I list federal practice on my Monroe County Bar Association referral page. In fact, at least half my practice is in federal court both as a trial attorney and as a federal court mediator.

As a result, I frequently receive calls from potential clients who want to file claims in federal court based on the seriousness of their claims. After all, if a claim is serious, shouldn’t I be allowed to sue in federal court?

I’m probably not the only one, but my mother often asked me why I needed to make everything into a “federal case.” We think of lawsuits in federal courts as being the most important cases. I still try to make everything into a federal case but that will be the subject of a future post. And it has nothing to do with my parents.

While it is true that our federal courts handle serious claims, that is not the way to get into federal court.

Essentially, there are two ways to get into federal court.

Diversity Jurisdiction

First, if you have a claim that is worth more than $75,000 and the parties are from different states, you qualify. That is called “diversity” jurisdiction. The theory is that if someone from a different state sues a local resident, a federal court would be more fair to the litigants. That’s no longer true but that jurisdictional justification still survives.

Federal Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

Second, if there are claims related to the violation of federal laws, you get federal jurisdiction. These could be civil rights laws, anti-discrimination statutes, regulatory issues, employment discrimination, or other federal claims.

The real question is why you would want to sue in federal rather than state court. There are a number of reasons and they all include the particular facts of your case, pretrial publicity, potential verdict histories, and other reasons. I’ll share those with you in future postings.

~Jerry Geiger

ggeiger@newmanwilliams.com

@JerryGeiger

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