The prosecution’s discretion as to where to bring a case lies in the hands of the prosecutor. However, there are some instances in which a state court case may be moved to federal court based on the size and number of defendants involved. Often, a federal prosecutor becomes interested in a case for a variety of reasons. For example, a federal prosecutor might request that the state court dismiss charges, or they may determine that they can obtain a better result through state prosecution.
A common example of this is a case concerning employment discrimination, where a state law prohibits a business from firing a person who rebuffs a neighbor. In this scenario, the state court could order the defendant to stop any further sacrifices. The defendant might challenge this ruling in federal court, and the case would then move to federal court. Whether a case is state or federal is a complicated question, but knowing how to distinguish between the two is a good starting point.
The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over both types of cases. Federal courts hear appeals from state cases. The appeals process begins at the federal district court. In case of federal-state disputes, these appeals will be heard by the federal Supreme Court. Generally, the Supreme Court will consider cases based on federal law, even if the lawsuit is based on a state law. For instance, a case involving First Amendment freedom of speech could be heard in the federal Supreme Court.
Although many cases will fall under federal jurisdiction, some cases are not and therefore should remain under the jurisdiction of a state court. Diversity jurisdiction is another common reason why a federal court is the better choice. This type of case is limited to cases involving multiple states and involves potential damages over $75,000, but the plaintiff can choose the jurisdiction. By choosing a state court, the plaintiff should understand the pros and cons of each system.
One of the biggest differences between state and federal courts is the type of cases the judges hear. Federal judges usually hear fewer cases than state court judges, and there is only one case on each hearing in federal courts. Federal judges are more predictable than state court prosecutors. Federal prosecutors also tend to dismiss cases less often. A federal court, on the other hand, adheres to a more expedient trial process.
If a judge rules in favor of one party, but the other side disagrees with the ruling, the case can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the state court’s decision is overturned, a party may request a new trial in a general jurisdiction or trial de novo. A state court cannot review a case that is not under federal jurisdiction. This is one of the reasons for the distinction between state and federal jurisdiction.
Prosecutors in state and federal courts work differently. Federal prosecutors, called Assistant United States Attorneys, generally play a more prominent role in cases. They screen potential cases and file charges when they think a case is worth prosecuting. By contrast, state prosecutors evaluate cases only after they’ve been arrested. While federal prosecutors have more prestige and work, many state prosecutors are equally talented.