STATE AND FEDERAL COURT SYSTEMS
Federal Judicial System
(1) Federal district courts are courts of original jurisdiction. District courts, like all federal courts, are also courts of limited subject matter jurisdiction, in that statutes authorize them to hear only certain kinds of cases, namely those based on federal questions or diversity of parties.
(2) Circuit Courts are courts of appellate jurisdictionas they are authorized only to review decisions on appeal from district courts,certain specialized federal courts or federal administrative agencies. There are thirteen federal circuit courts; twelve for each one of the geographic circuits and one designated as the Federal Circuit which hears appeals from various specialized federal courts. Appeals from many of the administrative agencies go to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
(3) United States Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors and in which states are parties. Its appellate jurisdiction over all other types of cases is largely discretionary. The Court’s rules list the following factors as relevant in granting certiorari:
conflicts between the courts of appeals and state courts of last resort
interstate conflicts on federal questions
conflicts with Supreme Court decisions on federal questions
important and unsettled federal questions
Other federal rulings calling for the exercise of the Supreme Court’s power of supervision.
State Judicial Systems
State judicial systems typically include:
(1) A variety of courts of limited subject matter jurisdiction,authorized to hear specific types of cases, e.g., traffic, landlord-tenant, small claims or probate.
(2) A court of original and general jurisdictionthat hears all claims not exclusively vested in courts of limited jurisdiction, such as state claims and nonexclusive federal question claims that also could have been brought in federal district courts. State courts of general jurisdiction often exist at the county level. Such courts vary in their designations, e.g., Superior Court in the District of Columbia, Circuit Court in Virginia, and Supreme Court in New York.
In some states courts of general jurisdiction also possess appellate jurisdiction over cases originally tried in courts of limited jurisdiction. Appellate review in such cases is de novo; little or no deference is paid the lower court decision because of restrictions on its jurisdiction and, in many cases, o
ject matter jurisdiction over the controversy (see Chapter 4);
(3) where a case is originally brought in state court but may be subject to the jurisdiction of the federal court as well, the defendant will consider opportunities for removal to federal court (see Chapter 2);
(4) concerns of judicial efficiency and convenience of parties and witnesses will influence the appropriate venue within a specific court system in which to try the case (see Chapter 5);
(5) various tactical factors such as: reputation of judges presiding in specific courts, court calendars, and procedural differences influencing, for example, availability of a jury trial, required level of agreement for verdicts, applicable rules of evidence or availability of appellate review (see Chapters 12, 13);
(6) client characteristics;
(7) where suit can be brought in more than one jurisdiction, differences in substantive law will be evaluated so that the law most favorable to a party’s claim may be applied (see Chapter 6).