What is Jurisdiction Law?

Alexis W.

Jurisdiction law is made up of the law that applies in determining whether a court has the authority to hear a given legal case or not. For a court to have jurisdiction over a matter within the United States, both personal and subject matter jurisdiction are required. This means the court must have a vested interest in deciding the matter at hand and must have provided sufficient benefits to the people involved that it is fair to subject the people to the court's authority.

Jurisdiction law is used to determine which court will try a worksite injury suit.
Jurisdiction law is used to determine which court will try a worksite injury suit.

Personal jurisdiction exists because it is not fair for a court to have authority over someone whom has received no benefit from the law enforcement system or court within that community. Under jurisdiction law, personal jurisdiction is vested in the court as soon as the person enjoys some benefits from the state or federal government that the court is under. For example, all individuals living within the United States are subject to personal jurisdiction by the federal court, because those individuals enjoy living in the United States. A person may also be subject to the jurisdiction of the state court if he has sufficient contact with the state: for example, if he drives in the state and he then gets into a car accident, the state can have jurisdiction over the car accident claim because the person drove on its roads.

Jurisdiction law might determine which court a suit is brought to following an auto accident.
Jurisdiction law might determine which court a suit is brought to following an auto accident.

Under jurisdiction law, subject matter jurisdiction exists when a court has an interest in the issue being decided. For example, a state court has exclusive jurisdiction when people are having an issue determining who owns a given piece of property, because the state's interest in deciding how land disputes are settled is very important. In contrast, federal court has subject matter jurisdiction over cases where someone questions the constitutionality of a law. It also has jurisdiction over cases in which a federal law — such as the Equal Opportunity Employment Act — has been broken or a federal law is invoked, because the federal government has the greatest interest in determining how federal laws are interpreted.

Jurisdiction law is also designed to minimize forum shopping. Forum shopping occurs when there are two courts with concurrent jurisdiction that could each decide a case. The plaintiff and defendant thus have the opportunity to decide which court system it believes will treat their particular case more favorable. Jurisdiction law aims to minimize this by limiting which cases can be transferred to a different court system.

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Discussion Comments


@feruze-- You're right, jurisdiction is very confusing when it comes to cyber crimes. I think the way it works right now is that US has (federal) jurisdiction if the cyber crime was committed on US territory or on a US ship or aircraft.

If it's outside of the US, US federal courts still have jurisdiction over it if the criminal is a US citizen and if the crime is recognized in that country (which is a bummer). This is if the cyber crime has an international scope.

If the cyber crime took place in one or more US states, then jurisdiction will fall to state courts. But I don't know much about it so I can't tell you which state would have jurisdiction over a cyber crime and why.


Which court would have jurisdiction over a cyber crime? Would it be the federal courts or the state where that person resides?

It's so confusing because cyber space doesn't really have a location. The computer has a location, I wonder if that would be taken as the basis for deciding jurisdiction?

Any thoughts on this?


As far as I know, US jurisdiction law also allows some states to have jurisdiction over individuals who are not a resident of that state in some cases. I'm not talking about if someone who is not a resident of a state is physically in that state. I'm talking about a non-resident who is also not in that state physically.

A state can practice jurisdiction if a non-state resident does business in a state or owns property. It can also have jurisdiction if a non-state resident commits a crime in that state. I hear examples of the last one on TV all the time. Someone commits a crime in one state but will not get arrested until they are in another state. Then, that state has to return the arrestee so that he or she can be tried in the state where the crime is committed, because that state has jurisdiction over it.

Not all countries function the way we do though. For example, Britain has a really interesting jurisdiction law. British law gives British courts jurisdiction over all military crimes, even if it was committed by a non-British citizen and in a different country! Can you believe it?! I guess that's why they call it universal jurisdiction law.

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