Differences between state and federal courts

New York residents who become involved with a legal matter will have their case decided by either a state or federal court. The purpose of both courts is to enforce laws and hold violators of laws accountable for their actions. However, there are differences between state and federal courts that defendants should understand.

Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction is the main issue determining whether a state or federal court will hear a case. The state court system enjoys broad jurisdictions in both civil and criminal matters. This fact means that a state court will oversee the majority of cases in which a citizen becomes involved.

Cases that involve criminal law like theft, minor drug charges and traffic violations are typically handled by a state court. The same goes for civil matters like family disputes and broken contracts.

The cases for which federal courts enjoy jurisdiction are outlined in the United States Constitution and designated by Congress. These cases often include:

  • Cases that include the United States as a party
  • Cases that include constitutional or federal law violations
  • Cases involved citizens of different states and monetary amounts in access of $75,000
  • Cases that involve maritime law, copyright infringement and bankruptcy issues

Judge selection

Federal judges receive nominations by the U.S. president and confirmations by Senate members. The appointment is for life as long as judges demonstrate good behavior. A federal judge faces impeachment by Congress for illegal or improper activities.

The primary method of appointment for New York State judges is partisan elections. Some jurisdictions, as well as state appellate courts, use the assisted appointment method to select judges.

There are significant identifiable differences between state and federal court processes in the United States. Individuals with questions regarding these differences may find it helpful to speak with an attorney.