Tap to Read ➤

Exclusive Jurisdiction Explained With Examples

Rujuta Patil Aug 26, 2020
Adjudication of certain matters by one court, to the exclusion of other courts is exclusive jurisdiction. This story helps you understand this legal concept with some examples.

Article III Courts

Federal Courts like the Supreme Court and U.S. District Courts are called Article III courts as they deduce their power from Article III of the U.S. Constitution
The federal judiciary of the United States is considered an equal branch of the federal government of the country. With its source from the United States Constitution and the federal laws, the judiciary of the U.S. is a system of two distinct jurisdictions; the states and the federal jurisdiction. The state jurisdiction takes care of the majority of legal matters, civil and criminal. Whereas, the federal jurisdiction is rather limited.
The division of this judicial authority is based on several factors. Considering the nature of the union, the kind of federalism, and the system of government of a country, the judiciary is accordingly established, and its hierarchy decided.

Meaning of Exclusive Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction refers to the power of a court to adjudicate (hear a case and give a decision on it). This jurisdiction is not the same for all the courts in the country. Which court is authorized to adjudicate which matter, is stated by law.

Your browser doesn't support HTML5 video.

This division of their authority to hear a particular type of case, legal issue, or dispute is known as the subject-matter jurisdiction. There are three kinds of subject-matter jurisdictions: general (power to hear all cases, except those prohibited by law), limited (restrictions on cases it can hear, with respect to amount of claim etc.), and exclusive.


According to civil procedure, it is a kind of jurisdiction, where one court has the authority to adjudicate a matter, excluding all other courts.
Exclusive jurisdiction is thus, contrary to the concept of concurrent jurisdiction, where two courts may have the powers to hear the same cases or subject matters.
Exclusive federal jurisdiction includes all the fields that come under the purview of the federal courts, pertaining to its national character. It is conferred upon the courts by the U.S. Constitution and statutes.

Examples of Exclusive Jurisdiction


1. Bankruptcy cases
A person can file a bankruptcy case only in the federal courts, and not in any state court. Title 28 of the U.S.C. (United States Code) is about judiciary and judicial procedure.
It provides for the organization of courts, jurisdiction, court officers and employees, venue, and procedures. Under this title, there is a provision for United States Bankruptcy Courts. They function as units of the United Sates District Courts.
Thus, the U.S. District Courts are given exclusive jurisdiction over all matters related to bankruptcy, as discussed in Title 11 of the U.S. Code.The Court has the right over all the property of the debtor, wherever located, and also over the property of the estate, even if such cases have commenced or are pending with the District Court under Title 11.
However, there are exceptions to this exclusive jurisdiction. Cases arising under Chapter 15 (ancillary and other cross border cases) of Title 11 are an exception to this sole authority of the District Court.
2. Interstate disputes

Title 28, Chapter 81 of the U.S.C., states that the Supreme Court shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over "all controversies between two or more states." The following examples elucidate this provision.
  • In the case of State of New Jersey v. State of New York, the two states had a dispute over which state had the jurisdiction over Ellis Island. No other court except the Supreme Court could have heard this case.
  • Let us consider a situation where there is some dispute between the states of California and Nevada over natural resource utilization, and California wants to file a suit against Nevada. The case will have to be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court only, as this issue is out of the jurisdiction of any other court.
3. Admiralty

If A files a suit against B under admiralty law in the state of Florida, B can ask for dismissal of the case, as this does not come under the subject-matter jurisdiction of a state court. The federal courts have the powers to adjudicate any issues regarding maritime contracts, torts, injuries, and offenses.
4. Copyright and Patent disputes

Suits filed due to patent infringement or copyright violations cannot be entertained by a state court. The federal district courts have the authority to hear and decide upon the cases concerning copyright, trademarks, patent, designs, unfair competition, mask works, and plant variety protection.
Exclusive Jurisdiction "Clause"
This refers to the jurisdiction clause included in an agreement between two parties engaged in some kind of business relation or a similar activity.
It is when probable disputes arise from the agreement, and are decided upon by courts under one jurisdiction. This gives a certainty to both parties regarding where one can sue the other, or be sued.
Also, matters relating to constitutionality of a law, international affairs of the nation, disputes and cases involving international treaties, and issues between ambassadors or public ministers; the powers of jurisdiction are assigned to the federal courts.