There is a federal court system in Arizona and there’s also a state court system in Arizona. It can actually be a very complicated issue to figure out where a case belongs. Is it subject to federal jurisdiction or should it in state court?
There are some advantages for a plaintiff of being in state court as opposed to federal court. I would say as a general rule, plaintiffs’ attorneys would prefer to be in state court, but there are some benefits to being in federal court for plaintiffs as well.
The biggest difference, at least in my opinion, between state court and federal court from the plaintiff’s perspective is that in state court you need to persuade six of the eight jurors in order to get a verdict. You don’t have to convince everybody. If there’s one person on that jury that is not going to budge, they’re not going to come over to your side on the case, that’s okay. You don’t need them to. You need six out of eight.
That’s not the case in federal court. In federal court, to get a verdict, you need unanimity. That can be a bit scary for plaintiffs because you run the risk that there’s that one person that won’t budge. For that reason, I think that most plaintiffs’ attorneys prefer to be in state court.
Now, there are some advantages actually for a plaintiff in federal court and, in my opinion, one of the biggest advantages is that in federal court you have a judge who has adequate resources in terms of clerks that are working for him or her that they can really dig into all of the motions that get submitted to them.
I don’t worry as much in federal court that I’m going to get a ruling that I don’t think is well-grounded because I know that they’re really digging into the motion.
In state court, I mean none of the judges in state court got there without being very intelligent but they also have a huge case load and not a lot of assistance available to them, so they’re not able to delve into the motions that come across their desk in quite the same detail as judges in federal court are.
For me, that’s one benefit that I like about federal court. I know that I’m going to have rulings on the motions that are really very thoroughly vetted and I like that.
As a plaintiff, what are your options between state court and federal court? As I mentioned earlier, as a general rule and I’m not an exception to that rule, plaintiffs’ attorneys prefer to be in state court because that’s usually where most lawsuits get filed is in state court.
However, defendants do have the ability to remove those lawsuits into federal court in some circumstances and those circumstances would include where there’s diversity of citizenship where you have citizens from two different states and so a federal court will step in and say, “Well, we’re going to take jurisdiction over this dispute because it’s not fair that an Arizona court would be presiding over this litigation between an Arizona citizen and a California citizen,” for example.
Now, the reality of the situation is I don’t think that an Arizona court is going to give some unfair home court advantage to the Arizona citizen but that’s what the law is, and so when there’s diversity of citizenship, the defendant has the ability to remove the case into federal court. It still could be an Arizona jury that’s hearing that case because it’s going to be in federal district court in Arizona but that’s one way that cases can end up in federal court.
Another way that cases can end up in federal court is when the issues that are being litigated are issues of federal law. In those cases where you have only issues of federal law, it may be that federal court jurisdiction is proper and you may have your case removed into federal court in those circumstances as well.
At the end of the day, as a plaintiff it’s probably something that you don’t need to worry too much about. It’s something that your lawyer is going to certainly consider before the lawsuit gets filed, and there’s probably this preference for state court but it’s not that big of a deal, at least in my opinion, as to whether you’re in state court or federal court. It doesn’t alter the way I evaluate a case.
Please watch all of my videos in my series “All About Arizona Juries” and I’d be happy to have feedback from you and I’ll reply to any comments that I receive.
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