court does hear and issue an order regarding a case, the court is penalized. Any decision made is later on nullified.
Therefore, the jurisdiction of the court is vital. It is imperative to issue a lawyer or attorney who is experienced enough to know which court has jurisdiction over what case.
Why is the jurisdiction of the court necessary?
When the court takes a case, it has been granted the jurisdiction to do so. Jurisdiction is significant for every court. A court’s jurisdiction grants both parties the ability and chance to showcase and appeal their cases. It gives them room to make their case heard by the court and reach a legal decision.
When legal action is issued against a case, it becomes mandatory for both parties to comply, whether it favors the plaintiff or defendant. But the real question is: why are there so many types of jurisdictions?
The reason for having different jurisdictions for each court is to allow for proper decision-making. Federal jurisdiction, for example, only takes cases that directly or indirectly affect the Constitution or the government, such as bankruptcy or immigrant cases. State jurisdiction is granted to state courts that take over matters concerning or directly affecting the state, such as robberies. This keeps a balance and helps organize a defined system where each court is granted permission to carry out specific actions.
Another example would be when original jurisdiction allows the plaintiff to make and have his case heard in court for the first time. It is even allocated to a specific court, Distrcitor in some cases, Supreme Court. However, appellate jurisdiction is specific to making appeals. This means that if the plaintiff is not satisfied with the decision made in the District Court under original jurisdiction, they may appeal to a Circuit Court. These distinctions allow the law and legal system to differentiate between jurisdictions.
One thing that remains consistent in all courts is subject-matter jurisdiction. For a court to be given the authority to make any decision, it should have subject-matter jurisdiction. Without it, a court cannot take any action. This gives the bankruptcy court the right to hear and issue an order for a bankruptcy case.
Another reason the jurisdiction of courts is essential is that when separate courts are granted jurisdiction, they specialize in that area. They can acquire a clear understanding of what the laws are and the damages linked with the case. Taking the above example, if a bankruptcy court takes over a theft case that does not fall under its jurisdiction, they are adjudicating a case they have no information about. For these reasons, jurisdiction is exceptionally vital to take proper legal action.
Venue and jurisdiction
Many people confuse both venue and jurisdiction. They are two separate entities that correlate when hearing and issuing an order for a case. A venue is where the case is taking place. The court, town, city, state, and country all fall under the venue. The jurisdiction of a court is dependent on whether or not the court has been granted permission to hear and issue a decision over a case. Venue of the court matters if the case being issued falls under the court’s jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction is not as difficult to understand as it seems. Legal permission is granted to a court through which they have the authority to hear and make a decision regarding a case. However, jurisdiction does not end here. However, subject-matter and personal jurisdiction are two of the most-known jurisdictions enforced in the court. There are many more. Each type of jurisdiction has its own benefits that can assist the plaintiff and defendant. Every court is granted its own jurisdiction, and when the court issues a decision regarding a case, it is legalized and made mandatory for both parties involved.