Subject Matter Jurisdiction

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Subject Matter Jurisdiction

The power of a court to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings in question belong.

For a court to have authority to adjudicate a dispute, it must have jurisdiction over the parties and over the type of legal issues in dispute. The first type of jurisdiction is called Personal Jurisdiction; the other is subject matter jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction will be found if the persons involved in the litigation are present in the state or are legal residents of the state in which the lawsuit has been filed, or if the transaction in question has a substantial connection to the state.Subject matter jurisdiction refers to the nature of the claim or controversy. The subject matter may be a criminal infringement, Medical Malpractice, or the probating of an estate. Subject matter jurisdiction is the power of a court to hear particular types of cases. In state court systems, statutes that create different courts generally set boundaries on their subject matter jurisdiction. One state court or another has subject matter jurisdiction of any controversy that can be heard in courts of that state. Some courts specialize in a particular area of the law, such as probate law, Family Law, or Juvenile Law. A person who seeks custody of a child, for example, must go to a court that has authority in guardianship matters. A Divorce can be granted only in a court designated to hear matrimonial cases. A person charged with a felony cannot be tried in a criminal court authorized to hear only misdemeanor cases.

In addition to the legal issue in dispute, the subject matter jurisdiction of a court may be determined by the monetary value of the dispute—the dollar amount in controversy. Small claims courts, also known as conciliation courts, are limited by state statutes to small amounts of money in controversy, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 depending upon the state. Therefore, if a plaintiff sues a defendant in Small Claims Court for $50,000, the court will reject the lawsuit because it lacks subject matter jurisdiction based on the amount in controversy. The amount in controversy limitations are designed to regulate the flow of litigation in the various courts of the state, ensuring that complicated disputes over large sums of money will be heard in courts that have the time and resources to hear such cases.

The U.S. Constitution gives jurisdiction over some types of cases to federal courts only. Cases involving Ambassadors and Consuls or public ministers, admiralty and maritime cases, and cases in which the United States is a party must be heard in federal courts. Congress has also created subject matter jurisdiction by statute, mandating that antitrust suits, most Securities lawsuits, Bankruptcy proceedings, and patent and Copyright cases be heard in federal courts.

The Constitution also allows federal district courts to hear cases involving any rights or obligations that arise from the Constitution or other federal law. This is called federal question jurisdiction. Federal courts also have diversity jurisdiction, which gives the courts authority to hear cases involving disputes among citizens of different states. If, however, the amount in controversy is less than $10,000, federal question and diversity jurisdiction will not apply, and the case must be brought in state court. Even if the $10,000 amount is satisfied, a plaintiff may start the lawsuit in state court. A defendant, however, may seek to have the case moved to the federal court in that state by filing a transfer request called a removal action.

A defendant who believes that a court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case may raise this issue before the trial court or in an appeal from the judgment. If a defect in subject matter jurisdiction is found, the judgment will usually be rendered void, having no legal force or binding effect.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Finally, the defendant is precluded from attacking the rendering court's subject-matter jurisdiction, other than in the narrow circumstances laid out in the Second Restatement of Judgments.
"The Office is continuing its assessment of the information available in order to reach a determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to believe that the alleged crimes fall within the subject-matter jurisdiction of the Court," the ICC prosecutor said in the report.
The court has subject-matter jurisdiction because the earlier state action has concluded.
The commissioner moved to dismiss the 2012 challenge, alleging the Tax Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the appeal because it was not timely filed.
Then he covers the general concepts, basic rules and principles, preconditions for the exercise of jurisdiction, competent parties: jurisdiction ratione personae, subject-matter jurisdiction and temporal jurisdiction, and objections to jurisdiction and admissibility.
"The court has a continuing obligation to assess its own subject-matter jurisdiction, even if the issue is neglected by the parties." (18) Significantly, "subject matter jurisdiction cannot be conferred by waiver, estoppel, or consent." (19)
Litigation that continues after a DCA opinion issues may involve one set of deadlines for future action if the Florida Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction over the case, and another if instead the court had discretionary subject-matter jurisdiction but did not exercise it.
The Court declined to directly address the issue; however, in response to Justice Scalia's position that the FTAIA should be read as an element of the merits, the Court replied in a footnote, stating, "Justice Scalia believes that what is at issue in this litigation is prescriptive, as opposed to subject-matter jurisdiction....
"[T]he existence of subject-matter jurisdiction alone does not entitle petitioners to execute upon sovereign assets.
It includes an introduction and overview of civil procedure and its 12 chapters cover such topics as personal jurisdiction, venue, subject-matter jurisdiction, sources of law, pleading, joinder of claims and parties, discovery, disposition of the action without trial, post-trial motions, appellate review, extraordinary relief from judgments, and, finality in litigation.
Dissenting from the Court's holding in Hicks, Justice Stevens argued, "Absent federal law to the contrary, the question whether tribal courts are courts of general jurisdiction is fundamentally one of tribal law." (52) Responding to this statement, the majority noted that Strate limited subject matter jurisdiction and that "even courts of limited subject-matter jurisdiction [can be said to] have general jurisdiction over those subjects that they can adjudicate." (53) Assume for a moment that a case involving a nonmember satisfied the second Montana exception because the health and welfare of the tribe were at stake.
subject-matter jurisdiction in delineating diversity-of-citizenship