The differences between federal and state courts are defined mainly by jurisdiction. Jurisdiction refers to the kinds of cases a court is authorized to hear. State courts have broad jurisdiction, so the cases individual citizens are most likely to be involved in -- such as robberies, traffic violations, broken contracts, and family disputes -- are usually tried in state courts. The only cases state courts are not allowed to hear are lawsuits against the United States and those involving certain specific federal laws: criminal, antitrust, bankruptcy, patent, copyright, and some maritime cases. Federal court jurisdiction, by contrast, is limited to the types of cases listed in the Constitution and specifically provided for by Congress. For the most part, federal courts only hear: * Cases in which the United States is a party;
* Cases involving violations of the U.S. Constitution or federal laws (under federal-question jurisdiction); * Cases between citizens of different states if the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 (under diversity jurisdiction); and * Bankruptcy, copyright, patent, and maritime law cases.
In some cases, both federal and state courts have jurisdiction. This allows parties to choose whether to go to state court or to federal court. Criminal Cases in State and Federal Court
Most criminal cases involve violations of state law and are tried in state court, but criminal cases involving federal laws can be tried only in federal court. We all know, for example, that robbery is a crime, but what law says it is a crime? By and large,...