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What is Justiciable?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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When a matter can be decided by a court, it is known as justiciable. Justiciability is determined by a review which the court conducts before it determines whether or not to accept the case. The standards which cases must meet to be considered justiciable depend both on the nation a court is located in, and on the court specifically. Many nations divide their legal systems into lower and higher courts which have different standards of justiciability.

If an issue is justiciable it means that a court does indeed have jurisdiction and is empowered to hear the case and issue a ruling. Some things which can determine justiciability include the type of case, the opinion sought from the court, whether or not the case has been heard in other courts, and so forth. The judges and legal clerks examine the case to see if it can be heard in the court or not on the basis of the information presented by the parties involved.

The standards utilized by different courts are established in part to encourage people to follow a specific path through the legal system. People cannot take cases directly to the highest court, for example. They must move through lower courts in a process of appeals, with the standards of justiciability changing at each level. This is done in part to keep the legal system orderly, and also to create a clear sequence of events so that disputes cannot circle endlessly through the legal system.

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If a case is appropriate for review in a given court, the court will indicate that it is a justiciable issue and the case will be placed on the schedule so that it can be heard. Courts can also review a case to determine its standing, which is a slightly different concept. When a case has standing, it means that it can validly be tried. The standards used to determine standing also vary.

Review of a case may determine that the court cannot hear the matter or cannot resolve it. In these cases, the case is not justiciable and it must be tried in a different court or reformulated. Because the rules of justiciability can get quite arcane and extremely complex, it is usually necessary to consult a lawyer to determine which court a case should be filed in, and to present the case in a way which will increase the probability that the court will accept it.

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