What Kind of Cases Are Heard in Federal Court?


The types of cases heard in federal court are those in which the United States is directly involved. For example, cases with parties in different states often qualify for federal court. Federal courts also hear cases pertaining to Constitutional law, copyright, patient law, maritime activity and violations of federal laws.

Only specific types of criminal cases are eligible for federal court. International drug trafficking cases qualify for federal adjudication if the drugs crossed the U.S. border. Federal courts also hear drug cases in which the drugs crossed state lines. Other federal criminal cases are those involving crimes committed on federal property, such as at a Post Office, national park or government building. Mail fraud is also a federal offense. Federal courts also handle select civil cases. To qualify for federal court, a lawsuit must involve parties in multiple states and the plaintiff must seek an amount not less than $75,000. Bankruptcies and international trade suits frequently qualify for federal court.

Certain cases qualify for both state and federal court. These include class-action lawsuits, environmental lawsuits, disputes regarding the interaction of state and federal laws, and cases involving simultaneous violation of state and federal laws. Civil rights cases occasionally qualify for both court systems as well.