Jurisdiction of the Courts

2012 exam question
b. Using the Magistrates’ Court as an example, explain the term ‘original jurisdiction’.
3 marks

Full marks were awarded for a response that provided a correct explanation of the term ‘original jurisdiction’, and then provided the original civil and criminal jurisdiction of the Magistrates’ Court.
The most common error seen in responses was an inadequate explanation of the term ‘original jurisdiction’. Many
students simply defined ‘jurisdiction’; for example, writing an answer such as ‘original jurisdiction is the power given to the court to hear a case’. This explanation may define ‘jurisdiction’ but does not define ‘original jurisdiction’.

Original jurisdiction is the power given to a court to hear a case the first time it comes to court.
Weaker responses provided the civil jurisdiction of the Magistrates’ Court but not the criminal jurisdiction (or vice versa). While students were not required to mention that the Magistrates’ Court also hears warrant and bail applications and committal hearings, many students mentioned this and clearly had a strong grasp of the Magistrates’ Court’s powers.

Students need to be careful when saying that the Magistrates’ Court hears cases claiming an amount of $10 000 to
$100 000, with claims lower than $10 000 proceeding to arbitration. Claims less than $10 000 are still filed in the
Magistrates’ Court; the Court simply has the power to refer that complaint to arbitration. However, if the Court refers the complaint to arbitration, that arbitration is still conducted under the jurisdiction of the Court.

The following three points needed to be made to gain full marks.
 Original jurisdiction: refers to the power or authority given to the courts to hear cases in the first instance.
 Civil jurisdiction: hears claims up to $100 000.
 Criminal jurisdiction: hears all summary offences.

The following is an example of a good answer.
When a court has ‘original jurisdiction’, it means it has power to hear a case when it first comes to court (that is, at first instance). For example, the Magistrates’ Court can hear civil cases where the plaintiff is claiming up to $100,000. The Magistrates’ Court also hears at first instance all summary criminal offences (that is, minor offences).


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