Determining which court has jurisdictional authority over a case, claim, dispute, or a particular party is not simple. Courts are complex institutions granted either limited or sometimes sweeping powers. Identifying and selecting the proper court for the resolution of a specific case is critical. Choosing the wrong court can result in immediate dismissal of the case.
In any claim of jurisdiction, a court lays out its power to entertain a legal dispute. Jurisdiction is essentially grounded in two rules with many nuances—over the person (in personam) and over the subject matter (in rem).
In personam jurisdiction is usually based on residency, the place of dispute, or the place where the act occurred.
In rem jurisdiction is associated with the subject; for example, a tax court has jurisdiction over taxes and a criminal court has jurisdiction over a crime.
Court jurisdiction can be further broken down into a host of other categories, including the right to hear appeals, conduct bench or jury trials, or cover and consider specialized questions such as maritime or international issues.
Finally, court jurisdiction also can be largely geographic. For example, state courts exert primary jurisdiction over matters that do not pertain to questions of federal law involving the Constitution. They primarily tend to local matters within a state’s borders, such as divorce cases.
Federal courts have broader jurisdictional authority; parties, problems, issues, or disputes that involve questions of federal law involving the Constitution, administrative action by federal agencies or federal statute, and laws concerning bankruptcies.
To prepare for this assignment:
Pay attention to the layout of the various courts, depending on jurisdiction and specific judicial powers.
Review the article “Understanding the Federal Courts.” Focus on the federal courts' jurisdictional authority. Reflect on the types of cases with which a federal court might be associated.
Article: Office of Judges Programs Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. (2003). Understanding the federal courts. Retrieved from http://www.uscourts.gov/EducationalResources/FederalCourtBasics/UnderstandingTheFederalCourts.aspx
Review the website, “State Courts—by Jurisdiction.” Pay particular attention to your state court’s model.
Review the “Introduction,” “General,” and “The Hearing” sections in the article “Frequently Asked Questions About the Federal Sector Hearing Process.” Pay particular attention to how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a government agency, adjudicates disputes at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Consider the following cases, and think about which court in your state would be best for each case. As you make your decision, consider how government agencies adjudicate cases and disputes.
The assignment (1–2 pages):