The Difference Between State and Federal Court

If you’ve ever followed legal news in the media or watched courtroom dramas on television, you may have had some introduction to the court system. You probably know there are two kinds of courts in the United States: namely, federal and state courts. What distinguishes the two courts from one another?

First of all, they are established by different entities. The US Constitution establishes federal courts, whereas individual states establish their own state and local courts. Keep this in mind in order to better understand the other differences and how they might impact your telemarketing company if you ever find yourself faced with a lawsuit.

State and Federal Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction refers to the boundaries assigned to each governmental entity when it comes to exercising their legal powers. In other words, the power assigned to state and federal courts can only extend so far. Usually jurisdiction resides in one or the other, but sometimes both courts have jurisdiction and the parties can choose whether the case goes to state or federal court. It can often be simple to pinpoint a jurisdictional issue. For example, when a state law is violated within the state’s boundaries, that state has the power to prosecute; similarly, when a crime occurs on federal property, the case will be heard in a federal court. Other times it’s less straightforward. When an action violates both federal and state law (such as gender discrimination in the workplace), the case can sometimes be brought to either type.

State Law vs. The Constitution

Jurisdiction also affects the types of cases each court is authorized to hear. State courts have broad jurisdiction. Examples may include robberies, traffic infractions, contract disputes, and family law disputes. State courts are usually not authorized hear lawsuits against the United States or cases that involve specific federal laws. Federal court jurisdiction is more restricted. Federal courts only hear the types of cases outlined by the US Constitution and allowed by Congress. These cases may involve violations of the Constitution or federal laws; bankruptcy, copyright or patent, and maritime law cases; and cases where the United States is a party.

Caseloads and National Significance

Because state courts usually hear cases about individual violations of the law, and cases that are perhaps more relevant to the average citizen, their caseloads are much larger compared to federal courts. On the other hand, federal courts tend to handle cases with greater national significance. Supreme Court decisions can set important precedents for future cases and even reshape the landscape of federal law, which is why they are more often reported in the media. As a result, federal courts handle far fewer cases.

While it’s helpful to have a good general understanding of the law, it’s even more essential to have industry-specific knowledge when you’re facing court action. Cove Law offers legal services in the areas of telemarketing compliance, regulatory defense, and white collar defense. Call us whenever you’re in need of our experienced legal counsel.