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The Problem of Jurisdiction

15 January, 2016 - 09:29


  1. Explain the concept of subject matter jurisdiction and distinguish it from personal jurisdiction.
  2. Understand how and where the US Constitution provides a set of instructions as to what federal courts are empowered by law to do.
  3. Know which kinds of cases must be heard in federal courts only.
  4. Explain diversity of citizenship jurisdiction and be able to decide whether a case is eligible for diversity jurisdiction in the federal courts.

Jurisdiction is an essential concept in understanding courts and the legal system. Jurisdiction is a combination of two Latin words: juris(law) and diction(to speak). Which court has the power “to speak the law” is the basic question of jurisdiction.

There are two questions about jurisdiction in each case that must be answered before a judge will hear a case: the question of subject matter jurisdiction and the question of personal jurisdiction. We will consider the question of subject matter jurisdiction first, because judges do; if they determine, on the basis of the initial documents in the case (the “pleadings”), that they have no power to hear and decide that kind of case, they will dismiss it.