Can State Courts Hear Federal Claims

Can state courts hear federal claims?

State courts generally do not have the authority to hear federal claims.

Federal claims fall under the jurisdiction of the federal court system.

However, in general, federal claims are primarily the jurisdiction of federal courts, and state courts primarily handle cases based on state law.

It’s essential to consult with an attorney familiar with the specific legal issues involved to determine the appropriate court for a particular claim

can state courts hear federal claims

 Circumstances when can state courts hear federal claims

Concurrent Jurisdiction:

Some federal laws explicitly grant concurrent jurisdiction to state and federal courts.

This means that a claim based on federal law can be filed in either a state or federal court.

Examples include certain civil rights claims and some federal employment discrimination claims.

Diversity of Citizenship:

If there is diversity of citizenship and the amount in dispute exceeds a certain threshold, parties can bring a federal claim to state court if it meets the criteria for diversity jurisdiction.

Supplemental Jurisdiction:

State courts may also hear federal claims that are closely related to state law claims that are already part of the case.

This is known as supplemental jurisdiction and is governed by federal law.


In some cases, if a federal claim is filed in state court and the defendant believes it should be in federal court, they can request the removal of the case to federal court.

Court Structure Comparison

Federal Court System vs State Court System

Establishment of Courts:

  • The federal court system is established under Article III of the Constitution.
  • Article III, Section 1 creates the U.S. Supreme Court and grants Congress the authority to create lower federal courts.
  • State courts are established by the Constitution and laws of each state.
  • States typically have a Supreme Court as the highest court, some with an intermediate Court of Appeals, and state trial courts (often referred to as Circuit or District Courts).

Types of Federal Courts:

  • Congress has established various federal courts, including 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals, 94 U.S. District Courts, the U.S. Court of Claims, and the U.S. Court of International Trade.
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Courts handle bankruptcy cases, while Magistrate Judges handle some District Court matters.
  • State courts handle specific legal matters like probate court (wills and estates), juvenile court, and family court, among others.

Appeal Process in Federal System:

  • Dissatisfied parties from U.S. District Court, the U.S. Court of Claims, and/or the U.S. Court of International Trade may appeal to a U.S. Court of Appeals.
  • A party may request the U.S. Supreme Court to review a U.S. Court of Appeals decision.
  • Only certain cases are eligible for U.S. Supreme Court review, making it the final arbiter of federal constitutional questions.

Appeal Process in State System:

Judicial Selection:

The President nominates federal judges, and the Senate confirms them.

Federal judges hold their positions for life but can be removed through Congressional impeachment proceedings for misbehavior.

State court judges are selected through a variety of methods, including election, appointment for a specific number of years, appointment for life, or combinations of these approaches.

Types of Cases Heard in Federal System:

  • Federal courts handle cases related to the constitutionality of laws, U.S. laws and treaties, disputes between states, admiralty law, bankruptcy, and habeas corpus issues.
  • State courts primarily handle criminal cases, probate (wills and estates), contract cases, tort cases (personal injuries), family law (marriages, divorces, adoptions), and more.
  • State courts interpret state laws and constitutions, with their interpretation of federal law subject to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court as chosen by the Supreme Court itself.


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