As we covered in a previous post, subject matter jurisdiction is the authority of a court to hear a particular type of claim. Subject matter jurisdiction varies among different courts.
In today’s post, we’ll be going over jurisdiction requirements in the federal court system.
The federal court system began with Article III of the Constitution, which established one Supreme Court and gave Congress the right to establish inferior courts as Congress saw fit. Since 1789, Congress has expanded the federal court system to include 94 district courts (the trial court), and 12 circuit courts (the first level of appeal). The 4th Circuit covers Maryland and Virginia. The appellate court for the D.C. District Court is the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Federal courts work a bit differently than state courts. Whereas state courts generally can hear a variety of cases, federal courts have limited jurisdiction. They can only hear cases on particular issues. Several subject-specific federal trial courts have been established. There is a United States Tax Court, United States Court of Federal Claims (claims against the federal government), United States Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims, and more.
The federal district court is the usual starting point for a case. Once the district court has made a decision, any case can be appealed to the circuit court, where it will first be heard by a three judge panel. After the circuit court has ruled, either party may appeal to the Supreme Court, though it is highly unlikely the case will be heard. Parties file a “writ of certiorari” to the Court. Less than one percent of appeals are heard. When the Court grants cert, it is often because two or more of appeals courts have ruled differently on the same question of federal law.
Sometimes, there is jurisdictional overlap between the federal government and states. In this instance, the case can be brought in state or federal court.
If a case is entirely based on state law, it can be brought in federal court under the diversity jurisdiction. The diversity jurisdiction mandates that each plaintiff must be in a different state than each defendant, and the “amount in controversy” is more than $75,000. A federal court will not hear a criminal case under diversity jurisdiction, even if the amount is more than $75,000.
In summation, federal courts have limited or exclusive jurisdiction. There are roughly eight issues that will lead to cases being filed in a federal court. They are: (1) violations of the Constitution (2) violations of federal laws (3) controversies between states (4) disputes between the parties of different states (5) suits involving the federal government (6) disputes involving treaties and a foreign government (7) admiralty and maritime law and (8) diplomats.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to negligence or wrongful conduct, the experienced attorneys at Cohen & Cohen can help get you the compensation you deserve. Call today for a free case evaluation.