Differences between Federal and State Courts
There are often good reasons to choose federal court over state court, or state court over federal court. Here are some of the considerations that lawyers and clients weigh when deciding one court over the other. The list is not all inclusive. Existence of Jurisdiction. Whether there is jurisdiction in either or both of the courts. Federal jurisdiction requires either a federal question and sometime a minimum dollar amount at issue or that there by "diversity of citizenship" and a minimum dollar amount at issue. "Diversity jurisdiction" requires that none of the plaintiffs come from any of the state from which the defendants come (and there is a "double diversity test" if a corporation is involved, with the corporation's state being both the state of incorporation and the state in which the corporation has its principal place of business. If there is federal jurisdiction, the court has "supplemental jurisdiction" over any related "state issues". Most of the issues of jurisdiction boil down to unfairness, that if a corporation is not doing a sufficient amount of business in the state the corporation should not be required to defend a lawsuit in that state, unless (of course) the corporation has an office in such state (in which case it is "doing business" in that state). A human being cannot be sued in a state unless there is jurisdiction over the human being, such as by the human being (or individual) having his/her residence in the state, or being "present" in the state while being served with a summons and complaint. Even if there is jurisdiction, a defendant (or perhaps a plaintiff) can move for a change of venue, for a variety of reasons. the plaintiffs have a basis for commencing the suit in the selected state, such as by the plaintiff's presence, or the defendant's presence or (in the case of a corporation) either incorporated in the state or doing business in the state, or having committed a wrong in the state (and there are various other tests to consider). Jurisdiction is one of the first things that has to be considered. If there is no jurisdiction in a given state, the plaintiff would have to select a different state in which to bring suit, which might be disadvantageous to the plaintiff. Ease or Difficulty in Obtaining Discovery. The rules for obtaining discovery across state lines in an action brought in federal court are many times easier for a litigant than the discovery rules applicable to the state courts in various states, especiallly New York. To be able to take a deposition of an out-of-state non-party in a New York state-court action, it could take one year to obtain the necessary court orders and "commissions" or "letters rogatory" involved. In federal court, on the other hand, one could notice and serve a subpoena to take a non-resident individual's deposition (or "examination before trial" or "ebt") in one day. This is perhaps the most important difference. The Quality or Expertise of the Judge. For years it was commonly understood (rightly or wrongly) that the judges on the federal bench were generally superior to the state judges. Without trying to take sides on that issue I will observe that some federal statutes require actions to be brought in federal court (such as for violations of the federal antitrust laws or for copyright infringement), and it is to be expected that federal judges with experience of this type will have a more developed skill for long and complicated cases than most state-court judges. The New York Supreme Court (the highest New York court with general or unlimited trial-court jurisdiction) has set up a commercial division in which a small group of state judges handle complicated commercial cases, and it is also to be expected that such judges would have a more developed expertise as to large commercial cases than other state judges, and perhaps a comparable skill as to such cases as a typical federal judge. Assignment of...
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