A court is a legal tribunal operating under the authority of a sovereign state over which at least one full time judicial officer such as a judge or a justice of the peace presides. It has the authority to make final, enforceable orders and judgments over the parties who are before it, including whether or not the court actually has jurisdiction over the matter. A court may be of general jurisdiction, that is it may hear all cases of any type within that state's legal system, or may have a special jurisdiction, such as bankruptcy, tax, appeals or criminal law.

Courts differ from administrative tribunals in that they are presided over by a full time legal official rather than part time lay persons. Courts are also required to follow strict rules of evidence.

Courts differ from an arbitration in that they may require parties to appear before it at the request of another party. They are also a creation of the sovereign state rather than drawing their jurisdiction from a private agreement.