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What factors determine whether a case should be in state or federal court?

Scott Dodson, assistant professor of law in the School of Law, replies:

There are several factors that can determine whether a case should be in state or federal court, including the nature of the case and the parties involved. In general, federal courts can hear only those cases delineated by both the Constitution and federal statute, whereas state courts are not so limited. Under the Constitution and federal statutes, federal courts may hear cases involving claims that arise under federal law; cases in which a federal officer or entity is a party; and cases in which no plaintiff has the same state citizenship as any defendant. In that last category of cases, the amount in controversy also must exceed $75,000. Just because a federal court can hear a case does not necessarily mean that a state court cannot. Unless state law says otherwise, or unless federal law divests state courts of jurisdiction to hear the case, state courts have concurrent jurisdiction over cases that might also be heard by federal courts. In cases of concurrent jurisdiction, the court that gets the first opportunity to hear the case is the court in which the plaintiff chooses to file. If, however, a plaintiff chooses to file a case in state court that a federal court also has jurisdiction to hear, the defendants may have an opportunity to move the case from state court to federal court under the federal removal statute.

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