The power of a court to make decisions and issue orders that affect the parties to a case. As a general rule, for a court to have personal jurisdiction over a party, the party must:
- consent or agree to be bound by the court's authority
- live in the state (or, in the case of a federal court, in the federal judicial district) where the court sits, or
- have enough contacts with the state or federal judicial district that it's fair—meaning consistent with the requirements of due process of law—to make them answer to that court.
Typically, things like doing business, owning property, committing a crime or a tort, or driving on a state's highways will be enough contact with the state to allow its courts to exercise personal jurisdiction.
(See also jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction)