State and Federal Court Systems

The Supreme Court is the senior court in the United States that has judicial authority over all constitutional cases and those arising from the law of the U.S. Lower courts include the court of appeal, State courts, and Municipal courts. The Supreme Court has given lower courts such as the court of appeal, State courts, and Municipal courts jurisdiction to hear cases. Jurisdiction refers to the authority bestowed upon a court to pass judgment on heard cases (“US Courts”, 2012).

The two types of jurisdiction are subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction. The former refers to the authority of the court over a particular kind of case brought before them. For instance, general jurisdiction courts can hear felonies and cases valued at $25,000 or more while courts of limited jurisdiction cannot try murder cases. Personal jurisdiction refers to the authority of a court over a defendant resulting from the claim against him/her having been committed in the state where the court is found (“Legal Information Institute”, 2008).

The Federal rules stipulate that district courts exercise personal jurisdiction only when the claim against the defendant takes place within the territories of their state. However, authority may be exercised by a court beyond its territorial boundaries when the state court rules allow this. Therefore, the jurisdictional powers of district courts are related to their host states as is in rule 4 (K), “Serving a summons or filing a waiver of service establishes personal jurisdiction over a defendant: (A) who is subject to the jurisdiction of a court of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located.” (Spencer, 2010).  A court may exercise personal jurisdiction on all parties affiliated to their host state in any way. The concept of minimum contacts is used to establish the appropriateness of exercising personal jurisdiction for different situations and requires that the defendant has minimal contact with the state forum so as to avoid bias in trial. Contact is determined the extent to which the defendants’ presence in the state enables them enjoy its benefits and protections of its rules. The degree to which the defendant’s actions in the state are linked to the claims made against them in court is also important (“US Legal Inc”, 2010).

There are three types of personal jurisdictions: in personam jurisdiction, in rem jurisdiction, and quasi-in-rem jurisdiction. In personam jurisdiction, the court has authority over the person mentioned in a claim and may pass a judgement against him/her. It is constrained by territorial boundaries. A divorce case where the defendant is accused of infidelity within the court’s state is an example. In rem jurisdiction is when a court assumes authority over large property against a person or corporation over whom the court lacks in personam jurisdiction. The property is the main focus and must occur within the state’s territorial boundaries. For example, lawsuits filed against a defendant for absconding loan repayment. Quasi-ni-rem jurisdiction refers to a court’s authority over a person who owns property within its host state. An example is foreclosing a mortgage since the court is concerned only with the property rights between the lender and one who receives the money (“US Legal Inc.”, 2010).  

Federal courts possess complete jurisdiction on cases resulting from a federal law and those in which the parties hail from different states. In the first case, a citizen may file a case against a police officer if they denied them their federal civil rights during custody. The latter may involve a lawsuit by an Arizona state man against a California citizen who injured him in a car accident where the defendant asks for more than $75,000 as payment for damages (“US Courts”, 2012).

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