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When reading some old court transcripts, I find that some of the lawyers argue, "This court has found in the past..."

What exactly do they mean by "this court"? Are they referring to this specific courthouse in this particular city? Or are they referring to the same level of jurisdiction (e.g. all courts in the same state or province are referred to as "this court")?

Does "this court" change when the presiding judges change?

2 Answers 2

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"This Court" refers to the institution whose jurisdiction is being exercised by the judge(s) writing, no matter the judge or location, or to refer to the particular judicial institution generally.

It is often used to refer to previous judgments of that court, recognizing their precedential weight.

E.g. a judge on the Ontario Superior Court might write

  • "...in various judgment from this Court, judges have held"
  • "by an order from this Court, X was enjoined from..."
  • "this Court has jurisdiction to..."

All of those would be references to an exercise of the jurisdiction of the Ontario Superior Court.

"This Court" persists across changes in membership.

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  • I think in the U.S.A. in many states (but it varies from state to state) a court might have jurisdiction within a particular county, and "this court" would mean the court of general jurisdiction in that county, but not necessarily in the same courthouse or before the same judge. Somewhat different from the situation in Ontario, where the Superior Court of Justice has jurisdiction throughout the whole province. Feb 28 at 1:32
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What exactly do they mean by "this court"?

The judge(s) hearing the case will eventually release a decision. It will look something like this.

At the top of the decision there will be the name of the court. In the above example, it is "SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES".

Whatever court name is about to be put on the decision's heading is the court referred to as "this court" when hearing the case.

Does "this court" change when the presiding judges change?

No.

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  • Regarding the last point, I expect that the Dobbs decision has numerous references to "this court" when talking about Roe, essentially saying "this court made a mistake when deciding Roe".
    – Barmar
    Feb 27 at 16:40
  • @Barmar Good example; the authors of the new decision certainly were not referring to this current set of judges. Feb 28 at 11:03

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