What is Original Jurisdiction?

Under normal circumstances, the pathway to a supreme court involves stops at a trial level court, and then an appellate level court. Because supreme court review is discretionary, many cases travel through the trial and appellate level courts, only to never achieve supreme court review.

In a very limited number of cases, however, an action may commence immediately in the supreme court. The ability of a state or federal supreme court to hear a case without the case moving through the trial or appellate level courts is through original jurisdiction.

In respect to the United States Supreme Court, original jurisdiction is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1251. Under this statute, the United States Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over controversies between two or more States. Additionally, this statute provides the United States Supreme Court with original, nonexclusive jurisdiction over the following types of cases:

(1) Actions in which one of the parties is an ambassador, other public minister, consuls, or vice consul of foreign states;

(2) Actions between the United States and a State;

(3) Actions by a State against the citizens of another State

Original jurisdiction also exists in state supreme courts. In state supreme courts, the procedure for utilizing original jurisdiction is determined by state statute. In Wisconsin, for example, a party who wishes to utilize original jurisdiction must file a motion to commence an original action in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Then, a minimum of four justices must agree to hear the case. Similar to in the United States Supreme Court, the criteria for granting original jurisdiction in the Wisconsin Supreme Court are statutory.

It is important to remember that original jurisdiction is the exception, not the rule. To speak with a knowledgeable attorney about original jurisdiction, or the best way to get your case in front of the supreme court, contact the Alderman law Firm today for your free consultation by calling 720-588-3529 (CO) or 608-620-3529 (WI).