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Definition of Limited Jurisdiction

Limited jurisdiction determines what courts have authority over certain cases. For example, cases involving bankruptcy, probate and family law are heard only by certain courts with proper jurisdiction over those cases. In the United States most courts have limited jurisdiction to hear certain cases, set precedent or establish case law.

Federal courts such as the Supreme Court, Federal District Courts, Federal Appellate Courts, and Federal Bankruptcy Courts, also have jurisdiction over certain issues which have been delegated to them by the United States' Constitution.

State courts are also courts of limited jurisdiction, and they cannot decide a case if exclusive power is vested in the Federal Government. For example, state courts do not preside over bankruptcy cases or decide an issue which is constitutional in nature. Common state courts include courts which hear cases for divorce, child custody and small claims.

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