General vs. Specific Jurisdiction

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  • 0:05 What Is Jurisdiction?
  • 0:18 General Jurisdiction
  • 1:10 Specific Jurisdiction
  • 3:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Vericia Miller
In this lesson, you will learn the differences between courts of general and specific jurisdiction, and each will be broken down individually. Upon completion of this lesson, you should have a better understanding of both types of jurisdiction.

What Is Jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction refers to a court's authority to hear certain types of cases. While there are various types of jurisdictions, this lesson focuses on general and specific jurisdiction.

General Jurisdiction

General jurisdiction is when a court has the power to hear all types of cases, except cases that are prohibited by the state that it's in. So a court that has general jurisdiction can hear criminal, civil, family court cases, and much more. The fact that it's a general court, general being the key word, means that all cases are under the court's authority. Another way to remember what general jurisdiction means is that general courts do not limit themselves to hearing only one type of case.

State courts are a perfect example of courts of general jurisdiction. Every state has a state court: there are California state courts, Illinois state courts, Texas state courts, and so forth. Each of these courts has the power to hear all types of cases, since they are all courts of general jurisdiction.

Specific Jurisdiction

Specific jurisdiction is a little more complicated. Specific jurisdiction is the ability of a court to hear a lawsuit in a state other than the defendant's home state, if that defendant has minimum contacts within the state where the suit will be tried. Let's look at an example to get a better understanding of this concept as well as to find out what minimum contacts are.

Let's say Tina decides to be adventurous and take a road trip from Chicago, IL, to Austin, TX. On the way to Texas, she gets into a car accident while in St. Louis, MO. The accident was her fault, so the victim decides to sue Tina in court. The plaintiff sues in a Missouri state court, but Tina is not from Missouri and has never been there before prior to the road trip. According to the Constitution, no court has the right to assert specific jurisdiction over a defendant who has no connections or contacts within the state in which they're being sued. In this case, the plaintiff would instead have to sue in the state where Tina lives. Location has a lot to do with whether or not specific jurisdiction can be enforced.

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