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Subject-matter jurisdiction (also called jurisdiction ''ratione materiae')'' is the authority of a
court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of justice in Civil law (common law), civil, C ...
to hear cases of a particular type or cases relating to a specific subject matter. For instance, bankruptcy court only has the authority to hear
bankruptcy Bankruptcy is a legal process through which people or other entities who cannot repay debts to creditors may seek relief from some or all of their debts. In most jurisdictions, bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debt ...
cases. Subject-matter jurisdiction must be distinguished from
personal jurisdiction Personal jurisdiction is a court's jurisdiction over the ''parties'', as determined by the facts in evidence, which bind the parties to a lawsuit, as opposed to subject-matter jurisdiction Subject-matter jurisdiction (also called jurisdict ...
, which is the power of a court to render a judgment against a particular defendant, and territorial jurisdiction, which is the power of the court to render a judgment concerning events that have occurred within a well-defined territory. Unlike personal or territorial jurisdiction, lack of subject-matter jurisdiction cannot be waived. A judgment from a court that did not have subject-matter jurisdiction is forever a nullity. To decide a case, a court must have a combination of subject (''subjectam'') and either personal (''personam'') or territorial (''locum'') jurisdiction. Subject-matter jurisdiction, personal or territorial jurisdiction, and adequate
notice Notice is the legal concept describing a requirement that a party (law), party be aware of legal process affecting their rights, obligations or duties. There are several types of notice: public notice (or legal notice), actual notice, constructi ...
are the three most fundamental constitutional requirements for a valid judgment.


United States


State courts

Many state court systems are divided into divisions such as
criminal In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law Criminal law is the body of law that relates to crime. It prescribes conduct perceived as thre ...
, civil law,
family Family (from la, familia) is a Social group, group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or Affinity (law), affinity (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose of the family is to maintain the well-being of its ...
, and
probate Probate is the judicial process whereby a will is "proved" in a court of law and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased, or whereby the estate is settled according to the laws of intestacy in the sta ...
. A court within any one of those divisions would lack subject-matter jurisdiction to hear a case regarding matters assigned to another division. Most
U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, ...
court systems, however, include a
superior court In common law systems, a superior court is a court of general jurisdiction over civil and criminal legal cases. A superior court is "superior" in relation to a court with limited jurisdiction (see small claims court), which is restricted to civil ...
that has "general" jurisdiction; that is, it is competent to hear any case over which no other state court has
exclusive jurisdiction Exclusive jurisdiction exists in civil procedure if one court has the power to adjudicate a Legal case, case to the exclusion of all other courts. The opposite situation is concurrent jurisdiction (or non-exclusive jurisdiction) in which more th ...
. Because the United States federal courts have
exclusive jurisdiction Exclusive jurisdiction exists in civil procedure if one court has the power to adjudicate a Legal case, case to the exclusion of all other courts. The opposite situation is concurrent jurisdiction (or non-exclusive jurisdiction) in which more th ...
over a very small percentage of cases, such as
copyright A copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to copy, distribute, adapt, display, and perform a creative work, usually for a limited time. The creative work may be in a literary, artistic, education ...
disputes,
patent A patent is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the legal right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention for a limited period of time in exchange for publishing an sufficiency of disclosure, enabling disclo ...
disputes, and
United States bankruptcy court United States bankruptcy courts are Federal tribunals in the United States, courts created under Article I of the United States Constitution. The current system of bankruptcy courts was created by the United States Congress in 1978, effective Ap ...
disputes, state courts have the authority to hear the vast majority of cases.


U.S. federal courts

Subject-matter jurisdiction is significantly more limited in
United States federal courts The federal judiciary of the United States is one of the three branches of the federal government of the United States The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government or U.S. government) is the Federation#Federal go ...
. The maximal constitutional bounds of federal courts' subject-matter jurisdiction are defined by Article III Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Federal courts' actual subject-matter jurisdiction derives from Congressional enabling statutes, such as and . The
United States Congress The United States Congress is the legislature of the federal government of the United States. It is Bicameralism, bicameral, composed of a lower body, the United States House of Representatives, House of Representatives, and an upper body, ...
has not extended federal courts' subject-matter jurisdiction to its constitutional limits. For example, the amount-in-controversy requirement for
diversity jurisdiction In the law of the United States, diversity jurisdiction is a form of subject-matter jurisdiction that gives United States federal courts, U.S. federal courts the power to hear lawsuits that do not involve a federal question jurisdiction, federal ...
is based on , not a constitutional restriction. Moreover, Congress could constitutionally overrule the complete-diversity rule in diversity cases. By far the most important two categories of federal subject-matter jurisdiction in non-criminal cases are federal question jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction. The enabling statute for federal question jurisdiction, , provides that the district courts have original jurisdiction in ''all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States''. As mentioned before, this jurisdiction is ordinarily not exclusive; states too can hear claims based on federal law. The enabling statute for diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, grants the district courts jurisdiction in an action that meets two basic conditions: *''Complete diversity requirement''. No defendant is a citizen of the same state as any plaintiff. *''Amount in controversy requirement''. The matter in controversy exceeds $75,000 Federal courts also have removal jurisdiction, which is the authority to try cases removed by defendants from state courts. The contours of removal jurisdiction are almost identical to those of original jurisdiction. According to Rule 12(b)(1) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (officially abbreviated Fed. R. Civ. P.; colloquially FRCP) govern civil procedure Civil procedure is the body of law that sets out the rules and standards that court A court is any person or insti ...
, a federal court has the authority to dismiss a case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction upon motion of a party or ''
sua sponte In law, ''sua sponte'' (Latin: "of his, her, its or their own accord") or ''suo motu'' ("on its own motion") describes an act of authority taken without formal prompting from another Party (law), party. The term is usually applied to actions by a j ...
'', upon its own initiativ

In federal criminal cases (offenses against the laws of the United States), the federal district courts of the United States have subject matter jurisdiction granted under .


See also

*
General jurisdiction {{Globalize, article, USA, 2name=the United States, date=December 2010 A court of general jurisdiction is a court with authority to hear cases of all kinds – criminal law, criminal, civil law (common law), civil, family law, family, probate, an ...
(
Ordinary court Ordinary court or Judicial court is a type of court with general jurisdiction, comprehensive subject-matter jurisdiction compared to 'Specialized court' with limited jurisdiction over specific filed of matters, such as patent court, intellectual ...
) *
Limited jurisdiction Limited jurisdiction, or special jurisdiction, is the court's jurisdiction only on certain types of cases such as bankruptcy, and Family law, family matters. Courts of limited jurisdiction, as opposed to general jurisdiction, derive power from an i ...
( Specialized court)


References

{{Reflist, 30em Civil procedure American legal terminology Jurisdiction