Federal question jurisdiction is the authority of a federal trial court to hear cases involving two parties who have a controversy involving federal law or the U.S. Constitution.
In this lesson we will explain what that means and provide everyday examples.
Tia sued her boss for wrongful termination, and her attorney filed in federal court saying they’d get a bigger award. The company’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the claim. Her attorney told her that it was just routine and not to worry about it, so when the judge granted the company’s motion, she was shocked.
Now why would the judge do that?
Types of Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the authority of a court to hear a case. There are three types of jurisdiction that every state and federal court must possess to be able to hear and rule in a case. The first type of jurisdiction is territorial jurisdiction, meaning that the court has to be in a geographical area over which the law gives that court the authority to preside, such as a state. The second is in personam jurisdiction, or personal jurisdiction, which is the authority of a court over a person. The final type is subject matter jurisdiction, which requires that the court have authority over the subject matter of the controversy in the case.All three of these types of jurisdiction are based on a either a federal or state statute or rule. Without statutory authority, a court has no authority to hear a case.
It usually works like this: Article III of the U.S. Constitution lays out the general authority of the federal court system.
Federal statutes, called the U.S. Code, set out the procedure and boundaries of that authority, with each state having its own set of laws that provides authority for its courts.
Sometimes a person might want to file a case in federal court even though the case seems to be a local matter. In situations like this, there are two primary jurisdiction avenues that can be applied: diversity of citizenship and federal question. The law that governs federal jurisdiction over a state case is 28 U.S.
C. ; 1332, titled: ‘Diversity of Citizenship.’ When the federal district courts are given authority to hear a state case, this is called diversity jurisdiction.
Diversity jurisdiction only applies if the case involves opposing parties who are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy is over $75,000.I know what you’re thinking: where is the subject matter jurisdiction in diversity jurisdiction cases? Federal law gives subject matter jurisdiction in all civil cases between citizens of different states. So as long as diversity exists and the amount in controversy is met, then subject matter exists by law. If any one of these requirements is not met, then the federal trial court has no jurisdiction.Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say you bought a microwave, and on your first use it exploded and burned your house down.
You could sue the maker of the microwave company in state court. But if the headquarters of the microwave company is in a different state than you are, then you can sue in federal court as long as the damages were over $75,000. This would give you diversity jurisdiction. However, if the microwave company is located in the same state as you, you would only be able to file in state court.
Federal Question Matters
When diversity jurisdiction doesn’t apply, we can look to another federal law, 28 U.S.
C. ; 1331, titled: ‘Federal Question.’ This federal question law gives the federal district courts original jurisdiction, which is the power of a court to hear a case for the first time, over matters where the subject matter is federal law or the U.
S. Constitution.For example, imagine you applied for a job at a local skating rink. Right before you left the rink, you overheard the owner say she wasn’t going to hire any more ‘religious nuts’ while throwing your application in the garbage.
You might have a claim for unlawful hiring practices under federal anti-discrimination laws or the First Amendment free exercise of religion clause. The federal law and the Constitution are both at the center of the case, the federal court has subject matter jurisdiction, and the same statute gives the court jurisdiction over the person. Territorial jurisdiction is met if the case if filed in a federal district court that presides over the geographical region where the plaintiff lives.Remember Tia? Was the judge right to grant the defendant’s motion? Chances are, yes. Diversity jurisdiction didn’t exist, as both parties were from the same state, so that only leaves federal question jurisdiction. So unless Tia can claim something like discrimination, which is against federal law, or that her boss violated her constitutional rights, the judge was right to throw out that case because there was no jurisdiction.
Federal Question vs. State Law
What if there is both a federal and state law that applies? Does the federal question statute mean that you must file in federal court? No, it doesn’t. But if the other party wants to move it to federal court, it can. So when there is concurrent jurisdiction, meaning jurisdiction is shared between two independent court systems, between the state and the federal government over the subject matter, such as employment discrimination, the doctrine of federal preemption says that the federal courts would trump the state courts.
This doctrine stems from the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which says federal law is the supreme law of the land over treaties, federal law, and constitutional issues. This also means that federal law would be used to decide cases based on federal question jurisdiction. However, in diversity jurisdiction, the federal courts can hear the case, but would typically decide the case based on state law.
There are three main types of jurisdiction that help determine if a case should be tried in state or federal court. Territorial jurisdiction has to do with the location of the case. In personam jurisdiction is the authority a court has over a person. Finally, subject matter jurisdiction requires that the court have authority over the subject matter of the controversy.
There are two primary jurisdiction avenues for a case between two state citizens (or corporations) to be lawfully filed in federal court. They are diversity jurisdiction and federal question. Diversity jurisdiction exists when the parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy is over $75,000. This is true even if there are no federal statutes covering the subject matter of the case, as the court will look at state law to settle the dispute.
The other is federal question jurisdiction, which gives the federal courts jurisdiction as long as the dispute is something covered by federal law or the Constitution.