Court jurisdiction

A court has jurisdiction over a cause of action if the court has the power to determine the outcome and rights and obligations of the parties. There is both geographical and subject matter jurisdiction. (For more detail see Romantz & Vinson at 12.) Courts that can hear testimony and review documents to determine the facts in a case are called courts of original jurisdiction. We’ll often refer to them as trial courts. Courts that review the decisions of trial courts are called appellate courts. Courts that can hear any claim are called courts of general jurisdiction. Many state trial courts Read More …

Claims and parties

The person, company, or government that brings a lawsuit or defends against one is called a “party.” A party has a claim (you might also hear “cause of action”) if it has some legal basis for seeking relief from a court for the actions of another party. In a civil case, the cause of action usually arises from: A common-law tort, where the defendant has allegedly failed to behave toward the plaintiff in a way the common law expects. A contract, where the parties in the case had an agreement that the defendant allegedly breached or with which the defendant Read More …

U.S. Courts and their opinions

Courts are sources of law in that they offer written explanations of the decisions they make about the parties before them. These written decisions or “opinions” are primary authorities in that they affect those litigants, but they serve to interpret and construe the jurisdiction’s laws for future litigants. There are courts at both of the (major) levels of government in the United States: The federal court system is structured according to the United States Constitution and statutes, consisting of federal trial courts and appellate courts. The trial courts are called “district courts”—each covering a state or part of a state—and Read More …

Hierarchy of U.S. primary authorities

There are two (major) levels of government in the United States—the federal or national government and the state governments. Primary authorities are made at the federal and state levels and also at county, municipal, and other levels. As a result, there are interlocking hierarchies of authorities, a simplified depiction of which appears in this figure. The elements of these hierarchies include: Constitutions. A constitution, depicted in blue in the figure, is a document adopted at the inception of a state or national government, and sometimes amended thereafter, that establishes the basic, highest legal rules of the jurisdiction. Statute (or legislation). Read More …

Sources of law

A source of law is an entity that makes and promulgates primary legal authorities. There are two major levels of government in the United States—the federal or national government and the state governments. Primary authorities are made at the federal and state levels and also at county, municipal, and other levels. Each level of government has branches (often three of them) that function as sources of law. For example, at the federal level, under the United States Constitution, each branch produces primary authority, as shown in this figure. Legislative. The U.S. Congress or the state legislature has the power to Read More …