What is jurisdiction?
Before you bring a lawsuit before any court, whether it be a Florida state court or a United States federal court, the court has to have jurisdiction over the issues of your case. Jurisdiction is the power of a court to make a decision concerning your case and to issue orders that the parties to the case must follow.
Florida state courts have general jurisdiction, and may hear a wide variety of cases from landlord-tenant disputes to family law cases. Florida state courts will have jurisdiction over cases where the actions that gave rise to the case occurred in Florida, the property that is the subject of the case is located in Florida, or one of the parties directed actions, such as a business venture, to occur in the state of Florida.
In addition to state courts, all states also have Federal District Courts where parties can brings cases over which the Federal court has jurisdiction. Cases brought in Federal District Courts can be appealed to the United States Circuit Courts, which may be then appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
What kinds of cases can come before Federal Courts?
There are different ways Federal Courts can have jurisdiction over a case based on the subject matter of the issues of the case. This is called “Federal Subject Matter Jurisdiction.” While state courts have subject matter jurisdiction to hear cases to probate a will, for example, Federal Courts have been provided jurisdiction over certain topics set forth in the Constitution of the United States.
Federal Courts have exclusive subject matter jurisdiction, as provided by the Constitution of the United States, over the following subjects:
- Patent, trademark, and copyright infringement;
- Admiralty and other cases regarding the law of the open seas;
- Military lawsuits;
- Cases involving immigration;
- Criminal cases involving violations of Federal Laws; and
There are additional ways to have your case heard by a Federal Court.
Federal Question Jurisdiction
If your case involves issues that touch on the Constitution or other federal laws, your case can be brought in Federal Court under Federal question jurisdiction. For example, a dispute between a landlord and a tenant would normally fall under state law; however, if the tenant alleges that she was being discriminated on the basis of race, it would be appropriate to bring those claims in a Federal Court for a violation of the Fair Housing Act, a Federal law. All cases alleging the violation of a person’s civil rights or other constitutional rights fall under “Federal Question Jurisdiction.”
Other federal laws that would trigger federal question jurisdiction are environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and other acts regulating the transportation or pollution of hazardous materials.
Federal law also authorizes federal courts to hear cases where the opposing parties reside in two different states. This is called diversity jurisdiction, and it provides a fair forum for citizens of two different states to have their cases heard. Additionally, for a case to be brought under federal diversity jurisdiction, the amount in controversy must for $75,000 or more before the federal court can hear the case.
A federal court can hear a claim that would normally come under the jurisdiction of a state court if it is related to claim already before the federal court. If the federal court has jurisdiction because of federal question jurisdiction or diversity jurisdiction, the court has the discretion to hear claims related to the same course of events for that case, even though those claims would not normally be heard by a federal court.
An attorney at The Law Office of Knellinger, Jacobson & Associates in Gainesville, Florida is licensed to represent you in federal courts, and can advise you on whether your case may be properly brought in the appropriate federal court, and is licensed to represent you in federal courts.
Knellinger, Jacobson & Associates | 2815 NW 13th Street #305 | Gainesville, FL 32609 | (352) 373-3334