The term jurisdiction has more than one sense.
Power of a court of law
Jurisdiction is the power of a court to hear and decide a case before it.
In most common law systems, jurisdiction is conceptually divided between jurisdiction over the subject matter of a case and jurisdiction over the person of the litigants. (See personal jurisdiction.) Sometimes a court may exercise jurisdiction over property located within the perimeter of its powers without regard to personal jurisdiction over the litigants; this is called jurisdiction in rem.
A court whose subject-matter jurisdiction is limited to certain types of controversies (for example, suits in admiralty or suits where the monetary amount sought is less than a specified sum) is sometimes referred to as a court of special jurisdiction or court of limited jurisdiction.
A court whose subject-matter is not limited to certain types of controversy is referred to as a court of general jurisdiction. In the United States, each state has courts of general jurisdiction; most states also have some courts of limited jurisdiction. Federal courts (those operated by the federal government are courts of limited jurisdiction. Federal jurisdiction is divided into federal question jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction. The United States District Courts may hear only cases arising under federal law and treaties, cases involving ambassadors, admiralty cases, controversies between states or between a state and citizens of another state, lawsuits involving citizens of different states, and against foreign states and citizens.
Certain courts, particularly the United States Supreme Court and most state supreme courts, have discretionary jurisdiction, meaning that they can choose which cases to hear from among all the cases presented on appeal. Such courts generally only choose to hear cases that would settle important and controversial points of law. Though these courts have discretion to deny cases they otherwise could adjudicate, no court has the discretion to hear a case that falls outside of its subject-matter jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction also means the area to which the executive or legislative powers or laws of a government extend. For example, in private international law jurisdiction may refer to a nation-state or to a province or state in a federation such as the United States or Canada.
Sometimes when the areas of separate governmental entitities overlap one another—for example, between a state and the federation to which it belongs—their jurisdiction is shared or concurrent jurisdiction. Otherwise one governmental entity will have exclusive jurisdiction over the shared area. When jurisdiction is concurrent, one governmental entity may have supreme jurisdiction over the other entity if their laws conflict. If the executive or legislative powers within the jurisdiction are not restricted or restricted only by a number of limited restrictions, these government branches have plenary power such as the police power. Otherwise an enabling act grants only limited or enumerated powers.
Jurisdiction of labor unions
Labor unions use the term jurisdiction to refer to their claims to represent workers who perform a certain type of work and the right of their members to perform such work, e.g., the work of unloading containerized cargo at United States ports, which both the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have claimed rightfully should be assigned to workers they represent. A jurisdictional strike is a concerted refusal to work undertaken by a union to assert its members’ right to such job assignments and to protest the assignment of disputed work to members of another union or to unorganized workers. Jurisdictional strikes occur most frequently in the United States in the construction industry.
Unions also use jurisdiction to refer to the geographical boundaries of their operations, as in those cases in which a national or international union allocates the right to represent workers among different local unions based on the place of those workers' employment, either along geographical lines or by adopting the boundaries between political jurisdictions.