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Structure of the Courts

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Structure of the Courts
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State and local courts are established by a state. Federal courts are established under the U.S. Constitution to decide disputes involving the Constitution and laws passed by Congress. Here in the state of North Carolina, the differences between federal and state courts are defined mainly by jurisdiction. Jurisdiction refers to the kinds of cases a court is authorized to hear. North Carolina State courts have a broad jurisdiction, so the cases individual citizens are most likely to be involved in such as robberies, traffic violations, broken contracts, and family disputes -- are usually tried in the states court. The only cases that the state court is not allowed to hear are lawsuits against the United States and those involving certain specific federal laws such as criminal, antitrust, bankruptcy, patent, copyright, and some maritime cases. The Federal courts may hear cases concerning state laws if the issue is whether the state law violates the federal Constitution. Suppose a North Carolina State law forbids slaughtering animals outside of certain areas. A neighborhood association brings a case in state court against a defendant who sacrifices goats in his backyard. When the court issues an order (called an injunction) forbidding the defendant from further sacrifices, the defendant challenges the state law in federal court as an unconstitutional infringement of his religious freedom. Some kinds of conduct are illegal under both federal and state laws here in North Carolina. For example, federal laws prohibit employment discrimination, and the states have added their own laws which also forbid employment discrimination. A person can go to federal or state court to bring a case under the federal law or both the federal and state...

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