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Jurisdictional Considerations-In General

Jurisdiction is the power of a court to decide a case on its merits.  It is the power of a court to inquire into the facts, to apply the law, and to enter and enforce judgment.[i] The pendency of a prior suit for the same cause of action, in a court of competent jurisdiction, between the same parties, will abate a second suit because courts consider the second suit unnecessary and vexatious.[ii] Courts order abatement of a subsequent suit only if court before which the first action is pending have jurisdiction of the subject matter.  When the court where the other action is pending does not have jurisdiction over the subject matter, an action is not abated upon the ground of another action pending between the parties.

If jurisdiction of a prior court is attached to a proceeding of in rem or quasi in rem, the second court applies the principle of priority and does not exercise jurisdiction over the res.  Principle of priority is applicable when there is conflict of jurisdiction and court actions are in rem or quasi in rem.  The possession of the res in case of conflict of jurisdiction is vested upon, the court which first acquired jurisdiction.[iii]

Federal and state courts with concurrent jurisdiction are considered courts of separate jurisdiction.[iv] Identical cases between the same parties may be pending in federal and state courts at the same time.  In such a situation, the first court to dispose of the case by trial enters a judgment that is binding on the parties.[v]

An action pending in federal court does not abate a subsequent action in a state court even if the parties and cause of action are same.[vi] Also if an action is brought in a state court and removed to the federal court and while it is pending in federal court another action is brought in the state court for the same cause of action, the state court would abate the subsequent suit.[vii] A litigant should not litigate the same issue at the same time in more than one federal court[viii].

[i] Perry v. Owens, 257 N.C. 98 (N.C. 1962)

[ii] International Printing Pressmen & Assistants’ Union v. Rebenson, 350 Ill. App. 156 (Ill. App. Ct. 1953)

[iii] Inter-Southern Life Ins. Co. v. McQuarie, 148 Ga. 233 (Ga. 1918)

[iv] Henry v. Stewart, 203 Kan. 289 (Kan. 1969)

[v] Palmer v. Arkansas Council on Econ. Educ., 344 Ark. 461, 475 (Ark. 2001)

[vi] Seeley v. Missouri, K. & T. R. Co., 39 F. 252 (C.C.D.N.Y. 1889)

[vii] Nashville, C. & S. L. Ry. v. Hubble, 140 Ga. 368 (Ga. 1913)

[viii] Mellon Bank, N.A. v. IBJ Schroder Bank & Trust Co., 1989 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16517 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 17, 1989)

Inside Jurisdictional Considerations-In General