So you’ve met with an attorney and you have been informed that you have a “strong” case. Of course you instruct your attorney to immediately run to the nearest courthouse and file a writ, summons, complaint or whatever legal document is necessary in order to immediately get the ball rolling. In the words of a certain sports broadcaster on crisp fall mornings, “Not so fast my friend!”1
Almost as important to the determination of whether or not you have a factual basis for a lawsuit, is the decision of what court to file that lawsuit in.2 However, before narrowing in on a particular court, there is the question of what type of court you will file in.
Our country has a dual court system; we have both state and federal courts. Generally, the difference between the two court systems boils down to jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is a court’s ability to hear a particular matter. State and local courts are, for the most part, courts of general jurisdiction with the ability to hear almost every type of dispute. Federal courts are established under the U.S. Constitution for the purpose of deciding disputes involving the Constitution and laws passed by Congress. However, there are certain scenarios where a particular matter may fall within both the jurisdiction of the state and federal court systems.