Notes from Instructor - The U. S. Legal System and Court Jurisdiction.docx

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JURISDICTION AND VENUE There are TWO types of jurisdiction: 1) SUBJECT MATTER and 2) PERSONAL. Subject matter jurisdiction deals with whether a court can even hear a dispute. Some courts have "exclusive" subject matter jurisdiction. For instance, only federal courts can hear disputes concerning copyright law; state courts cannot render decisions relating to copyright. On the other hand, trademark law disputes (product names, for instance) can be heard by both federal and state courts. This is known as "concurrent" subject matter jurisdiction since the dispute can be heard in either a federal or a state court. In Colorado state courts, the County Court has subject matter jurisdiction for civil matters seeking damages of less than $25,000. The District Court has concurrent subject matter jurisdiction for disputes involving damages sought of $0-$24,999 and exclusive subject matter jurisdiction for civil disputes seeking at least $25,000 in damages, and for other matters, including criminal felonies and divorce. One reason to take a dispute involving less than $25,000 to District Court is that more pre-trial "discovery" of facts is permitted in District Court. County Court, on the other hand, schedules its trials with far less delay than in the District Court system. Subject matter jurisdiction in the federal court system is limited and there are only two ways to "make a federal case" out of a dispute. The first means of federal subject matter jurisdiction is if a "federal question" is involved. This could be a dispute involving 1) a federal statute (such as the Clean Air Act), 2) a federal administrative rule or decision (i. e. a recall of tires by the National Highway Safety Administration) or 3) the U. S. Constitution. There is no dollar minimum required for "federal case" jurisdiction. The second way into federal court is known as "diversity jurisdiction." In diversity jurisdiction situations, the case can be brought in either federal or state court. No federal question need be involved, but TWO requirements must be met to file the case in federal court. First, the plaintiffs (who bring the lawsuit) must not reside in any of the states in which the defendants reside. Secondly, the amount in dispute must exceed $75,000. If there are two California plaintiffs, and one Colorado defendant and one California defendant, the dispute cannot be heard in federal court (unless federal question jurisdiction applied).

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