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There are two major types of jurisdiction: personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction means that the court has power over the defendant. In a civil case,  the defendant must have sufficient contact with the forum state (the state where the court is located) for the court to have personal jurisdiction over the defendant.

Generally speaking, unless specified otherwise, jurisdiction means subject matter jurisdiction.

Subject matter jurisdiction means the power of a court to hear a certain type of case.  For example, federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction to hear civil cases involving parties from different states where the amount in controversy is greater than $75,000. This is known as diversity subject matter jurisdiction.

In addition federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction to hear cases arising from federal laws and the Constitution. This is known as federal question jurisdiction.

In some cases, federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction.  For example, federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over bankruptcy cases.  As a result, state courts lack jurisdiction to hear bankruptcy cases.

Sometimes jurisdiction refers to the state or territory that has the power to hear a particular case. For example, let’s say a couple wants to divorce and they live in State X. We would say that State X is the only appropriate jurisdiction for the divorce because no other state would have power to dissolve the marriage.

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