Jurisdiction of Federal Courts:

     This page is also continued from Intro >>>> Jurisdiction >>>> Federal, State (County, Municipal), & Tribal Courts – what’s the difference? >>>> Federal Courts:


     Excerpt from Represent Yourself in Court; How to Prepare & Try a Winning Case (7th ed.) by by Paul Bergman and Sara J. Berman (NOLO):

     “In general, you file a case that involves state law in a state court.  Because the overwhelming majority of cases (such as those involving personal injury claims, divorce, landlord-tenant problems, consumer claims, probate matters, and contract disputes) arise under state law, it is fairly easy to separate out the few types of cases that must (or can) be filed in a federal trial (district) court.  Each state has at least one federal district court, and populous states contain as many as four different federal districts.

     You may file a case in federal district court only if the court has what lawyers call “subject matter jurisdiction.”  federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction in two kinds of cases:” 

federal-question jurisdiction – the exercise of federal-court power over claims arising under the U.S. Constitution, an act of Congress, or a treaty.

diversity jurisdiction – the jurisdiction of a federal court over all civil actions involving diversity of citizenship (wherein the parties involved are from different states (or foreign states)) and the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs.

     Another excerpt from Represent Yourself in Court; How to Prepare & Try a Winning Case (7th ed.) by by Paul Bergman and Sara J. Berman (NOLO):

     “Most lawsuits that can be filed in federal district court can also be filed in state court.  Federal courts have “exclusive jurisdiction” only in very few kinds of federal question cases, such as lawsuits involving copyright violations, patent infrincement, and federal tax claims.  This means that plaintiffs in all diversity jurisdiction cases and nearly all federal question cases have a choice of suing in federal r state court.  Lawyers call the process of deciding which court is best for a plaintiff’s case “forum shopping.”  A plaintiff who has a choice of courts may consider such factors as:

  • Which courthouse is closer to the plaintiff’s place of work and business?  For example, a plaintiff may choose to file in a state court simply because the nearest federal court is 250 miles away.
  • Which court has a longer statute of limitations?  A plaintiff whose case is untimely under state law would surely choose to file suit in federal district court in a federal question case if federal law provided a lonter statute of limitations.  (Federal courts use a state’s statute of limitations in diversity jurisdiction cases.)
  • Differences in the judges.  For instance, a plaintiff may think that local state court judges have a judicial philosophy that makes them more likely to sympathize with the plaintiff’s claim.
  • Differences in the jury panel.  State and federal courts may have different boundaries for jury selection purposes.  A plaintiff may, for example, file suit in federal court because it selects jurors from a wider geographic area.  

Also see State Court Jurisdiction.


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is pertinent to people everywhere, and is being utilized in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: pages 44-45 of Represent Yourself in Court; How to Prepare & Try a Winning Case (7th ed.) by Paul Bergman and Sara J. Berman.  NOLO.  ISBN-13: 978-1-4133-1269-0 (pbk.)  ISBN-10: 1-4133-1269-1 (pbk.)


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