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How courts can lose jurisdiction

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  • Legalbear
    It is possible for various illegalities to deprive a trial court of jurisdiction. See, e. g., Ex parte Lange, 18 Wall. 163, 176 (1874) (no jurisdiction to
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 22, 2012

    It is possible for various illegalities to deprive a trial court of jurisdiction. See, e. g., Ex parte Lange, 18 Wall. 163, 176 (1874) (no jurisdiction to impose second sentence in violation of Double Jeopardy Clause); Ex parte Siebold, 100 U. S. 371, 376-377 (1880) (no jurisdiction to try defendant for violation of unconstitutional statute); Frank v. Mangum, 237 U. S. 309 (1915) (no jurisdiction to conduct trial in atmosphere of mob domination); Moore v. Dempsey, 261 U. S. 86 (1923) (same); Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U. S. 458, 468 (1938) (no jurisdiction to conduct trial that violated defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel).


    A valid judgment must be rendered in compliance with the constitutional requirements of due process. Griffin v. Griffin, 327 U.S. 220  (1946).


    So a departure from established modes of procedure will often render the judgment void; thus, the sentence of a person charged with felony, upon conviction by the court, without the intervention of a jury, would be invalid for any purpose. The decree of a court of equity upon oral allegations, without written pleadings, would be an idle act, of no force beyond that of an advisory proceeding of the Chancellor. And the reason is, that the courts are not authorized to exert their power in that way.


    The doctrine stated by counsel is only correct when the court proceeds, after acquiring jurisdiction of the cause, according to the established modes governing the class to which the case belongs, and does not transcend, in the extent or character of its judgment, the law which is applicable to it. The statement of the doctrine by Mr. Justice Swayne, in the case of Cornell v. Williams, reported in the 20th of Wallace, is more accurate. "The jurisdiction," says the justice, "having attached in the case, everything done within the power of that jurisdiction, when collaterally questioned, is held conclusive of the rights of the parties, unless impeached for fraud." 20 Wall. 250.


    It was not within the power of the jurisdiction of the District Court to proceed with the case, so as to affect the rights of the owner after his appearance had been stricken out, and the benefit of the citation to him thus denied. For jurisdiction 284*284 is the right to hear and determine; not to determine without hearing. And where, as in that case, no appearance was allowed, there could be no hearing or opportunity of being heard, and, therefore, could be no exercise of jurisdiction. By the act of the court, the respondent was excluded from its jurisdiction.


    Judgment affirmed. Windsor v. McVeigh, 93 U.S. 274, 279-284 (1876).




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