d.) Which court has jurisdiction?

    This page is continued from Civil Law Self-Help >>>> Assess Your Case >>>>  Who caused the injury?:



     Excerpt from Represent Yourself in Court; How to Prepare & Try a Winning Case (7th ed.) by by Paul Bergman and Sara J. Berman (NOLO):

     “The U.S. and state constitutions, as well as federal and state laws, establish and limit courts’ “jurisdiction.”  Jurisdiction simply means the power to hear and decide a case.  To make a legally valid decision, a court must have both “subject matter jurisdiction (power to hear the kind f case a lawsuit involves) and “personal jurisdiction” (power over the parties involved in the lawsuit).

     This is important because in addition to filing a case on time, a plaintiff has to file in the proper court.  If you mistakenly file a case in the wrong court, a defendant may get the case moved (perhaps to a court that’s less convenient or favorable to you than if you had chosen the proper court), or even get the case dismissed altogether by filing a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction.  If your case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, you may be able to refile the lawsuit in the proper court.  But if the statute of limitations runs out before you can do this, your mistake in selecting a court may mean that the defendant can have your lawsuit thrown out permanently….

     Be aware that… that jurisdiction issues can occasionally become extremely complex when they involve such fundamental questions as whether a case should be heard in federal or state court or whether a state has the power to require residents or businesses from a different state to appear in its courts.” [1]

     Additional information may be found below:


n. (14c)

l. A government’s general power to exercise authority over all persons and things within its territory; especially, a state’s power to create interests that will be recognized under common-law principles as valid in other states <New Jersey’s jurisdiction>.

2. A court’s power to decide a case or issue a decree <the constitutional grant of federal-question jurisdiction>. — aka (in Sense 2) competent jurisdiction; (in both senses) coram judice; adjudicatory jurisdiction. [2]

    The following excerpt from James Fleming, Jr,Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr., & John Leubsdorf’s Civil Procedure:

     “Rules of jurisdiction in a sense speak from a position outside the court system and prescribe the authority of the courts within the system.  They are to a large extent constitutional rules.  The provisions of the U.S. Constitution specify the outer limits of the subject-matter jurisdiction of the federal courts and authorize Congress, within those limits, to establish by statute the organization and jurisdiction of the federal courts.  Thus, Article III of the Constitution defines the judicial power of the United States to include cases arising under federal law and cases between parties of diverse state citizenship as well as other categories.  The U.S. Constitution, particularly the Due Process Clause, also establishes limits on the jurisdiction of the state courts.  These due process limitations traditionally operate in two areas: jurisdiction of the subject matter and jurisdiction over persons (see personal jurisdiction).  Within each state, the court system is established by state constitutional provisions or by a combination of such provisions and implementing legislation, which together define the authority of the various courts within the system.” [3]

(third definition)

3. A geographic area within which political or judicial authority may be exercised <the accused fled to another jurisdiction>.

4. A political or judicial subdivision within such an area <other jurisdictions have decided the issue differently>. Cf. VENUE (1), (2). – jurisdictional – adj. [2]

Various Forms of Jurisdiction:

    To decide a case, a court must have a combination of subject (subjectam) and either personal (personam) or territorial (locum) jurisdiction.

    Subject-matter jurisdiction, personal or territorial jurisdiction, and adequate notice are the three most fundamental constitutional requirements for a valid judgment. [3]

Make sure the court has
Personal, Subject-Matter,
and Territorial Jurisdiction

over the type of case you’re pursuing:

personal jurisdiction – a court’s power to bring a person into its adjudicative process; jurisdiction over a defendant’s personal rights rather than merely over property interests.— aka in personam jurisdiction; jurisdiction in personam; jurisdiction of the person; jurisdiction over the person; jurisdiction ratione personae.  The term “person” may refer to natural person or artificial person:

  • natural person – a human being.
  • artificial person – has rights but not privileges or immunities, and may be held liable. (i.e. – corporations, governmental bodies). — aka fictitious person; juristic person; juridical person; legal person; moral person.

subject-matter jurisdiction – jurisdiction over the nature of the case (the material which is the subject of a lawsuit) and the type of relief sought.

territorial jurisdiction – jurisdiction over cases arising in or involving persons residing within a defined territory.

Does the Court you’re interested in have
Original or Appellate Jurisdiction?

original jurisdiction – a court’s power to hear and decide a matter before any other court can review the matter.

appellate jurisdiction – the power of a court to review and revise a lower court’s decision.

Federal Court Jurisdiction:

     Generally, only two types of cases can be heard in federal court cases involving a federal question and involving diversity of citizenship of the parties.

federal-question jurisdiction – the exercise of federal-court power over claims arising under the U.S. Constitution, an act of Congress, or a treaty.

diversity jurisdiction – the jurisdiction of a federal court over all civil actions involving diversity of citizenship (wherein the parties involved are from different states (or foreign states)) and the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs.

     If a court lacks jurisdiction, it may be that the case was taken before the wrong courthouse (“improper venue“); the case may then be dismissed via a motion to dismiss or the venue can be transferred viaMotion to Transfer Venue.

improper venue:

1. A place or court where jurisdiction is not authorized under a statute or by agreement of the parties.


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is pertinent to people everywhere, and is being utilized in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: pages 46-45- of Represent Yourself in Court; How to Prepare & Try a Winning Case (7th ed.) by Paul Bergman and Sara J. Berman.  NOLO.  ISBN-13: 978-1-4133-1269-0 (pbk.)  ISBN-10: 1-4133-1269-1 (pbk.)

[2]:  Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[3]: James Fleming, Jr,Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr., & John Leubsdorf’s Civil Procedure 5 2.1 , at 55 (5th ed. 2001).

[4]: “Rhode Island vs. Massachusetts, 37 U.S. 657 (1838)”. Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 3 July2017. (“However late this objection has been made, or may be made in any cause, in an inferior or appellate court of the United States, it must be considered and decided, before any court can move one further step in the cause; as any movement is necessarily the exercise of jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is the power to hear and determine the subject matter in controversy between parties to a suit, to adjudicate or exercise any judicial power over them; the question is, whether on the case before a court, their action is judicial or extra-judicial; with or without the authority of law, to render a judgment or decree upon the rights of the litigant parties.”)

[5]: Joyce v. United States, 474 F.2d 215 (3d Cir.1973)”. Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 3 July 2017. (“Where there is no jurisdiction over the subject matter, there is, as well, no discretion to ignore that lack of jurisdiction.”)


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