The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is both geographical and legal.
In its Geographical jurisdiction the Supreme Court can hear and determine matters arising within the territory of Jamaica. In some instances where a statute vests extra-territorial jurisdiction on the Court, it may hear and determine matters the subject matter of which arise outside of Jamaica’s territory.
The Supreme Court was created in 1880 at which time the original jurisdiction of a number of then existing courts were consolidated into the Supreme Court.
These Courts were:
The Supreme Court of Judicature,
The High Court of Chancery,
The Incumbered Estates Court,
The Court of Ordinary,
The Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes,
The Chief Court of Bankruptcy, and
The Circuit Courts
In 1962, section 13 of the Jamaican (Constitution) Order in Council adopted the existing Supreme Court as the Supreme Court for the newly independent Jamaica. The Supreme Court was then constitutionally established under section 97 of the Constitution of Jamaica.
The Supreme Court is regulated by the Judicature (Supreme Court) Act. It has unlimited original jurisdiction in criminal, civil and constitutional cases. It also exercises an appellate and supervisory jurisdiction. This includes hearing appeals from decisions of the Registrar of the Supreme Court and from the petty sessional courts as well as reviewing the conduct of Coroners’ Inquests and decisions of administrative bodies such as the Industrial Disputes Tribunal.
The work of the Court is conducted in a number of different divisions, based on the nature and subject matter of cases to be heard. These divisions are Criminal (Circuit Court); Civil; Commercial; and Review/Constitutional. Specialised Superior Courts in which Supreme Court Judges sit have also been created to complement the work of the Supreme Court. These are the Revenue Court established under the Revenue Court Act in 1971 and the Gun Court (High Court and Circuit Court Divisions) established under the Gun Court Act in 1974. The Gun Court Act was amended in 1999 to include the Western Regional Gun Court, with geographical jurisdiction for the parishes of St. James, Hanover, Trelawny and Westmoreland.
The Circuit Courts outside of Kingston are convened in each parish usually at specific times in the year with other sittings scheduled as necessary. However the Circuit Courts in Kingston (known as the Home Circuit Courts), and the High Court Division of the Gun Courts which sit in Kingston and the Western Regional Gun Court, sit continuously except for certain periods of vacation.