Jurisdiction of State Courts

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

     “State courts almost always have the power to hear cases involving events that took place in that state.  They can also hear cases in which the defendants reside in or are served with the relevant court papers (usually a summons and complaint) in that state.  Unless your lawsuit is one of the few types of cases over which federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction, the state court in the state where you live will probably have jurisdiction to hear your case, whether your’e seeking an adoption, guardianship, or diverce; suing a landlord, a tenant, a contractor, or a repari shoop; taking someone to small claims court; probating a will; or getting involved in wone of the vast variety of other kinds of legal disputes.  

EXAMPLE 1:  Dobbs, a Michigan resident, buys a used car from Rick’s Used Cars, a Michigan business.  A few weeks later the car breaks down, and Dobbs learns that it needs a new engine.  Dobbs sues Rick’s Used Cars for fraudand breach of contract in Michigan, which has jurisdiction because Rick’s is a Michigan business.

EXAMPLE 2: Allnut lives in Arizona and is involved in traffic accident in Arizona with Marlowe, a Texas resident.  Allnut could file a lawsuit in Arizona state court, which would have jurisdiction because the accident took place there.  (Every state has a “motorist” law that confers jurisdiction on its state courts to to hear cases involving all traffic accidents occurring in that state.)  Allnut could also file suit in Texas, where Marlowe resides, because state courts almost always have jurisdiction to hear cases filed against defendants who live in that state…. [T]his case is an is an example of dual or “concurrent” jurisdiction, and Allnut could file in federal court if he wished.

EXAMPLE 3: Elaine, a New York citizen, sues Officer kramer, also a New York citizen, for violating her civil rights by falsely arresting her.  Elaine bases the suit on a federal statute (42 United States Code § 1933) and asks for damages of $10,000.  A new York federal court has the power to hear Elaine’s case.  Because the case is based on (arises under) a federal statute, the New York federal court has jurisdiction even though Elaine and Officer Kramer are citizens fo the same state and Elaine seeks less than $75,000.  Alternatively, Elaine could file the lawsuit in new York state court, which would have the power to eehar the case because the arrest occurred in New York and both Elaine and Officer Kramer live there.  The state court has “concurrent jurisdiction” with the federal court and can enforce the federal law as it would a state law.  Elaine can choose between federal and state courts in New York.


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

[1]: pages 48-55 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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