Code of the District of Columbia

Subchapter II. Jurisdiction.


§ 11–921. Civil jurisdiction.

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), the Superior Court has jurisdiction of any civil action or other matter (at law or in equity) brought in the District of Columbia. Such jurisdiction shall vest in the court as follows:

(1) Beginning on the effective date of the District of Columbia Court Reorganization Act of 1970, the court has jurisdiction of any civil action or other matter begun before such effective date in the District of Columbia Court of General Sessions, the Juvenile Court of the District of Columbia, or the District of Columbia Tax Court.

(2) Beginning on such effective date, the court has jurisdiction of any civil action or other matter, at law or in equity, which is begun in the Superior Court on or after such effective date and in which the amount in controversy does not exceed $50,000.

(3) Beginning on such effective date, the court has jurisdiction (regardless of the amount in controversy) of any civil action or other matter, at law or in equity, which —

(A) is brought under —

(i) subchapter I of Chapter 11 of Title 16 (relating to ejectment);

(ii) subchapter II or III of Chapter 13 of Title 16 (relating to the condemnation of land on behalf of the District of Columbia);

(iii) Chapter 19 of Title 16 (relating to writs of habeas corpus directed to persons other than Federal officers and employees);

(iv) Chapter 25 of Title 16 (relating to change of name);

(v) Chapter 33 of Title 16 (relating to quieting title to real property);

(vi) subchapter II of Chapter 35 of Title 16 (relating to writ of quo warranto);

(vii) Chapter 37 of Title 16 (relating to replevin of personal property);

(viii) the Hospital Treatment for Drug Addicts Act for the District of Columbia (D.C. Official Code, secs. 24-701 through 24-711) (relating to commitment of narcotics users); or

(ix) section 2 of the Act of August 3, 1968 (D.C. Official Code, sec. 2-201.02) (relating to contractors bonds).

(B) involves an appeal from or petition for review of any assessment of tax (or civil penalty thereon) made by the District of Columbia; or

(C) is brought under Chapter 23 of Title 16.

(4) Immediately following the expiration of the eighteen-month period beginning on such effective date, the court has jurisdiction (regardless of the amount in controversy) of any civil action or other matter, at law or in equity, brought under —

(A) Chapter 3 of Title 21 (relating to gifts to minors);

(B) Chapter 5 of Title 21 (relating to hospitalization of the mentally ill);

(C) Chapter 7 [repealed] of Title 21 (relating to property of the mentally ill);

(D) Chapter 11 of Title 21 (relating to commitment and maintenance of substantially retarded persons);

(E) Chapter 13 [repealed] of Title 21 (relating to appointment of committees for alcoholics and addicts);

(F) Chapter 15 [repealed] of Title 21 (relating to appointment of conservators); or

(G) Chapter 3, 7 [repealed], 11, 13 [repealed], or 15 [repealed] of Title 21 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and not completed in that court before the expiration of such eighteen-month period.

(5) Immediately following the expiration of the thirty-month period beginning on such effective date, the court has jurisdiction (regardless of the amount in controversy) —

(A) of any matter (at law or in equity) —

(i) brought under Chapter 29 of Title 16 (relating to partition of property and assignment of dower);

(ii) which would have been within the jurisdiction of the Orphans Court of Washington County, District of Columbia before June 21, 1870;

(iii) relating to the execution or validity of wills devising real property within the District of Columbia, and of wills and testaments properly presented for probate in the court, and the admission to probate and recording of those wills;

(iv) relating to the proof of wills of either personal or real property and the revocation of probate of wills for cause;

(v) involving the granting and revocation for cause of letters testamentary, letters of administration, letters ad colligendum and letters of guardianship, and the appointment of successors to persons whose letters have been revoked;

(vi) involving the hearing, examination, and issuance of decrees upon accounts, claims, and demands existing between executors or administrators and legatees or persons entitled to a distributive share of an intestate estate, or between wards and their guardians;

(vii) involving the enforcement of the rendition of inventories and accounts by executors, administrators, collectors, guardians, and trustees required to account to the court;

(viii) involving the enforcement of distribution of estates by executors and administrators and the payment or delivery by guardians of money or property belonging to their wards; or

(ix) otherwise within the probate jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on the day before such effective date; and

(B) any matter (at law or in equity) described in subparagraph (A) which was begun in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and not completed in that court before the expiration of such thirty-month period.

(6) Immediately following the expiration of the thirty-month period beginning on such effective date, the court has jurisdiction (regardless of the amount in controversy) of any civil action or other matter, at law or in equity, brought in the District of Columbia.

(b) The Superior Court does not have jurisdiction over any civil action or other matter (1) over which exclusive jurisdiction is vested in a Federal court in the District of Columbia, or (2) over which jurisdiction is vested in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia under section 11-501 (relating to civil actions or other matters begun in such court before the expiration of the thirty-month period beginning on the effective date of the District of Columbia Court Reorganization Act of 1970).


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 484, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 111; Dec. 7, 1970, 84 Stat. 1390, Pub. L. 91-530, § 2(a)(1).)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 11-921.

1973 Ed., § 11-921.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 2-411, § 11-501, and § 16-601.

Cross References

Claims against the District, definition of court, see § 2-411.

District Charter provisions relating to jurisdiction of Superior Court, see § 1-204.31.

References in Text

“The effective date of the District of Columbia Court Reorganization Act of 1970,” referred to throughout this section, means, as set forth in § 199(c) of the Act, the first day of the seventh calendar month which began after the enactment of the Act.

Chapter 7 of title 21”, referred to in subsection (a)(4)(C), was repealed by § 3 of D.C. Law 6-204, effective February 28, 1987.

Chapter 13 of title 21”, referred to in subsection (a)(4)(E), was repealed by § 3 of D.C. Law 6-204, effective February 28, 1987.

Chapter 15 of title 21”, referred to in subsection (a)(4)(F), was repealed by § 3 of D.C. Law 6-204, effective February 28, 1987.

“Chapters 7, 13, 15 of title 21”, referred to in subsection (a)(4)(G), were repealed by § 3 of D.C. Law 6-204, effective February 28, 1987.


§ 11–922. Transfer of civil actions to Superior Court.

(a) In a civil action begun in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia before the effective date of the District of Columbia Court Reorganization Act of 1970 (other than an action for equitable relief), where it appears to the satisfaction of the court at or subsequent to any pretrial hearing but before trial thereof that the action will not justify a judgment in excess of $10,000 and does not otherwise invoke the jurisdiction of the court, the court may certify the action to the Superior Court for trial.

(b) In a civil action begun in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia during the thirty-month period beginning on the effective date of the District of Columbia Court Reorganization Act of 1970, the court may certify the action to the Superior Court if it appears to the satisfaction of the United States District Court at or subsequent to any pretrial hearing, but before the trial thereof, that —

(1) the action will not justify a judgment in excess of $50,000; and

(2) the action does not otherwise invoke the jurisdiction of the court.

(c) When an action is transferred under this section, the pleadings in the action, together with a copy of the docket entries and copies of any orders entered therein, and the deposit for costs, shall be sent to the Superior Court. The Superior Court shall thereafter treat the case as though it had been filed originally in that court, except that the jurisdiction of the court shall extend to the amount claimed in the action even though it exceeds the applicable jurisdictional limitation.


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 486, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 111.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 11-922.

1973 Ed., § 11-922.

Cross References

District Charter provisions relating to jurisdiction of Superior Court, see § 1-204.31.

References in Text

“The effective date of the District of Columbia Court Reorganization Act of 1970” referred to throughout this section, means, as set forth in § 199(c) of the Act, the first day of the seventh month which began after the enactment of the Act.


§ 11–923. Criminal jurisdiction; commitment.

(a) The Superior Court has jurisdiction over all criminal cases pending in the District of Columbia Court of General Sessions before the effective date of the District of Columbia Court Reorganization Act of 1970.

(b)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the Superior Court has jurisdiction of any criminal case under any law applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia.

(2) The Superior Court shall not have jurisdiction of any criminal case under any law applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia begun in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia under section 11-502(2) by the return of an indictment or the filing of an information during the eighteen-month period beginning on such effective date.

(c)(1) With respect to any criminal case over which the Superior Court has jurisdiction, that court may make preliminary examinations and commit offenders, either for trial or for further examination, and may release or detain offenders in accordance with Chapter 13 of Title 23.

(2) With respect to any criminal case over which the United States District Court for the District of Columbia has jurisdiction, the Superior Court (A) may make preliminary examinations and commit offenders, either for trial or for further examination, but only during the eighteen-month period beginning on the effective date of the District of Columbia Court Reorganization Act of 1970, and (B) may release or detain offenders in accordance with Chapter 13 of Title 23.


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 486, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 111.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 11-923.

1973 Ed., § 11-923.

References in Text

“The effective date of the District of Columbia Court Reorganization Act of 1970,” referred to throughout this section, means, as set forth in § 199(c) of the Act, the first day of the seventh month which began after the enactment of the Act.


§ 11–924. Jurisdiction with respect to violations of the Rules and Regulations of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

The Superior Court has jurisdiction with respect to any violation, committed in the District of Columbia, of the rules and regulations adopted by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority under section 76(e) of title III of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Regulation Compact.


(June 4, 1976, 90 Stat. 674, Pub. L. 94-306, § 3(a).)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 11-924.

1973 Ed., § 11-924.

References in Text

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Regulation Compact, referred to at the end of this section, is codified in § 1-2431.


§ 11–925. Rules regarding certain pending child custody cases.

(a) In any pending case involving custody over a minor child or the visitation rights of a parent of a minor child in the Superior Court which is described in subsection (b) [of this section]—

(1) at anytime after the child attains 13 years of age, the party to the case who is described in subsection (b)(1) [of this section] may not have custody over, or visitation rights with, the child without the child’s consent; and

(2) if any person had actual or legal custody over the child or offered safe refuge to the child while the case (or other actions relating to the case) was pending, the court may not deprive the person of custody or visitation rights over the child or otherwise impose sanctions on the person on the grounds that the person had such custody or offered such refuge.

(b) A case described in this subsection is a case in which—

(1) the child asserts that a party to the case has been sexually abusive with the child;

(2) the child has resided outside of the United States for not less than 24 consecutive months;

(3) any of the parties to the case has denied custody or visitation to another party in violation of an order of the court for not less than 24 consecutive months; and

(4) any of the parties to the case has lived outside of the District of Columbia during such period of denial of custody or visitation.


(Sept. 30, 1996, 110 Stat. 2979, Pub. L. 104-205, § 350(a).)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 11-925.

Editor's Notes

Bill of Attainder:

This section was held unconstitutional in Foretich v. U.S., 351 F. 3d 1198 (D.C. Cir. 2003).

Elizabeth Morgan Act: Legislation that prohibited noncustodial parent from obtaining visitation with daughter against her wishes, and in face of unproven allegations of sexual abuse, after she had turned thirteen, thereby effectively stigmatizing parent as child abuser and unfit parent, was enacted for punitive purpose and had to be held unconstitutional as impermissible bill of attainder, where narrowness with which statute applied, only to this particular noncustodial parent and his daughter, belied any nonpunitive purpose to deal with alleged child sexual abuse generally, and where fact that Congress would not have enacted this legislation if parent had agreed to voluntarily give up his visitation rights, showed that it was Congress’ purpose in enacting law to assume role of judicial tribunal and to impose its own determination of who was or was not fit parent.