court of limited jurisdiction | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

A court of limited jurisdiction is a court that has the authority to hear only certain kinds of cases; usually used as a synonym of lower courts.

Contrast with Courts of General Jurisdiction.

A court of limited jurisdiction is a court that has the authority to hear only certain kinds of cases, as opposed to a court of general jurisdiction, which has the authority to hear a wide range of cases. These lower courts are typically established by state or local governments and are responsible for handling a wide range of minor legal disputes, including traffic violations, minor criminal offenses, small claims, and family law matters.

While the specific types of cases heard by a court of limited jurisdiction can vary depending on the jurisdiction, they generally handle lower-level offenses and minor civil disputes. For example, in some jurisdictions, these courts may handle misdemeanor criminal offenses, while more serious felonies are heard in higher-level courts.

One of the primary advantages of having courts of limited jurisdiction is that they can be more accessible and less intimidating for individuals who may not have experience with the legal system. These courts are often less formal than higher-level courts, with simplified procedures and less rigorous evidentiary requirements. This can make it easier for individuals to represent themselves in court without the need for an attorney.

However, there are also some disadvantages to courts of limited jurisdiction. One potential issue is that these courts may lack the resources or expertise necessary to handle more complex cases. For example, a court that primarily handles traffic violations may not be equipped to handle a complex family law dispute involving child custody and support.

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Last Modified: 04/08/2023

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