State jurisdiction means that a state court has the right to make a legally binding decision that affects the parties involved in the case. In other words, a plaintiff and defendant in a case must have enough contact with the state that it is fair for the state court to determine what their legal rights are. State jurisdiction exists over any matter in which the state has a vested interest, such as the divorce of individuals within the state, the sale of property within the state, or the breach of a contract made within the state.
Most state courts are courts of general jurisdiction. This means the courts have broad authority to hear and decide cases. In fact, state courts are often viewed as having more power within the United States to decide different types of cases than federal courts, which are courts of limited jurisdiction. This is the case because the US Constitution mandated that all powers not specifically enumerated within the Constitution for the federal government were reserved for the state governments. State jurisdiction for all of these different types of cases is referred to as subject matter jurisdiction; this means the state has the power to hear cases about that given subject.
As such, because state courts are courts of general jurisdiction, state jurisdiction exists in a wide variety of cases. A person may bring a tort action in state court, which means he may sue someone else for negligently or intentionally injuring him. A family law case, a criminal case, a breach of contract case, and a small claims court case may also be brought in state court. The only types of cases that cannot be brought in state court are those that the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over: cases arising from the Constitution and bankruptcy and federal tax law cases.
In addition to subject matter jurisdiction, however, state courts must also have personal jurisdiction. This means they must have the right to make a decision for the plaintiff and defendant involved in the case. In order for the state to have subject matter jurisdiction, the defendant being sued or being charged with criminal charges must have sufficient contact with the state that he has given the state power over him. For example, if a defendant comes into a state and drives on its roads and has an accident, state jurisdiction exists because the defendant voluntarily came into the state, enjoyed the roads and caused damage.