To achieve success in anything it is useful to know the rules of the game, or as they say the “lay of the land.” It is no different in the law, so it is important to know how the courts are set up to better understand the process. There are two different court systems, federal and state.
Federal courts are known as courts of limited jurisdiction. That means that only certain cases can be heard by a federal judge. Usually, those are cases that are brought under a Federal Statute, like cases for Trademark Infringement or for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or specific types of cases that are of “original jurisdiction.” Those cases can only be brought in federal court, which includes, but is not limited to, cases in immigration, bankruptcy, or maritime. If the case does not fit into one of those categories, then it will likely need to be filed in a state court.
State courts are where most disputes are heard, including contract disputes, car accidents, and real estate cases. Because many state laws mirror federal laws, there is sometimes an overlap of types of cases that can be heard in either state or federal courts. If that happens, there is usually a distinction in what resolution you can expect to get, and evaluating that will be important in deciding where to bring your lawsuit. Although other nuances may determine where a case should be brought, understanding these basic principles will help a litigant better understand the process.
How could this potentially affect your case? If you are the party bringing the suit, the “Plaintiff,” your attorney will have the upper hand to file in either federal or state court depending on what is more suited to your case, as well as filing in the state of your choice. If you are the party being sued, the “Defendant,” it is important that you pay attention to what state the suit was filed to find an attorney that can represent you in that state. It is best to speak with an attorney to learn more about what system would potentially benefit your case.
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