Jurisdiction and Court Records

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Jurisdiction is one of the most important concepts in the legal community.  Cases can easily be lost based on jurisdiction.  So, what makes it so important?  Jurisdiction essentially gives the court the authority to handle a case.  Having jurisdiction allows a legal authority, such as a judge, the power to hear the legal matters and make final decisions.  Three of the most important types of jurisdiction include Personal Jurisdiction, Territorial Jurisdiction, and Subject Matter Jurisdiction.  Each of these plays a different role in they types of cases to be heard by a court.

Personal Jurisdiction is the power of a court to bring a person or a piece of property into the judicial process and subject it to the authority of the court.  The power to make a judicial decision over a piece of property is referred to as in rem jurisdiction while the power to make decisions over a person is known as in personam jurisdiction.  There are many rules surrounding what actually allows a court to have personal jurisdiction.  These rules include that a person or property has minimum contacts within in the territory where the court adjudicates.  Minimum contacts can include business transactions, marriage, or domicile.  Also, the concept of Territorial Jurisdiction often falls within the definition of Personal Jurisdiction.  Territorial Jurisdiction is the authority of a court to handle cases where events involve and/or arise within certain geographic boundaries.  For example, any person or property that resides in King County in Washington State could be subject to the jurisdiction of the King County Superior Court.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction is the authority for a court to hear cases involving a certain subject.  For example, in a Family Court, that court likely has jurisdiction to hear cases only involving family law issues, such as divorce, child custody, and guardianship.  Thus, such a court would also be precluded from hearing anything outside of that subject matter.  So, if a Family Court somehow decided a case involving a criminal act, any decision made by that court would be invalid.

Courts can also have what is called exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction.  If a court has exclusive jurisdiction over a certain subject, then only that court can hear those types of cases.  However, with concurrent jurisdiction, more than one court can simultaneously have jurisdiction over the same subject or within the same territory.  For example, a Family Court may have concurrent jurisdiction with a court of general jurisdiction, such as Superior Court.  In this situation, both courts would have the authority to handle a family law matter.

It is important to understand the relationship of jurisdiction when you’re searching for court records.  If you are looking for a record involving a family law case, you will need to know which court had jurisdiction to hear that case.  To find out which courts handle which case types, visit  www.CourtReference.com.  There you will find listing by state that show all the trial courts for a particular state and discuss the cases heard in those courts.  If you want to get a quick look, there is also chart that lists court name and corresponding case type.

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