The Constitution delegates jurisdiction over admiralty cases to the federal courts. U.S. Const. art. III, §2. Congress, under the Judiciary Act of 1789, gave the district courts exclusive jurisdiction over admiralty and maritime cases, now codified in 28 U.S.C. §1333. Section 1333(1), empowers article III courts with “original jurisdiction … of … [a]ny civil case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction.” Federal jurisdiction extends to all navigable waters. Aqua Log, Inc., v. Lost and Abandoned Pre-Cut Logs, 709 F. 3d 1055 (11th Cir. 2013).
For admiralty jurisdiction to exist in a tort case, two requirements must be met: (1) there must be a significant relationship between the alleged wrong and traditional maritime activity (the nexus requirement) and (2) the tort must have occurred on navigable waters (the location requirement). See Maritime Attorney Carlos F. Llinás argue in favor of admiralty jurisdiction, in a recent case involving a boating accident at the Tamiami Canal.
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