Overview of Jurisdiction: Types & Application

Instructor: Kenneth Poortvliet
A court's authority is connected to its jurisdiction. In this lesson, we will learn the definition of jurisdiction, the different types and examples of how each type of jurisdiction works.


Have you ever been bossed around at work by someone who's not your boss? You think: ''You can't tell me what to do!'' So you go to your boss who either tells off the other boss, or tells you to do what that person says. This is similar to how jurisdiction works in a court system.

Generally, jurisdiction is the authority of a court to hear a case. This means that without jurisdiction, a judge can issue an order, but legally it has no effect. So where does jurisdiction come from? It is based on the laws of each state.

For example, let's say John wants a divorce, and since his state has a court system divided by criminal and civil courts, he must file his divorce in civil court. However, it must be a civil court that handles divorces, or there is no authority to hear the case. Which courts have jurisdiction over crimes or divorces is up to that state's laws.

Types of Jurisdiction

A court must have jurisdiction over the person (personal jurisdiction) and the legal issue (subject matter jurisdiction) before it can hear a case. Without both of these, a court does not have jurisdiction to hear that case, even if it has one of these.

For example, John goes to court to get a divorce, and it's a civil court that hears divorces. Sounds good, right? However, if that court is in another state, then that state does not have personal jurisdiction over John, so there's no authority to hear the case.

Original Jurisdiction

When a court has both personal and subject matter jurisdiction, it is said to have original jurisdiction, as opposed to appellate jurisdiction, which is the authority to review a case.

Also, if a more that one court has jurisdiction, this is called concurrent jurisdiction. The court where the case is first heard has original jurisdiction, and all matters in that case have to go to that court, unless that court gives up jurisdiction to another court.

For example, if John and June live in different states, both states having proper jurisdiction, and June files a child custody suit in her state, then her state has original jurisdiction in that matter, and all future hearings must go through that state's courts. This is true even though John's state would have had original jurisdiction if he had filed first.

Diversity & Supplemental Jurisdiction

Each state has their own system of courts, and so does the federal government. By law, these systems are separate, but in some matters, there may exist concurrent jurisdiction over a case. Typically, this might be a personal injury claim between two citizens, each living in different states.

Federal courts have jurisdiction over controversies between citizens of two states. This is called diversity jurisdiction, and when this happens, the plaintiff can file in state or federal court.

Sometimes there is a need to add additional claims to the original complaint. If the case is properly in federal court because of diversity jurisdiction, what happens when a claim is added that has no diversity jurisdiction? Does that new claim have to be filed separately in state court? Or can the claim just be added to the already filed case?

This is where supplemental jurisdiction comes in to play, which is when federal courts have the authority to hear a new claim that is substantially related to the original claim. This is even if the federal court wouldn't have had the authority to hear the new claim on its own.

For example, let's say Jax is driving in his hometown, and out-of-state Jill slams into his car, injuring him and totaling the car. Jax has a choice to file in his state or federal courts because of diversity jurisdiction. He chooses federal court, and files.

Now let's say right after he got hit by Jill, he had immediately gotten rear-ended by Fast Freddy. If Fast Freddy lives in Jax's state, there is no diversity jurisdiction between Jax and Fast Freddy, so federal court wouldn't have jurisdiction over that claim.

However, since supplemental jurisdiction allows Jax to add a claim that would not otherwise qualify for diversity jurisdiction, then he could add Fast Freddy to his case against Jill. This will work because it is ''substantially related'' to the original claim.

If the claim Jax wanted to add to the case regarding Fast Freddy was for wrongful discharge from a job that Fast Freddy fired him from, this would not be substantially related and thus not allowed.

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