It is almost always necessary or at least helpful at Law.SE to include the jurisdiction (i.e. state or country) whose law the person asking the question wants to know about, and often otherwise good questions get bogged down on this point.

Could language be added to the "How To Ask" box in Law.SE to urge people to include this information?

Screenshot of referenced element

  • Hmm, I think this is a good idea. Let me find out how we can get this done.
    – jimsug
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 10:40
  • Can I ask you to post your suggested text as an answer? I think we'll feature it and see if we can get more comment on this.
    – jimsug
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 10:44
  • Thank you for the visual edit. I could never have managed that.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 22:22

5 Answers 5


IMO there is a specific class of questions where jurisdiction info if most necessary, in particular where each state has its peculiar quirks about the law. Assembling examples would be useful: a reasonable number of "jurisdiction?" requests strike me as unnecessary. I don't think we want to encourage over-Balkanization of questions so that a question about what constitutes fraud is always limited to "in Ohio" vs. "in California". In other words, we should inspect the problem cases first.

Example: Hunting rights to land but do not own the land, a question about hunting rights, which varies by state. Example: Can I file a petition for a family law matter myself?, part of which reduces to "does my (unspecified) court have any online help". Example: What happens if husband and wife want to give their surnames to a child and won't compromise?, how to deal with conflicts between parents in assigning a surname to a child. Example: Maiden name for an unmarried adopted woman, question about requirement to list "mother's maiden name" on legal document, what is "maiden name"? Example: Multiple victims in invoulentary manslaughter sentence about sentencing for involuntary manslaughter and multiple victims.

  • 1
    Exactly, and indeed: Let this be an open invitation for everyone to compile examples here of questions where the asker failed to (initially) specify a jurisdiction but where that specification was essential to admit helpful answers.
    – feetwet Mod
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 18:16

I can't find a clear consensus on "the problem." (A digest of previous meta discussion on this would be helpful here.)

Before this suggestion gets too far along I want to provide some observations:

We have many questions about law that are sufficiently general that good answers can be written without jurisdiction being specified. In most cases it would be possible to scope the Q&A: E.g., "This answer is only valid under common law." But is that helpful? E.g., many Q&A implicitly apply to , and that tag is often used (presently on 2239 of our 8749 questions). But it might also be overused: Outside of constitutional questions, many answers that apply in the U.S. are valid, or at least helpful, in all common-law jurisdictions.

Granted, we do see some questions about laws that vary so broadly by jurisdiction that a "good" answer cannot be written without a jurisdiction being specified. (Note that in such cases the odds of someone having that jurisdiction-specific knowledge might be low – somewhere in previous meta discussion I recall suggesting something like, "A somewhat helpful general answer is better than no answer at all." Note also that very specific questions are often properly closed as requests for legal advice.)

Under the status quo I often see opposite problems, including:

  1. Askers being nagged in comments to provide a jurisdiction even when jurisdiction is not necessary to provide a helpful answer.

  2. Helpful answers for jurisdictions other than the one tagged being downvoted.

I worry about whether instructions to include jurisdiction will increase these problems and create more (avoidable) moderation noise.


Separate from the question of whether we should add encouragement to the How To Ask box, and if/how we can modify it, is the question of what it should say. As an answer to the last question, we could amend the existing middle section with the italicized text here:

Provide details. Share your research. If essential to your question, indicate what law or jurisdictions apply.


I think we should be very clear - many people do not know what "jurisdiction" means. Something like:

Different nations and provinces/states withing nations have different legal systems called "jurisdictions". If your question is not of general applicability please tag it with the most relevant jurisdictions (e.g. , , )


Or maybe something that mixes a couple of the answers to this question but that doesn't define the term "jurisdiction":

If important to your question, please indicate which locality is most relevant (for example, , ).

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