The Supreme Court’s “original jurisdiction”

A caller to today’s show read from Article 3, Section 2 of the United States Constitution and, maintained that Judge Vinson’s ruling on Obamacare was unconstitutional because only the Supreme Court could hear the case. So, at the risk of putting everyone to sleep, let me explain the Supreme Court’s “original jurisdiction“.

Pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, Section 1251 there are two types of Supreme Court “original jurisdiction”.  The first is original and exclusive jurisdiction, and, and the second is, original jurisdiction.  Only a case meeting the former definition must be brought initially in the Supreme Court, not the latter.

The only controversies where the Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction involve disputes between states, the most common being disputes over where the border between two states is. 

For any controversy between a state and the United States, although the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction, it is not original and exclusive jurisdiction.  Thus, although these types of disputes must be filed in the federal court system (as opposed to the state court system), they do not have to originate in the Supreme Court.

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The Sound Off Sister was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and special trial attorney for the Department of Justice, Criminal Division; a partner in the Florida law firm of Shutts & Bowen, and an adjunct professor at the University of Miami, School of Law. The Sound Off Sister offers frequent commentary concerning legislation making its way through Congress, including the health reform legislation passed in early 2010.


  1. winnie888 on February 2, 2011 at 3:01 am

    Well, that clears that up, now doesn't it?  Thanks for clarification, SOS! 🙂

  2. Lynn on February 2, 2011 at 4:40 am


  3. Dimsdale on February 2, 2011 at 7:08 am

    I love having a pro bono lawyer on retainer here!


    We get a super lawyer, and the WaPo gets Ezra Klein!  LOL!!


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