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Original Jurisdiction

ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

The authority of a tribunal to entertain a lawsuit, try it, and set forth a judgment on the law and facts.

Original jurisdiction is distinguishable from appellate jurisdiction, which is the power of a court to hear and enter judgment upon a case brought for review. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court's caseload consists almost entirely appellate cases from the circuit courts of appeal. When two or more states are locked in a dispute, however, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to gather and hear evidence much like a trial court. The Court appoints a special master to hear the evidence and prepare factual findings. It then hears oral arguments and issues a decision as it does in appellate jurisdiction cases. Because it is the highest court in the United States, the Supreme Court's decision in original jurisdiction cases is final, with no right of appeal. An example of such a case is New Jersey v. New York, 523 U.S. 767, 118 S. Ct. 1726, 140 L. Ed. 2d 993 (1998), in which the Supreme Court took evidence and determined which state had claim to Ellis Island.

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