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Jurisdiction is the authority of a court to hear a case. A case might be tried in a court that is in an entirely different state than the one the dispute or crime occurred in, if the prosecution or another court chooses to use the long arm statute. To use the long arm statute, the court must be in a state that has minimum contacts with the defendant. The United States Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all state cases, and may try any of them in its court if it so chooses.

Jurisdiction as Legal Strategy

Why might a prosecutor want a case to be tried in another state, if possible?

  • The demographic looks as if it might provide a more sympathetic jury.
  • The judge is known to be more sympathetic to the prosecution in your specific type of case.
  • The laws in that state suit your purposes better. (They are harsher, allow for more damages, etc.)

Understanding Multiple Jurisdictions

A scenario in which the prosecution can choose between two states to try the case:

  • Joe borrows his next door neighbor's car and drives from her house (in California) to New York.
  • Just as Joe passes the state line, entering New York, he gets in a car accident, due to some sort of negligence on his part.
  • Jimmy was injured due to Joe's negligence. In fact, Jimmy feels that he has suffered grave damages.
  • Jimmy decides to sue.
  • Jimmy can choose to prosecute Joe in New York (because that is where the accident occurred) or in California (because that is where Joe lives).
  • Furthermore, Jimmy can prosecute Joe's neighbor - in California (where she lives) or in New York (she has "minimum contacts" with New York because it was her car in the accident there).

It is now up to Jimmy to decide which venue to have each of the cases tried in. (He can do Joe and his neighbor separately.) NOTE: if, for some reason, this case concerns something the likes of which has never been tried before in a court of law - and would set legal precedent, the Supreme Court might take an interest.


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