What is Court Jurisdiction?

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  • Written By: Charity Delich
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 January 2020
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When a suit is filed in a particular court, it must be determined whether that court has authority to hear the case. Usually, this authority is granted by statute, constitution, or a political leader in the country in which the court sits. A court may only adjudicate cases if it has authorization to do so. The term "court jurisdiction" refers to the power of a court to oversee a certain case and to issue any rulings or orders associated with the case.

Deciding whether a court has been empowered to hear a case often involves analyzing whether it has personal or subject matter jurisdiction. Personal, or personam, court jurisdiction is present when a court has authority to adjudicate a case involving certain people or entities. It’s often established when a plaintiff or defendant has a significant connection to the court territory. Connections may include living in or doing business in the territory as well as engaging in a transaction or being part of a controversy that occurred within the territory.


When a court has been empowered to hear the particular type of issue at hand, subject matter jurisdiction exists. For instance, a family law court may be authorized to oversee proceedings relating to child custody, divorce, child support payments, and the like. If a prosecutor tried to bring a criminal court trial before a family law judge, subject matter jurisdiction may not exist. The criminal case would probably need to be brought in front of a criminal court with power to render a decision in the case. It’s possible for two or more courts to have court jurisdiction in one case, a phenomenon known as concurrent jurisdiction.

Court jurisdiction can also be divided into appellate and original jurisdiction. Appellate jurisdiction is granted to superior courts that are set up for the purpose of correcting errors made in lower courts. Their review is generally limited to examining cases for mistakes made by lower courts.

On the other hand, courts with original jurisdiction have been given the power to hear the case in the first place. These courts are often categorized as either general or special courts. A special court has been given authority to hear specific kinds of cases. For instance, a tax court may be designated to hear tax issues and a bankruptcy court may be delegated authority to hear bankruptcy issues. A court with general jurisdiction is a trial court that has been empowered to hear any type of case that isn’t reserved for a special court.


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Post 4
@jcraig - That is absolutely true, and I really have to wonder how many different types of scenarios there are concerning the determination of court jurisdiction. I would think that most cases are not too hard to determine where to be heard, but at the same time there are probably very many that require much thought to be put into in order to simply figure out the appropriate courts to hear the case.

That being said, I really have to wonder where this is determined at. Does anybody know if there are preliminary hearings that are done to lay out the factors in the case so the judge can determine which courts need to hear the case, or is all of this determined before it goes in front of a court or even done behind the scenes.

Post 3
@stl156 - I have heard of many cases like this happening, and it goes to show that there can be a lot that goes into simply determining where a case is heard. It is obvious to me that there are a lot of factors to consider, but I think the two most important are the location of the offense as well as the nature of the crime itself.

As said in the article, exactly what the case concerns determines which type of court it will be heard in and it is entirely possible that multiple courts will have jurisdiction in the matter. One of these that comes to mind is when the same case is tried in both criminal court as well as civil court. When this occurs it means that there are two entirely different matters of concern in the case and both cannot be addressed in the same court and must be heard in multiple courts.

Post 2
@matthewc23 - That is quite interesting to consider, but another thing to think of is if there are complications in a case, like a lawyer for the accused asking for a change of venue.

When this happens, and is granted by the judge, then the court with original jurisdiction cannot hear the case due to bias determined by the presiding judge. This means that an alternate court location will be chosen and will be allowed to have jurisdiction, in the case, despite possibly being pretty far away from where the incident occurred.

Post 1
I have always found court jurisdiction to be very interesting as it seems like there are a lot of factors that go into it. I always remember learning in school about original jurisdiction and how the court closest to where the crime took place would hear the case, but I never considered the other factors that could determine where a case could he heard.

Take for example if someone committed a federal crime which would he tried in federal court. If the closest federal court is hundreds of miles away which is a possibility in some areas of the united states the case has to be heard pretty far away from where the crime took place simply due to all the circumstances surrounding the case.

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