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7.2: Jurisdiction

  • Page ID
    43627
    • pexels-photo-923681.jpg
    • Contributed by Alison S. Burke, David Carter, Brian Fedorek, Tiffany Morey, Lore Rutz-Burri, & Shanell Sanchez
    • Professors (Criminology and Criminal Justice) at Southern Oregon University
    • Sourced from OpenOregon

    jurisdiction. Jurisdiction refers to the legal authority to hear and decide a case (legal suit).

    Jurisdiction Based on the Function of the Court

    Trial Courts versus Appellate Courts

    Jurisdiction Based on Subject Matter

    “The [subject matter] jurisdictional distinction . . . tends to be utilized primarily in distinguishing between different trial courts. Appellate courts ordinarily can hear all types of cases, although there are several states that have separate appellate courts for criminal and civil appeals. At the trial level, most states have established one or more specialized courts to deal with particular legal fields. The most common areas delegated to specialized courts are wills and estates (assigned to courts commonly known as probate . . . courts), divorce, adoption or other aspects of family law (family or domestic relations courts), and actions based on the English law of equity (chancery courts). The federal system also includes specialized courts for such areas as customs and patents. While significant, the specialized courts represent only a small portion of all trial courts. Most trial courts are not limited to a particular subject but may deal with all fields. Such trial courts are commonly described as having general jurisdiction since they cover the general (i.e., non-specialized) areas of law. Criminal cases traditionally are assigned to courts with general jurisdiction.” [1]

    Jurisdiction Based on the Seriousness of the Case

    courts of limited jurisdiction only have authority to try infractions, violations, and petty crimes (misdemeanors) whereas other trial courts, called courts of general jurisdiction, have authority to try serious crimes (felonies) as well as minor crimes and offenses.

    Jurisdiction Based on the Court’s Authority over the Parties to the Case

    Jurisdiction based on State and Federal Autonomy (Geography)


    1. Kerper, H. B. (1979). Introduction to the criminal justice system (2nd ed.). West Publishing Company.