why does the united states need federal courts
U. S. citizens at least 18 years of age may be called to jury service, one of the most important ways individual citizens become involved with the federal courts. Learn more about jury service and. P
the United States government, the Constitution or federal laws, or controversies between states or between the U. S. government and foreign governments. For instance, a claim by an individual to receive money under a federal government program such as Social Security, a claim by the government that someone has violated federal laws, or a challenge to actions taken by a federal agency might all be heard in federal court. In contrast, most family law matters are addressed in state court, since federal court jurisdiction granted by the U. S. Constitution does not include this area of law. Few cases wind up in federal trial court, also called U. S. District Court. Judges encourage parties involved in a dispute to reach an agreement and avoid the expense and delay of a trial. to find out who does what. P Federal courts have total jurisdiction over all bankruptcy cases, which Congress has determined should be addressed in federal courts rather than state courts. This means that a bankruptcy case may not be filed in a state court. The primary purposes of bankruptcy law is to help honest people who can no longer pay their creditors get a new start by liquidating their assets to pay debts, or by creating a repayment plan. Bankruptcy laws also protect troubled businesses and provide for orderly distributions to business creditors through reorganization or liquidation. helps citizens decide how to file for bankruptcy and where to get help. P Federal courts hold ceremonies throughout the year where United States citizenship is formally granted and new citizens are officially welcomed. Many are held on or around September 17 to celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. are open to the public and may be attended by hundreds and sometimes thousands of people.
These important civic events, conducted in courtrooms and at sites in the community, present an educational opportunity for promoting public understanding of the federal courts. The impact of the federal courts on our lives is best known byP Pand other federal court cases that show the judicial branch is significant to the way we live and the rights we have. PP The news media, whether on television, online, or in printed formats often describe how issues of current interest in society wind up in the federal courts. These stories may involve issues such as civil rights cases involving national laws, acts of national terrorism, takeovers of publicly-held corporations, disputes between states, or traffic violations or misdemeanors occurring on federal property, such as in a national park. Federal vs. State Courts - Key Differences There are two kinds of courts in this country -- state courts and federal courts. Following is a discussion of key differences between the state and federal court systems. Establishment of State and Federal Courts State and local courts are established by a state (within states there are also local courts that are established by cities, counties, and other municipalities, which we are including in the general discussion of state courts). Federal courts are established under the U. S. Constitution to decide disputes involving the Constitution and laws passed by Congress. Jurisdiction of State and Federal Courts 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 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, state laws, not federal laws, make robbery a crime. There are only a few federal laws about robbery, such as the law that makes it a federal crime to rob a bank whose deposits are insured by a federal agency. Examples of other federal crimes are bringing illegal drugs into the country or across state lines, and use of the U. S. mails to swindle consumers. Crimes committed on federal property (such as national parks or military reservations) are also prosecuted in federal court. State Laws and the Federal Constitution Federal courts may hear cases concerning state laws if the issue is whether the state law violates the federal Constitution.
Suppose a state law forbids slaughtering animals outside of certain limited areas. A neighborhood association brings a case in state court against a defendant who sacrifices goats in his backyard. When the court issues an order (called an injunction) forbidding the defendant from further sacrifices, the defendant challenges the state law in federal court as an unconstitutional infringement of his religious freedom. Some kinds of conduct are illegal under both federal and state laws. For example, federal laws prohibit employment discrimination, and the states have added their own laws which also forbid employment discrimination. A person can go to federal or state court to bring a case under the federal law or both the federal and state laws. A state-law-only case can be brought only in state court. Courts and Caseloads State courts handle by far the larger number of cases, and have more contact with the public than federal courts do. Although the federal courts hear far fewer cases than the state courts, the cases they do hear tend more often to be of national importance. Think of the court cases you have heard the most about. Most are U. S. Supreme Court decisions, because the federal laws they uphold and the federal rights they protect extend to everyone in this country. When state cases are known outside their local area, it's often because of the identity of the parties: for example, the O. J. Simpson case was widely followed, although the outcome would not affect the millions of television viewers. Cases Filed Annually: State Court: 30,000,0000 cases filed Federal Court: 1,000,000 cases filed Number of judgeships authorized: State Court: Approximately 30,000 judgeships Federal Court: Approximately 1. 700 judgeships From the Federal Judicial Center
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