Why Does A Case Go To Federal Court?

federal court

Why Does A Case Go To Federal Court?

The United States has two different types of courts: state courts and federal courts. It is important to know the distinction in order to understand why a case goes to federal court.

Creating State and Federal Courts

The U.S. Constitution established federal courts to resolve conflicts involving the Constitution and laws enacted by Congress. A state creates both state and local courts. Local courts are established by cities, counties, and other municipalities, which are all included under the umbrella of state courts.


The major distinction between federal and state courts is jurisdiction. The term “jurisdiction” references the types of cases that a court can hear.

Since state courts have broad authority, they frequently handle matters involving individual people, such as thefts, traffic infractions, breached contracts, and family disputes. The only litigation that state courts are prohibited from hearing are those brought against the United States and those involving certain particular federal statutes.

The scope of a federal court’s jurisdiction is confined to the cases that are expressly mentioned in the Constitution and by Congress. This includes –

  • Cases in which the United States is a party
  • Cases involving violations of the U.S. Constitution or federal laws (under federal-question jurisdiction)
  • Cases between citizens of different states if the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 (under diversity jurisdiction)
  • Bankruptcy, copyright, patent, and maritime law cases

State and federal courts can both have jurisdiction in certain situations. In this case, parties may choose whether to go to federal court or state court.

State Laws and the Federal Constitution

If there is a question whether a state law violates the federal Constitution, federal courts may hear the case. In this case, the defendant challenges the state statute in question in federal court.

Both federal and state laws prohibit some behaviors. For instance, state laws have been added to federal laws that prohibit job discrimination and prohibit it as well. To file a lawsuit under federal law, state law, or combined federal and state laws, one may do so in federal or state court. Only state courts can hear cases limited to state law.

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