Supreme Court Jurisdiction
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That’s So Original
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As previously mentioned, the United States Supreme Court has both (i) original jurisdiction and (ii) appellate jurisdiction. Original jurisdiction is a concept whereby a court has the designated authority to entertain a lawsuit, try the case, and administer a judgment on the law and facts. In other words, the United States Supreme Court has the authority and ability to gather evidence and hear cases much like your average, everyday trial court. When the United States Supreme Court makes a ruling on a case which was heard via its original jurisdiction, the judgment is final and cannot be appealed.

The Court has original jurisdiction in all cases which affect ambassadors, public ministers, consuls, and those in which a state is a party. However, because the United States Congress has bestowed the ability to hear such cases in lower federal courts, the reality of the situation is that most cases do not make it to the United States Supreme Court under its original jurisdiction. In practice, the only cases that usually make it to the United States Supreme Court under its original jurisdiction are those cases that involve controversies between states.

For example, in 1998 case of New Jersey v. New York, the two states were in dispute over who owned the new extensions of Ellis Island that expanded the island via landfill. In this particular dispute between the two states, the Supreme Court ruled that New Jersey had jurisdiction over all portions of the island created after the original compact was approved by Congress in 1834. In this case, the Court, like any other case heard under its original jurisdiction, appointed a Special Master to hear the evidence and prepare factual findings. The judgment made by the Court in this case was final.

Next, we’ll look at the appellate jurisdiction of the United States Supreme Court.

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