Link Search Menu Expand Document


See also the discussion of jurisdiction in our Research Study on Text-driven Law.

Working definition

  1. Jurisdiction refers to legal power and to where such power is applicable 
  2. It may refer to:

    1. the sovereign’s competence to legislate, adjudicate, and enforce;  
    2. the territory or domain over which a state holds jurisdiction in the first sense. 
    3. the competence of a specific court to adjudicate, which is defined by material and/or procedural conditions 
  3. Note that since the Peace of Westphalia (1648) jurisdiction depends on sovereignty, which in turn is defined by territorial jurisdiction 
  4. The circular interdependence relates to the two sides of the same coin:  

    1. internal sovereignty provides for national jurisdiction and vice-versa 
    2. external sovereignty defines international jurisdiction and vice-versa 
    3. internal sovereignty cannot exist without external sovereignty and vice-versa 
  5. Jurisdiction can in principle be based on: 

    1. territory (modern law is aligned with territorial jurisdiction)  
    2. personal status (birth, kinship, membership of a religion)  
    3. subject matter (criminal jurisdiction, private law jurisdiction) 
    4. the effect of an action that gives rise to a legal claim (e.g. in tort law) 
  6. In the current world order, we can distinguish:

    1. national jurisdiction
    2. international jurisdiction 
    3. supranational jurisdiction 
  7. As to national jurisdiction we can distinguish: 

    1. internal jurisdiction, that is, the competence to legislate, adjudicate, and enforce the law within the state; 
    2. extraterritorial jurisdiction, that is, the competence of one state to legislate, adjudicate, or enforce its law on the territory of another state. 
  8. International jurisdiction depends on the sources of international law 
  9. The relationship between potentially overlapping jurisdictions is itself subject to the jurisdiction of a national court (e.g. international private law) or an international court (notably in international public law) 
  10. The question who gets to decide on jurisdiction is often called: Kompetenz-Kompetenz; it refers to the question of what entity has jurisdiction to decide jurisdiction. 

This section's contents

This page was last updated on 16 March 2023.