Territorial jurisdiction


Territorial jurisdiction

Territorial jurisdiction in United States law refers to a court's power over events and persons within the bounds of a particular geographic territory. If a court does not have territorial jurisdiction over the events or persons within it, then the court cannot bind the defendant to an obligation or adjudicate any rights involving them. Territorial jurisdiction is to be distinguished from subject-matter jurisdiction, which is the power of a court to render a judgment concerning a certain subject matter, or personal jurisdiction, which is the power of a court to render a judgment concerning particular persons, wherever they may be. Unlike subject-matter jurisdiction, territorial jurisdiction may be waived, even unintentionally, by a defendant. Personal jurisdiction, territorial jurisdiction, subject-matter jurisdiction, and proper notice to the defendant are prerequisites for a valid judgment.

The types of territorial jurisdiction

Types of jurisdictional territory within the international system

*Incorporated national territory, within which all residents are considered citizens.
*Unincorporated national territory. This can include territories in which the residents do not have full rights.
*Trust territories or dependencies. These are territories with some of the attributes of a nation-state but not full independence, administered by a nation, perhaps with international sanction.
*Occupied territories. These are usually the result of war and conquest, and ruled by martial law imposed by the conqueror.
*International commons. Territory not under the jurisdiction of any nation, but open to use by all, subject to treaty restrictions. This includes the high seas beyond coastal territorial limits, Antarctica, and Outer Space.
*National flag vessels at sea. The vessel is considered to be part of the territory of the nation whose flag it flies, and subject to the laws of that nation. A vessel without a national flag may be considered a pirate vessel.
*Diplomatic grounds. The grounds of foreign embassies and some consulates, like vessels at sea, are considered part of the territory of the nation they represent.
*Foreign military bases. Like diplomatic facilities, they may or may not constitute territory of the nation whose forces are stationed there, depending on a status of forces agreement.
*Extraterritorial jurisdiction. This is asserted by most nations over their military and diplomatic personnel while abroad, and by some nations over subjects like piracy and offenses against the law of nations, such as "crimes against humanity" or genocide, or taxation of income of citizens obtained from foreign sources.

Types of jurisdictional territory within a nation

This will vary from one nation to another, but we can illustrate the types by examining the United States, and how there can be different territorial jurisdiction for different subjects:
*Territories over which the central government has exclusive jurisdiction for a broad range of subjects. Created by U.S. Constitution, Art. I Sec. 8 Cl. 17.
*Territories over which the state government has exclusive jurisdiction for a broad range of subjects. State territory excluding territory ceded under Art. I Sec. 8 Cl. 17.
*Unincorporated territories over which the central government has exclusive jurisdiction under Art. IV Sec. 3 Cl. 2.
*State territory over which the central government has jurisdiction, either exclusive or concurrent, on a few specific subjects.
*County territory within which the county government has exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction with the state.
*Township territory within which the town government has exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction with the county or state.
*Federal judicial districts within which the court for that district has exclusive jurisdiction.
*State or local judicial districts within which the court for that district has exclusive jurisdiction.
*Neighborhood associations that may exercise townlike powers over their neighborhoods.
*Administrative district territories, with powers to make rules and adjudicate cases concerning things like utilities, transportation facitlies, etc.

Constitutional limits

The Supreme Court of the United States has held that constitutional requirements of due process limit the exercise of subject or personal jurisdiction beyond territorial limits. The same outer territorial boundaries for subject jurisdiction apply in both state courts and federal courts. Moreover, because of Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP 4), a federal court ordinarily applies the personal jurisdiction statutes (e.g., long-arm statutes) of the state in which it sits, even when the state has not extended personal jurisdiction to its territorial limits. (Some states, such as California, have long-arm statutes that give their courts personal jurisdiction to the extent constitutionally permitted.) In some exceptional circumstances, FRCP 4 grants a federal court personal jurisdiction when the law of the state in which it sits would not.

Territorial jurisdiction problems are acute in cases involving business transactions conducted across state lines, where the defendant may not have set foot in the other state, but still conducted affairs with the other state's residents through correspondence, the shipment of goods, or indirect agents. Even more difficult, and more unsettled, territorial jurisdiction issues arise in "stream of commerce" cases. In the quintessential stream of commerce case, a defendant in one state sells a widget to a manufacturer in the same state, which incorporates the widget into a retail product and sells it to a consumer in another state, who then sues claiming injury from the widget. The leading Supreme Court stream of commerce case, "Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court", ["Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court", 480 U.S. 102 (1987).] resulted in a split, failing to clarify the issue.

Internet cases raise several troublesome territorial jurisdiction problems. For example, a website may be viewed anywhere in the world, though it is hosted in Anguila and operated by a California citizen. Courts must decide in which locations, under what circumstances, the exercise of territorial jurisdiction over the citizen for claims arising from the website comports with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. For more, see Personal jurisdiction in internet cases.

Relationship to venue

Venue and territorial jurisdiction are closely related for practical purposes. A change of venue may be sought either within the territorial jurisdiction of a court, or with the consent of the receiving jurisdiction and the parties, within the jurisdiction of another court, provided it has jurisdiction over the same laws.

Problems in criminal jurisdiction

*Four Corners Problem: Jones chases Smith around the point where the borders of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet. Finally, he fires a shot, which mortally wounds Smith. Numerous witnesses videotaped the events, so the exact locations of everything can be determined: At the moment the shot was fired, Jones had his feet on the soil of Colorado, but his head was over Utah, his hand holding the handgun was over Arizona, and Smith was in New Mexico when he was hit, but he was taken to a hospital in Oklahoma, where he died. Jones fled and was arrested in Texas. All five states (and perhaps the authorities of the Navajo and Paiute Reservations) apply to the Texas governor for extradition. Which state (or Reservation) has the valid claim? The Texas governor, advised by the Texas Attorney General, knowing his state will be sued by the other states, whichever he chooses, must choose only one.
*Three Corners Problem: Juan, who may be a citizen of Mexico, Texas, or New Mexico, stands on the territory of Mexico (or New Mexico), extends his hand holding a gun and fires it over the territory of Texas (he would have to be on a boat, since the border is the Rio Grand River), and hits and kills Pepe, a citizen of New Mexico, Texas, or Mexico, standing on the territory of New Mexico (or Mexico). He later flees to and is arrested in Costa Rica. Considering all the permutations of location and citizenship, should he be extradited to Mexico, New Mexico, or Texas, or perhaps tried in Costa Rica?

The question to be decided for both scenarios is, where was the crime "committed"? By the old common law rule, that was the location where there was a concurrence of "mens rea" and "actus reus". But where would that be in the scenarios above?

References

*" [http://www.constitution.org/cmt/psdp/juris.htm A Dissertation on the Nature and Extent of the Jurisdiction of the Courts of the United States] ", Peter Stephen Du Ponceau (1824).
*" [http://www.constitution.org/cmt/stimson/con_crim.htm Conflict of Criminal Laws] ", Edward S. Stimson (1936)
*" [http://www.constitution.org/juris/fjur/fed_jur.htm Jurisdiction over Federal Areas within the States] " (1954)

Notes


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • territorial jurisdiction — n: jurisdiction (3) Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996. territorial jurisdiction …   Law dictionary

  • territorial jurisdiction — The limits of the geographical boundaries of a district within which a judge or other judicial officer has jurisdiction to act judicially, and outside of which his judicial acts are null and void. Phillips v Thralls, 26 Kan 780, 781. The… …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • territorial jurisdiction — Territory over which a government or a subdivision thereof, or court, has jurisdiction. State v. Cox, 106 Utah 253, 147 P.2d 858, 861. Jurisdiction considered as limited to cases arising or persons residing within a defined territory, as, a… …   Black's law dictionary

  • territorial jurisdiction — noun : the sovereign jurisdiction that a state has over the land within its boundary limits, over its inland and territorial waters and to a reasonable extent over the airspace above and subsoil below in such land and waters, and over all persons …   Useful english dictionary

  • special territorial jurisdiction — See extraterritoriality …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • jurisdiction — ju·ris·dic·tion /ˌju̇r əs dik shən/ n [Latin jurisdictio, from juris, genitive of jus law + dictio act of saying, from dicere to say] 1: the power, right, or authority to interpret, apply, and declare the law (as by rendering a decision) to be… …   Law dictionary

  • territorial sea — Territorial waters Ter ri*to ri*al wa ters (Internat. Law) The waters under the territorial jurisdiction of a state; specif., the belt (often called the {marine belt} or {territorial sea}) of sea subject to such jurisdiction, and subject only to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Territorial waters — Ter ri*to ri*al wa ters (Internat. Law) The waters under the territorial jurisdiction of a state; specif., the belt (often called the {marine belt} or {territorial sea}) of sea subject to such jurisdiction, and subject only to the right of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Territorial — Ter ri*to ri*al, a. [L. territorialis: cf. F. territorial.] 1. Of or pertaining to territory or land; as, territorial limits; territorial jurisdiction. [1913 Webster] 2. Limited to a certain district; as, right may be personal or territorial.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • territorial — territorial; territoriality These terms are used to signify connection with, or limitation with reference to, a particular country or territory. Thus, territorial law is the correct expression for the law of a particular country or state,… …   Black's law dictionary


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