Guide

Jurisdiction Basics for the Legal App Marketplace

Guide

Jurisdiction Basics for the Legal App Marketplace

When choosing a legal app on the Marketplace, you need to know the jurisdiction for your legal matter. There is a lot of information out there, but we've summarized the basic information you need to understand and choose a jurisdiction.

When it comes to legal matters, the term "jurisdiction" can mean several things.  When choosing a legal app on the Marketplace, the jurisdiction of the legal app identifies where the legal app was designed to be used.  

Some apps may only be valid in one county or state, and some might be valid in entire countries.  For each legal app, the jurisdiction will be listed in the sidebar on the right of the page.

For this article, we are going to refer to jurisdiction at the state and federal levels. However, if you need to get more specific than that (for example, choosing a county or specific court for your jurisdiction), the legal app description should help guide you.   

Please note that this article is meant to be educational, and should not be considered legal advice.  If you are unsure of which jurisdiction to choose, you may need to consult with an attorney. Some of the legal apps on the Marketplace even offer the option to purchase attorney consultation, so you may be able to speak to the attorney who drafted your documents.

What is the Jurisdiction in My Legal Matter?

Most of the time, your jurisdiction will be the state or country where you live.  However, that is not always the case.  We’ve summarized the most common options below, but you may need to do additional research or contact an attorney if you have questions.

Jurisdiction of Lawsuits

If someone has filed a lawsuit against you, the other party will have already determined the jurisdiction.  You can usually find the name and location of the court on the first page of the complaint.  

When choosing a legal app to create responding documents, you should select the same jurisdiction.  Keep in mind that sometimes the filing party will use the wrong jurisdiction.  If you believe the filing party has selected the wrong jurisdiction and you wish to dispute the jurisdiction, consult an attorney to ensure that you preserve that right. 

If you are filing a lawsuit, the jurisdiction will often depend on the type of lawsuit and the residence of the person (or corporation) that you are filing against.  Here are some common scenarios: 

Lawsuits against a person (or more than one person)

  • If all parties live in the same state (or county), that state (or county) will most likely be the proper jurisdiction.
  • If you are filing a lawsuit against a person who lives in a different state, then jurisdiction will depend on what the lawsuit is about.
    • Divorce - You can generally choose a jurisdiction where you have established residency, even if your spouse lives in a different state.
    • Real estate or property - If you are filing a lawsuit solely about the title, or ownership, of a piece of property, you will usually choose the jurisdiction where the property is located.
    • Injury to a person or damage to property - Usually you will choose jurisdiction in the state where the injury or damage occurred. If the person who caused the damage lives in a different state than where the injury occurred, then you may need to speak to an attorney to decide which jurisdiction is best for your legal matter.
    • Breach of contract - Always check the terms of the contract. Many times, the contract will state where a lawsuit relating to the contract should be filed. If it doesn’t, the jurisdiction will generally be the resident state of the person you are suing or the place where the breach occurred.
    • Probating a will - jurisdiction will usually be in the state (and sometimes county) of residence where the deceased person lived.
    • Lawsuits involving employment issues or federal laws - these will usually be filed in federal court. Sometimes the statutes will expressly state where the lawsuit should be filed, but otherwise, you will need to follow the guidelines above and choose a federal district court where the person lives or where the damage occurred. Note: In the Marketplace, you might see these jurisdictions listed as a specific circuit or district court. These are terms that define the region where the court is located.

Lawsuits Against a Corporation or Other Business Entity

For lawsuits against corporations, you can follow the guidelines for the type of cases described above, but instead of residence, you’ll need to determine the company’s state of incorporation (meaning the state where it was formed) or the location of a registered office.  Large companies might have registered offices in multiple states, and they could potentially be subject to lawsuits in multiple states.  As always, if you are unsure where to file your lawsuit, you may need to consult with an attorney (even if you don’t hire an attorney for full representation in the lawsuit itself).  

Lawsuits Against Multiple Parties

If you have a lawsuit against multiple parties, jurisdiction can get complicated.  The easiest scenario is if all of the parties reside in the same state. In that case, you will usually need to file your lawsuit in that state.  If the parties reside in two or more different states, then sometimes you can just choose one of the states, or you can file the suit based on where the damaging action occurred or where the property at issue is located.  However, this is another scenario that can quickly get complicated, and if you are unsure about where to file, you will need to call an attorney. 

Lawsuits Where a Court Has Jurisdiction Over Some Claims but Not Others

Sometimes a court can bring in the outlier claims via supplemental jurisdiction, but it gets complicated.  If this scenario applies to your legal matter, we suggest calling an attorney. 

Choosing Jurisdiction for Drafting Legal Documents When No Lawsuit is Involved

Many legal apps are not related to lawsuits but are designed to help you draft legal documents like wills, trusts, contracts, real estate deeds, and business documents.  For these apps, the choice of jurisdiction is usually straightforward. 

  • Estate planning documents - Estate planning covers a range of documents like wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives.  For these documents, you will usually choose the state (or, if outside the United States, the country) where you reside.  In some circumstances, you may want to draft travel-specific documents if you often travel to a specific state or country.  For example, in addition to your traditional estate plan, you might draft a temporary healthcare directive that is valid in your destination to cover any emergency medical decisions while you are traveling.  
  • Contracts and other business documents - If you are drafting personal contracts, you can often choose the jurisdiction where you live. For business contracts, you can choose jurisdiction based on the state/country of incorporation or where the business transaction will take place.  
  • Real estate deeds - the jurisdiction for deeds will almost always be the jurisdiction where the property is located.  

Still Have Questions About Jurisdiction?

While jurisdiction is often straightforward, it can also become a complicated issue in some legal matters.  Jurisdiction (or lack thereof) can even be used as a defense in some lawsuits.  If you still have questions, please contact an attorney.  Ask your family and friends for referrals to attorneys they trust, or you can call your state bar association for more information on referrals.  

You can also check out the American Bar Association’s list of referral programs.  While their list does not cover every state, it can be a good starting point.

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