Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back

Know the Law: Lawsuit Jurisdiction Depends on Many Factors

Written by: Jeremy T. Walker

Published in the Union Leader (9/12/2016)

Q. I have a significant dispute with a former employee, and efforts to resolve the dispute have failed. If I seek relief through litigation, should I bring my lawsuit in federal or state court? 

A. Not surprisingly, the answer is that it depends on many factors. The nuances of federal and state court jurisdiction are beyond the scope of this article, but the choice of courts is often critical to the success of any litigation, and you should carefully consider the proper forum with your attorney before commencing litigation. 

Not all cases can be filed in either a federal or state court. Indeed, if you choose a court that does not have jurisdiction to hear the case, it likely will lead to a quick dismissal of your lawsuit. The authority of federal courts to preside over cases is limited in various ways. Federal courts have authority to hear cases involving claims arising out of federal laws. 

Federal courts also have “diversity jurisdiction” to hear disputes when the plaintiff and the defendant reside in different states. Although certain cases, such as patent infringement cases, can be brought exclusively in a federal court, state courts generally have broad jurisdiction to hear a wider variety of matters. 

When plaintiffs have the ability to bring their lawsuits in either federal or state court, many factors go into which court to choose. In some cases, it comes down simply to geographic location of the courthouse, although normally that is not the deciding factor. 

Your attorney may recommend a particular court because your attorney has a sense of how certain judges in that court are likely to address your type of case. We are fortunate in New Hampshire to have excellent judges in both our federal and state courts, but certainly there are differences in how they oversee their cases. 

Or it may be that there is a more developed body of historical case law originating in one court, thereby making it easier to predict how the issues in the case will be addressed. In some cases, such as personal injury cases, attorneys may recommend state court in a particular county due to the demographic makeup of the county and perhaps a tendency of juries in that county to award higher damages. 

Another factor may be how busy a particular court’s docket is and the expected time to trial.

In sum, choosing a court involves careful consideration of various factors before commencing litigation.

Jeremy Walker is a director in the litigation department at McLane Middleton with an emphasis on intellectual property litigation and construction litigation. He can be reached at jeremy.walker@mclane.com.

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by McLane Middleton, Professional Association. We invite your questions of business law. Questions and ideas for future columns should be addressed to: McLane Middleton, 900 Elm St., Manchester, NH 03101 or emailed to knowthelaw@mclane.com. Know the Law provides general legal information, not legal advice. We recommend that you consult a lawyer for guidance specific to your particular situation.

Integrity and trust

At McLane Middleton we establish and maintain long-standing relationships with our clients to help us better achieve their unique goals over time. This approach to building trust requires that our esteemed lawyers and professionals use their broad, in-depth knowledge and work together with integrity to ascertain sound resolutions to legal matters for their clients.

Strength in numbers

McLane Middleton is made up of more than 105 attorneys who represent a broad range of clients throughout the region, delivering customized solutions. As a firm we are recognized as having the highest legal ability rating. The firm is rated Preeminent by Martindale Hubbell and is recognized as one of the nation's leading law firms in Chambers USA. Our attorneys are distinguished leaders in their respective practice areas.

Meet Our People

Commitment and collaboration

McLane Middleton's versatile group of attorneys and paralegals become trusted authorities on each case through collaboration. We work with our clients to learn their individual needs first and foremost and, together, we develop comprehensive solutions to their specific legal matters. This approach helps us exceed our clients' expectations efficiently and effectively, client by client, case by case.

Practice Areas

A history of excellence

McLane Middleton was established in 1919 in New Hampshire, and has five offices across two states. However, deep historical roots don't allow you to become innate. Our firm is organized, technological, and knowledgeable. Our history means we are recognized. But our reputation is built on the highest quality of service and experience in very specific areas of law.

The Firm

Intelligence paired with action

Our team continuously seeks opportunities to enhance their professional development and put key learnings to action. The pursuit of further insight guides us to volunteer service opportunities, speaking engagements, and teaching roles. Our lawyers are sought after thought leaders across their industries, and recipients of leadership awards throughout the region.