Subject matter jurisdiction is a legal term used in civil procedure to indicate that a case must be entered in the proper court of law based on the nature of the claim.
In the United States, many state court systems are divided into divisions such as criminal, civil, family, and probate. A court within any one of those divisions would lack subject matter jurisdiction to hear a case regarding matters assigned to another jurisdiction.
The term is most broadly developed at the level of the United States Federal Courts. There, litigants must show that they fall into one of two broad categories of subject matter jurisdiction: diversity jurisdiction and federal question jurisdiction. According to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a federal court may dismiss a case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction upon motion of a party or sua sponte, upon its own initiative.
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