Before a court can render judgment in a lawsuit, it must have both subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction. Subject matter jurisdiction, also called in rem jurisdiction, refers to the general category (i.e., subject matter) of the case. For instance, a state probate court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a federal criminal matter, and a Texas state court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to determine a boundary line dispute arising in Tennessee.
In addition to subject matter jurisdiction, a court must also have personal jurisdiction over the parties to the suit. Jurisdiction over the “person” includes not only individuals but also corporations. If a court lacks personal jurisdiction over a party, it cannot render a judgment against that party, regardless of the merits of the plaintiff’s claim.