The term “subject matter jurisdiction” refers to the fact that specific courts are established to handle cases pertaining to a particular type of claim. For example, subject matter jurisdiction in the U.S. means that courts are divided up into sections, such as civil law, family law, and criminal law. A court in one of these divisions is said to have subject matter jurisdiction over cases that are relevant to its nature. However, every state has a superior court that has “general jurisdiction,” which is the ability to hear any case, regardless of its subject matter. To explore this concept, consider the following subject matter jurisdiction definition.
Definition of Subject Matter Jurisdiction
- The system by which a court specializes in hearing cases related to a particular issue, or subject matter, such as family or criminal cases.
1250-1300 Middle English
Types of Court Jurisdiction
In both federal and state court systems, there are two types of court jurisdiction: personal jurisdiction, and subject matter jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction refers to actions in which the parties live, or business operates, within the geographical jurisdiction of the court. If the people involved in the lawsuit are present in the state, or if they are legal residents of the state wherein the lawsuit has been filed, then personal jurisdiction applies.
Personal jurisdiction also exists when the transaction at the heart of a lawsuit has a significant connection to the state, even if it did not occur within that state. For example, should two residents of Florida purchase faulty products – at their local store – from a company whose corporate office is in New York, Florida’s courts would have personal jurisdiction over the matter.
Subject matter jurisdiction, the second of the types of court jurisdiction, refers to the specific area of law that a court is authorized to preside over. For example, subject matter jurisdiction means that family matters, such as divorce and child custody, can only be heard by a court specializing in family law. Similarly, criminal cases would not be heard by a family court, but by a court specializing in criminal law.
Federal Court Jurisdictions
When a non-criminal case is raised in federal court, it can fall into two additional types of court jurisdiction that are specific to federal court: federal question jurisdiction, and diversity jurisdiction. Federal question jurisdiction allows federal district courts to hear cases that pertain to rights under the Constitution, or other federal law. Diversity jurisdiction gives the courts the authority to hear cases that pertain to disputes involving parties who live in different states.
However, both of these jurisdictions are limited, in that cases wherein an amount of less than $10,000 is in controversy, neither jurisdiction will apply, and the matter should instead be brought before a state court. Federal courts are also entitled to “removal jurisdiction.” Removal jurisdiction gives the federal courts the right to try cases that were removed by the defendant(s) from state court. The inner workings of removal jurisdiction are identical to those of original jurisdiction.
Cases pertaining to ambassadors, consuls, and public ministers, as well as maritime cases, and cases wherein the U.S. is a party, can only be heard by federal courts. Federal subject matter jurisdiction may also exist per the statutes that govern cases involving securities, bankruptcies, patents, and copyrights. Such statutes may require that matters that fall into any of these categories be heard by a federal court.
What is Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Subject matter jurisdiction refers to the fact that certain courts have the authority to hear certain matters. For instance, a criminal court would not preside over a divorce case. The divorce case would instead be heard by the family law court, as these are the only courts with the authority to grant a divorce, and rule on child custody. Similarly, a family law court would not be able to sentence a defendant in a criminal matter.
Subject matter jurisdiction may also depend on the amount of money that is being disputed in the case. For instance, small claims courts are limited by their states’ statutes insofar as the amounts of money in controversy that they are able to decide. Depending on the state, small claims courts will only hear cases wherein an amount between $1,000 and $5,000 is in dispute. Amounts higher than $5,000 would be out of the small claims court’s subject matter jurisdiction, and would instead be referred to a higher civil court.
Every state has a superior court that has the jurisdiction to hear any case, regardless of the field of law that particular case would fall into. A defendant who believes that the court hearing his case lacks subject matter jurisdiction, he can appeal that court’s decision, asking for a new trial. If, in fact, an error in the subject matter jurisdiction is discovered, the judgment will typically be considered void, and it will have no legal power nor binding effect on the parties to the litigation.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction in Federal vs. State Courts
In the United States, state courts are divided into specialties like criminal, family, civil, and probate. A court that falls into one of these divisions would lack the subject matter jurisdiction to hear a matter that would be better assigned to one of the other divisions. Federal courts are limited insofar as the matters they can preside over and, as a result, can only hear a very small fraction of their respective states’ caseload. As a result, state courts are authorized to hear the majority of the cases that are brought before them, even those pertaining to federal law.
Federal district courts in particular have jurisdiction over actions that meet two basic requirements:
- Complete diversity requirement: The defendant(s) in a case cannot be a citizen(s) of the same state as any of the plaintiffs in the case.
- Amount in controversy requirement: The matter being disputed concerns an amount that exceeds $75,000.
Federal courts are also granted removal jurisdiction, which allows them to try cases that have been removed by their defendants from the state courts. The removal jurisdiction process is identical to that which concerns original jurisdiction.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction Example Involving a Post Office Employee
An example of subject matter jurisdiction involved a postal service worker who was injured while walking to work. In August of 1968, John J. Joyce worked for the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania post office. While he was making his way to work down the sidewalk that was located adjacent to the Post Office and Courthouse Building, he was hit in the head with a bar of soap that had been either dropped from, or thrown out of, a window of the building’s third floor restroom. As a result, Mr. Joyce developed a lump on his head, and experienced continued headaches, dizziness, and pain.
Joyce had contacted the Bureau of Employees’ Compensation (BEC) within two days of the incident. In the Notice of Injury that Joyce filed, he indicated that he had suffered the injury while performing his duties as an employee of the U.S. Government. The BEC thereafter approved the payment of two of Joyce’s medical bills, however they requested more information from Mr. Joyce nine months after he had initially filed his claim. They ultimately authorized him to seek further medical evaluations in order to determine the full extent of the treatment he would need.
The BEC tried to reach out to Mr. Joyce on several occasions with no success. Their first attempt was to advise him to make an appointment with the U.S. Public Health Service in Pittsburgh for examination and treatment, if necessary. They sent a similar letter to the U.S. Public Health Service authorizing these procedures. After Mr. Joyce did not respond to that letter, the BEC wrote him again in February of 1971 asking for an explanation as to why they did not receive any medical reports from him. Again, their request went unanswered.
Mr. Joyce resurfaced in late February with a lawsuit against the United States wherein he sought damages in an amount in excess of $10,000. A bench trial commenced in the federal district court in May, 1971. During the trial, the Government filed a motion asserting that the district court lacked the jurisdiction to decide the case until the Secretary of Labor, through the BEC, determined whether Joyce’s injuries were covered by the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA).
The court denied the motion and ruled in Joyce’s favor, awarding him approximately $35,000. The court’s reasoning was that a district court must only defer to the BEC when the facts of the case raise a question as to whether FECA would cover an injured party’s injuries. Since no such question was presented here, and because the issue was raised so late in the proceedings, the court ruled that it did indeed have discretion insofar as deciding the Government’s motion. However, on appeal, the district court’s judgment was vacated, and the matter remanded with instructions to stay the proceeding pending the outcome of the proceedings under the FECA.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Bench Trial – A trial by a judge, without a jury.
- Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) – A federal law established to compensate federal civil service employees for wages lost due to injuries sustained while on the job.
- Jurisdiction – The legal authority to hear legal cases and make judgments; the geographical region of authority to enforce justice.
- Original Jurisdiction – The power to hear a case for the first time, rather than on appeal.
- Probate – The court process by which a Will is proved valid or invalid.
- Small Claims Court – A court that specializes in resolving minor issues quickly and inexpensively.
What is the subject matter of a case? ›
Subject matter jurisdiction is the authority or power that each court has over certain types of legal disagreements (disputes). For a court to hear a particular case, it must have subject matter jurisdiction over the issue or issues that you are asking the court to decide on.Is subject matter a type of jurisdiction? ›
Subject-matter jurisdiction is the requirement that a given court have power to hear the specific kind of claim that is brought to that court. While litigating parties may waive personal jurisdiction, they cannot waive subject-matter jurisdiction.What is the meaning of subject to the jurisdiction? ›
Subject to the jurisdiction means that a legal entity, such as a court or the government of a country, has the right to exert physical control over as well as apply and enforce its laws against a person.What two factors give federal courts jurisdiction over a case? ›
Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases involving: the United States government, the Constitution or federal laws, or. controversies between states or between the U.S. government and foreign governments.What is an example of subject matter jurisdiction? ›
Subject-matter jurisdiction is the authority of a court to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings in question belong. For example, a bankruptcy court has the authority to hear only bankruptcy cases.What is an example of subject matter? ›
Subject matter is what something is about. An example of subject matter is a paper written about dogs. The matter or thought presented for consideration in some statement or discussion; that which is made the object of thought or study.Why is subject matter jurisdiction important? ›
In addition to personal jurisdiction, a court must have subject matter jurisdiction in order to hear a case. Most state courts are courts of general jurisdiction, meaning they have the jurisdiction to hear cases of any subject matter. State courts can hear cases ranging from family law matters to contract disputes.How do you challenge subject matter jurisdiction? ›
In evaluating a challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, the Seventh Circuit explained that a court must first determine whether a defendant has raised a factual challenge (there is no subject matter jurisdiction) or a facial challenge (the plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged a basis for jurisdiction).What is general subject matter? ›
A general subject matter includes, but not limited to, language studies, literature, mathematics, science, social science, history, humanities, the arts, physical education and human development.What are 4 types of jurisdiction? ›
There are four main types of jurisdiction (arranged from greatest Air Force authority to least): (1) exclusive federal jurisdiction; (2) concurrent federal jurisdic- tion; (3) partial federal jurisdiction; and (4) proprietary jurisdiction.
What is an example of jurisdiction? ›
The term "jurisdiction" is also commonly used to define the amount of money a court has the power to award. For example, small claims courts have jurisdiction only to hear cases up to a relatively low monetary amount -- depending on the state, typically in the range of $2,000 to $10,000.What are the 3 types of jurisdiction? ›
The three main types of jurisdiction are known as territorial, personal, and subject matter. The geo-political levels of jurisdiction are often divided into regional, state, national, and international levels. Determining jurisdiction helps define how a case shall be tried, and at what level of the courts.Why can subject matter jurisdiction never be waived by the defendant? ›
Consent of the parties cannot allow subject matter jurisdiction to a court. Unlike personal jurisdiction, which the court can obtain upon a party's consent or failure to object, lack of subject matter jurisdiction is never waivable; either the court has it, or it cannot assert it.Which of the following cases would fall under federal jurisdiction? ›
More specifically, federal courts hear criminal, civil, and bankruptcy cases.Which of the following court cases would always fall under federal jurisdiction? ›
Answer: Federal court jurisdiction is limited to certain types of cases listed in the U.S. Constitution. For the most part, federal court jurisdictions only hear cases in which the United States is a party, cases involving violations of the Constitution or federal law, crimes on federal land, and bankruptcy cases.What is an insufficient process? ›
Insufficient process means that the summons is defective. For example, if a plaintiff fails to provide a copy of the complaint with the summons or the summons is served too late, the defendant can move to dismiss the case for insufficient process.Can a plaintiff challenge subject matter jurisdiction? ›
Subject Matter Jurisdiction Can Be Challenged At Any Time And It Is Not Subject To The Thirty-Day Time Limit Required by 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)What is a case caption example? ›
Case Caption means the official title of the case. For example, Commonwealth v. Smith, Jones v. Jones, or Impounded Plaintiff v. Jones.What's another word for subject matter? ›
|focus of attention||subject of thought|
Subject Matter refers to what the art work is about. It is the visual or narrative focus of the work. In some instances the title might give you a clue.
How do you find the subject matter? ›
The subject in art is basically the essence of the piece. To determine subject matter in a particular piece of art, ask yourself: What is actually depicted in this artwork? What is the artist trying to express to the world... what is his or her message?What is considered insufficient evidence? ›
Insufficient evidence is the evidence which fails to meet the burden of proof and is inadequate to prove a fact.What is limited subject-matter jurisdiction? ›
A court of limited jurisdiction has authority to hear and decide cases only of a particular subject matter. All federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Federal district courts only have the power to hear cases that arise under federal law, or cases that meet the requirements for diversity jurisdiction.What factors determine a court's jurisdiction? ›
Jurisdiction in civil matter either follows the defendant or the action. What this means is that the court with jurisdiction must either be the court in which the cause of action of a matter arose in, or the court which has geographical jurisdiction over the area in which the Defendant of the matter resides or works.When can the issue of jurisdiction be raised? ›
An issue of jurisdiction can be raised at any time even in appeal or execution. The revenue in the present case proceeded on the basis that the return of income filed in 1997 was available with the Assessing Officer at the time when the notice dated 13/11/2000 was issued under Section 148 of the Act to the appellant.Who can challenge jurisdiction court? ›
The Supreme Court has also a very wide appellate jurisdiction over all Courts and Tribunals in India in as much as it may, in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal under Article 136 of the Constitution from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any Court ...Is standing a question of subject matter jurisdiction? ›
A dispute must fall within the federal court's specific “subject matter jurisdiction” in order for the federal court to hear and decide the dispute. One element of subject matter jurisdiction is Article III or constitutional standing.What is subject matter view? ›
According to subject matter view, public administration deals not only with administrative technique such as POSDCORB, responsibility, accountability, and transparency, but also with the substantive fields of administration such as defense, education, public health, social welfare, agriculture, police, fire protection ...What is complex subject matter? ›
1 made up of various interconnected parts; composite. 2 (of thoughts, writing, etc.) intricate or involved. 3 (Grammar) a (of a word) containing at least one bound form.What is the difference between subject and matter? ›
A subject is a general theme, whereas 'subject matter' refers to the specific content or message that is covered in a communication.
What are the 6 types of court jurisdiction? ›
That is: original, appellate, concurrent and exclusive jurisdictions. appeal and even the supreme court may exercise exclusive jurisdiction. exercise of the court's jurisdiction has been fulfilled.What are the 5 types of jurisdiction? ›
- Subject-Matter Jurisdiction.
- Territorial Jurisdiction.
- Personal Jurisdiction.
- General and Limited Jurisdiction.
- Exclusive / Concurrent Jurisdiction.
Section 6 of the CPC defines the Pecuniary Jurisdiction. This jurisdiction is based upon the valuation of a subject matter of the suit. For Example: If a dispute arises on the partition of the ancestral property between A and B, the suit property is situated in Shirur, Pune.What is jurisdiction and types? ›
Jurisdiction is the authority given to a legal body like a court to administer justice within a defined field of responsibility. The Supreme Court in India has three types of jurisdictions – original, appellate and advisory as provided in Articles 131, 133 – 136 and 143 respectively of the Indian Constitution.What are the 8 types of cases heard in federal courts? ›
Federal courts generally have exclusive jurisdiction in cases involving (1) the Constitution, (2) violations of federal laws, (3) controversies between states, (4) disputes between parties from different states, (5) suits by or against the federal government, (6) foreign governments and treaties, (7) admiralty and ...Which of the following is not a type of jurisdiction? ›
Detailed Solution. High Courts have four types of jurisdiction and Enforcement Jurisdiction is not one of them.What is an example of original jurisdiction? ›
The Court has original jurisdiction (a case is tried before the Court) over certain cases, e.g., suits between two or more states and/or cases involving ambassadors and other public ministers.What is personal jurisdiction example? ›
For example, if the defendant owns a home (“real property”) in the state or conducts substantial business in the state, then the court may be able to have personal jurisdiction over him/her.How does the court acquire jurisdiction over the person of the accused? ›
Jurisdiction over the person of an accused is acquired upon either his apprehension, with or without warrant, or his submission to the jurisdiction of the court.Is it possible for a court to lose jurisdiction? ›
Thus, in civil cases, the rule is that after the appeal has been perfected from judgment of the Court of First Instance the trial court loses jurisdiction over the case except to issue orders for the protection and preservation of the rights of the parties which do not involve any matter litigated by the appeal." And ...
What could happen if it is a concurrent jurisdiction situation and the plaintiff files? ›
If a plaintiff files a case in state trial court where concurrent jurisdiction applies, a defendant may (or may not) ask that the case be removed to federal district court.What are the 4 types of cases? ›
- They are major, difficult, complex, or sensitive;
- They involve mass disputes or cause widespread societal concern, which might affect social stability;
In many states, courts of limited jurisdiction hear misdemeanor cases. Other state courts of general jurisdiction try felonies. Still other courts may be designated as juvenile courts and hear only matters involving juveniles.What is an example of a federal question jurisdiction? ›
Federal courts, however, have limited exclusive jurisdiction such as cases involving bankruptcy, patent law, copyright, maritime, and cases with a sufficient federal question. Unless a case is one of the few types that are exclusive to federal jurisdiction, it may be brought in state court.What are the types of cases? ›
- Criminal Cases. Criminal cases involve enforcing public codes of behavior, which are codified in the laws of the state. ...
- Civil Cases. Civil cases involve conflicts between people or institutions such as businesses, typically over money. ...
- Family Cases.
The Courts of Common Pleas are organized into 60 judicial districts and are the trial courts of Pennsylvania. Major civil and criminal cases are heard in these courts.What three methods are used to select state judges? ›
- appointment for a given number of years,
- appointment for life, and.
- combinations of these methods, e.g., appointment followed by election.
A general subject matter includes, but not limited to, language studies, literature, mathematics, science, social science, history, humanities, the arts, physical education and human development.What gives a court subject matter jurisdiction? ›
Federal courts only have subject matter jurisdiction to hear cases if the parties have diverse citizenship or the issue arises under federal law. These two types of federal subject matter jurisdiction are called diversity jurisdiction and federal question jurisdiction.What does subject mean in the court of law? ›
Subject matter is the cause, the object, the thing in dispute. The authority of a court to decide a particular type of case is called subject- matter jurisdictionand is is set by the federal or state Constitution, or by state statutes.
Why is subject matter jurisdiction important? ›
Jurisdiction is important because if a court does not have jurisdiction over a case, it does not have the legal authority to pass judgment on the case.What is another word for subject matter? ›
What is another word for subject matter?
|focus of attention||subject of thought|
Subject Matter refers to what the art work is about. It is the visual or narrative focus of the work. In some instances the title might give you a clue.What other name refers to subject matter? ›
- focus of attention.
- subject of thought.
The basic rule is that the jurisdiction of a court over the subject matter is determined from the allegations in the complaint,20 the law in force at the time the complaint is filed, and the character of the relief sought, irrespective of whether the plaintiff is entitled to all or some of the claims averred.What is an insufficient process? ›
Insufficient process means that the summons is defective. For example, if a plaintiff fails to provide a copy of the complaint with the summons or the summons is served too late, the defendant can move to dismiss the case for insufficient process.What is considered insufficient evidence? ›
Insufficient evidence is the evidence which fails to meet the burden of proof and is inadequate to prove a fact.What are the two types of legal subjects? ›
Two categories of legal subjects are acknowledged in private law, namely natural persons (human beings, such as learners) and juristic persons.How is court jurisdiction determined? ›
Jurisdiction is determined mainly on the grounds of: Fiscal value; Geographical boundaries of a court; The subject matter of court.Why can subject matter jurisdiction never be waived by the defendant? ›
Consent of the parties cannot allow subject matter jurisdiction to a court. Unlike personal jurisdiction, which the court can obtain upon a party's consent or failure to object, lack of subject matter jurisdiction is never waivable; either the court has it, or it cannot assert it.
Which of the following cases falls under the subject matter jurisdiction of a state court? ›
A state court of general jurisdiction has subject-matter jurisdiction in either of the following situations: an act violates a state criminal law and was committed within the state; a civil dispute involves a state law, or. a citizen of the state is a party to a civil action.Is it possible for a court to lose jurisdiction? ›
Thus, in civil cases, the rule is that after the appeal has been perfected from judgment of the Court of First Instance the trial court loses jurisdiction over the case except to issue orders for the protection and preservation of the rights of the parties which do not involve any matter litigated by the appeal." And ...How does the court acquire jurisdiction over the person of the accused? ›
Jurisdiction over the person of an accused is acquired upon either his apprehension, with or without warrant, or his submission to the jurisdiction of the court.