Written by attorney Rixon Charles Rafter III

Subject Matter Jurisdiction in Virginia

Subject Matter Jurisdiction In Virginia

Not only must a court in Virginia have personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the court must also have Subject Matter Jurisdiction (SMJ)—the right court for the right issue. What follows is a brief review of the various Virginia courts and their SMJ.

General District Court (GDC)- This is a court not of record.

  1. Exclusive jurisdiction of matters $4500 or less. Concurrent 4500-$25K [Not including attorney fees or interest]. A defendant in GDC can cross or counter sue the plaintiff in the same court.

  2. No injunctions (except for Freedom of Information Act injunction to enforce)

  3. Tort/law or detinue (recovery of personal property or value thereof) if amount in controversy is $25K or less- (unless commercial/agricultural premises- then GDC can hear it.)

  4. Unlawful detainer if less than $25K

  5. Distress warrants in any amount (creditors right to seize property)

  6. Attach personal property if value $25K or less (realty always in circuit court)

  7. Misdemeanor and traffic cases and prelims for felonies

Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR)Courts

  1. Not of record

  2. JDR courts have jurisdiction over crimes if they had been committed by adult. Sometimes the case must be transferred to circuit court

Circuit Courts (CC)- Default court. General subject matter jurisdiction on: any claim except those of GDC exclusive Jurisdiction (<$4500)

  1. Concurrent with GDC between $4.5K and$25K

  2. Exclusive criminal jurisdiction for felonies

  3. Exclusive civil jurisdiction for divorce

  4. Divorce actions

  5. Attach realty

  6. The court hears appeals de novo from GDC.

  7. Appeal from GDC to Circuit Court-Absolute right if amount $50 or more.

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