1. Jurisdiction
2. Exceptions of Jurisdiction
3. Types of Courts and Jurisdiction
4. Jurisdiction and Long-Arm Statutes



  • A power constitutionally conferred upon a judge or magistrate to take cognizance of and decide causes according to law and to carry his sentence into execution.
  • The tract of land or district within which a judge or magistrate has jurisdiction, is called his territory and his power in relation to his territory is called his territorial jurisdiction.

Every act of jurisdiction exercised by a judge without his territory, either by pronouncing sentence or carrying it into execution, is null. An inferior court has no jurisdiction beyond what is expressly delegated.

Original Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction is original when it is conferred on the court in the first instance, called original jurisdiction; or it is appellate, which is when an appeal is given from the judgment of another court. Jurisdiction is also civil where the subject-matter to be tried is not of a criminal nature; or criminal where the court is to punish crimes. Some courts and magistrates have both civil and criminal jurisdiction.

Concurrent, Exclusive, or Assistant Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction is also concurrent, exclusive, or assistant. Concurrent jurisdiction is that which may be entertained by several courts. It is a rule that in cases of concurrent jurisdictions, that which is first seized of the case shall try it to the exclusion of the other.

Exclusive jurisdiction is that which has alone the power to try or determine the suit, action, or matter in dispute.

Assistant jurisdiction is that which is afforded by a court of chancery, in aid of a court of law; as for example, by a bill of discovery, by the examination of witnesses "de bene esse" or out of the jurisdiction of the court; by the perpetuation of the testimony of witnesses and the like.

Exceptions of Jurisdiction

It is the law which gives jurisdiction; the consent of, parties, cannot, therefore, confer it, in a matter which the law excludes. But where the court has jurisdiction of the matter and the defendant has some privilege which exempts him from the jurisdiction, he may waive the privilege.

Courts of inferior jurisdiction must act within their jurisdiction and so it must appear upon the record. But the legislature may, by a general or special law, provide otherwise.

Types of Courts and Jurisdiction

When a court has the authority to decide a case, it is said to have jurisdiction over it. In all states, certain types of courts (often called, depending on the state, superior, circuit, county, district or family courts) are given specific and exclusive jurisdiction to handle family law cases. A family law court cannot, however, hear bankruptcies or criminal cases.

A geographic or subject area over which a court has authority. A magistrate court has jurisdiction over a town or city while the United States Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the entire country; A court's authority to rule on the questions of law at issue in a dispute, typically determined by geographic location and/or type of case.

Admiralty Jurisdiction

Admiralty Jurisdiction exists if the event giving rise to a dispute occurs on navigable waters and has a sufficient relationship to traditional maritime activities. See Whitcombe v. Stevedoring Servs..., 2 F.3d 312, 14 n.2 (9th Cir.'93).

Ancillary Jurisdiction

Ancillary Jurisdiction is the exercise of jurisdiction over the pendent and ancillary actions had to establish a constitutionally required minimal nexus to the principal action and find explicit authorization in a jurisdiction-conferring statute. See Finley v. United States, 490 U.S. 545 (1989) (determining whether ancillary jurisdiction existed by analyzing the constitutional minimum for jurisdiction and the jurisdictional statute at issue, 28 U.S.C. S 1346(b)).

Diversity Jurisdiction

Diversity Jurisdiction is if the amount in controversy exceeded $50,000 and plaintiff and defendants have diverse citizenships. See 28 U.S.C. S 1332.

Supplemental Jurisdiction

The federal courts may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over claim because it arises out of the same nucleus of operative fact.

The exercise of jurisdiction over the pendent and ancillary actions had to establish a constitutionally required minimal nexus to the principal action and find explicit authorization in a jurisdiction-conferring statute. See Finley v. U.S., 490 U.S. 545 ('89) (determining whether ancillary jurisdiction existed by analyzing the constitutional minimum for jurisdiction and the jurisdictional statute at issue, 28 U.S.C. S 1346(b), but not the procedure for impleader, Rule 14(a)).

The limited nature of federal courts' jurisdiction 'means that the efficiency and convenience of a consolidated action will sometimes have to be forgone in favor of separate actions in state and federal courts.' Finley, Id. at 555.

Generally, parties cannot through consent confer jurisdiction upon the federal courts. See Commodity Futures Trading Comm. v. Schor, 106 S.Ct. 3245 ('86).

Jurisdiction and Long-Arm Statutes

California's long-arm statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code S 410.10. See Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Neaves, 912 F.2d 1062, 65 (9th Cir.'90). Section 410.10 provides for personal jurisdiction 'on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution of this state or of the United States.' Id.

'A court may exercise either general or specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant.' Sher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 61 (9th Cir.'90). Specific jurisdiction, the type at issue here, is appropriate when the following requirements are met: '(1) The nonresident defendant must purposefully direct his activities or consummate some transaction with the forum or resident thereof; or perform some act by which he purposefully avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum, thereby invoking the benefits and protections of its laws; (2) the claim must be one which arises out of or relates to the defendant's forum-related activities; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with fair play and substantial justice, i.e. it must be reasonable.' Core-Vent Corp. v. Nobel..., 11 F.3d 1482, 85 (9th Cir.'93) (quoting Lake v. Lake, 817 F.2d 1416, 21 (9th Cir.'87)).

Invoking Local Jurisdiction

Some criteria for invoking local jurisdiction are if a defendant committed:

  1. Intentional actions.
  2. Expressly aimed at [California].
  3. Causing harm, the brunt of which is suffered--and which [IPA knew was] likely to be suffered--in [California?]' Core-Vent, at 1486.

Reasonable Jurisdiction

There is also the question of whether the exercise of jurisdiction would be reasonable. See Core-Vent, at 1487.

In determining whether jurisdiction would comport with 'fair play and substantial justice,' courts balance the following seven factors:

  1. The extent of the defendants' purposeful interjection into the forum state's affairs.
  2. The burden on the defendant of defending in the forum.
  3. The extent of conflict with the sovereignty of the defendants' state.
  4. The forum state's interest in adjudicating the dispute.
  5. The most efficient judicial resolution of the controversy.
  6. The importance of the forum to the plaintiff's interest in convenient and effective relief.
  7. The existence of an alternative forum. Core-Vent at 1487-88.

When a defendant purposefully avails itself of the forum state, courts begin with a presumption of reasonableness, Haisten v. Grass Valley Medical ..., 784 F.2d 1392, 97 (9th Cir.'86), which can only be overcome by a '`compelling case that the presence of some other considerations would render jurisdiction unreasonable.' ' Core-Vent, 11 F.3d at 1487 (quoting Burger King v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 478 ('85)).

Burden is the primary concern in an assessment of reasonableness. See FDIC v. British-American..., 828 F.2d 1439, 44 (9th Cir.'87). However, '[d]espite its strong weight, this factor alone is not dispositive.' Core-Vent at 1489. Moreover, '`[u]nless such inconvenience is so great as to constitute a deprivation of due process, it will not overcome clear justifications for the exercise of jurisdiction.'' Hirsche v. Blue Cross, Blue Shield..., 800 F.2d 1474, 78 (9th Cir.'86).

Mail, faxes, and telephone calls to ____, newsletter sent to ___, dues collected from ___ members, and its affiliations with societies in ___ all demonstrate purposeful injection into xxx.

The next factor, conflict with foreign state's sovereignty, concerns the extent to which the exercise of jurisdiction would conflict with the sovereignty of the defendant's state. '`[T]he foreign-acts-with-forum-effects jurisdiction principle must be applied with caution, particularly in an international context.'' Core-Vent, at 1489. In determining how much weight to give this factor, courts look to the presence or absence of connections to the United States generally. Id. The presence of an affiliate, subsidiary, or agent is a significant consideration in evaluating sovereignty concerns. Cf. id. (citing FDIC, 828 F.2d at 1444).

With regard to California's interest in adjudicating a suit, 'California maintains a strong interest in providing an effective means of redress for its residents [who have been] tortiously injured.' Id. (internal quotations omitted).

Forum Efficiency

Efficiency concerns the efficiency of the forum, particularly where the witnesses and evidence are likely to be located. Id. More recently, this factor has been discounted since '[m]odern advances in communications and transportation have significantly reduced the burden of litigating in another country.' Sinatra v. National Inquirer, 854 F.2d 1191, 99 (9th Cir.'88).

Although the importance of the forum to the plaintiff nominally remains part of this test, cases have cast doubt on its significance. See e.g., Core-Vent at 1490 ('A mere preference on the part of the plaintiff for its home forum does not affect the balancing[.]'); Roth, at 624 ('[N]o doctorate in astrophysics is required to deduce that trying a case where one lives is almost always a plaintiff's preference.')

Finally, a plaintiff bears the burden of proving the unavailability of an alternative forum. FDIC, at 1445.

When all the factors are examined and neither party is clearly favored in the final balance it becomes a judgment call for the court to make like in Roth, at 625, where: 'Appellees may be able to show that the exercise of jurisdiction might be unreasonable, but the closeness of the question manifests that they cannot do so in a compelling fashion.'