Claims based on rights granted by an act of Congress

I. QUESTION: How many of you have ever been in a court room either as part of he case or as a witness.
II. PURPOSE. The purpose of this chapter is to give you an understanding of when a court and which courts have
power to decide a dispute.
A. Background. Once the decision to sue has been made, a lawyer must make some procedural decisions.
The first major procedural decision is the selection of a proper court
B. Jurisdiction. Before any court can hear a case, it must have the power to hear the case. This is called
1. A court of proper jurisdiction is one that can render a judgment that is binding on the parties
and is enforceable in other courts. Without jurisdiction, a court cannot exercise any authority
in the case
a. In order for a court to exercise valid authority, one of two things must occur:
(1) The court must have jurisdiction over the person against whom the suit is
brought and subject matter of the case OR
(2) The court must have jurisdiction over the property involved and the subject
matter of the case.
C. Personal Jurisdiction. The first key point that we must remember is that " in order to consider a case, a
court must have power over the person or the property
involved in the action. Do example.
1. Three Types of Personal Jurisdiction. There are three types of personal jurisdiction
a. In Personam Jurisdiction. The first is "in personam jurisdiction." This is merely power
over the person 

(1) Example. Larry sues Mo in a North Carolina Court. Larry and Mo live in NC.
Under this situation, the court has "in personam" jurisdiction over Mo because
Mo lives in NC.
b. In Rem. Compare this with "in rem" jurisdiction. In this case, the action is taken
directly against the property
(1) Example. If Larry lived in NC and Mo lived in Florida, then NC can't get "in
personam" jurisdiction, but if
the property was in NC, then
the NC court would have
jurisdiction over the property.
D. Subject Matter Jurisdiction. Subject matter jurisdiction is defined as the power or authority of a court
to "decide a particular type of legal dispute.
1. Usually Defined by Statute or the Constitution. The subject matter jurisdiction is usually defined
in the statute or constitution that created the court.
a. Example 1: Probate Court - Court that handles only wills and estates.
b. Example 

2: Family Court - Court that handles disputes involving members of the family
(such as divorce and child custody).
E. General vs. Limited Jurisdictions. You must also know generally the difference between a court of
general jurisdiction and a court of limited jurisdiction.
1. General Jurisdiction. A court of general jurisdiction can decide almost any type of case. Some
examples of such courts are district courts, circuit courts and county courts.
2. Limited Jurisdiction. A court of limited jurisdiction hears only specialized or limited subject
matter cases. Again, the family court is one example.
F. Original vs. Appellate Jurisdiction. The text clarifies this distinction. Courts having original
jurisdiction are those who first hear the case, while appellate jurisdiction deals with a court who reviews
the decision of a lower court.
1. Example. NC Court of Appeals may review cases of district courts of North Carolina. NC Court
of Appeals are never the court of original jurisdiction.
IV. VENUE. Venue simply means the "place of trial." Venue rules attempt to allocate cases within a judicial system
in a manner that is convenient for the parties, witnesses and the court.
1. General Rule. The general rule is that venue is proper where the incident occurred or where the parties
involved in the suit reside.
a. Example 1: Barney Fife ran into Gomer's car. Barney and Gomer live in NC and the accident
occurred in NC. What state has proper venue?
(1) Answer. NC because Barney and Gomer lived in NC and the incident occurred in NC.
b. Example 2: Barney ran into Floyd's car. Barney lives in NC and Floyd lives in Texas. The
accident occurred in Florida. Where is venue proper?
(1) Answer: NC, Texas, or Florida.
NC because Barney lives there
Texas because Floyd lives there
Florida because the accident occurred there.
V. STANDING TO SUE. This is a "WHO" question. When we say a person must have standing to assert a claim,
we mean a party must have a legally protectible and tangible interest at stake in the litigation.
A. Standing focuses on the party asserting the claim.
B. The party must have been injured or be threatened with injury by the action complained of.
C. EXAMPLE. Barney Fife was a member Mayberry's police force. He was also a member of the local
police lodge. You had to be a police officer to be a member of the lodge. After Barney opening opposed
Major Pike's re-election, the police lodge voted to expel Barney out of the lodge. Barney resigned from
the police force the next day. After Barney's resignation, he file an action in the federal district court
seeking to be re-instated into the lodge. WHAT'S THE OUTCOME?

. Since Barney resigned from the Mayberry police force, he lacks standing
to challenge his expulsion because you had to be a police officer to be a member of the police
VI. COURT SYSTEMS. Let's take a look at the court systems.
A. State Court System.
1. Background. I want to try to keep this concept pretty simple because there are variations based
on the circumstance. In general, there are three level to a court system: the trial court, Appellate
Court and the State Supreme Court.
a. General Rule. The general rule is that a trial court decision is automatically appealable
to the Appellate Court. BUT, the Supreme court must accept it before it will hear the
(1) NC Supreme Court. There are two types of cases that are automatically
appealable to the State Supreme Court. They are Utility Rate Case Hearing and
hearings where the person has been sentenced to "death." 

2. Become familiar with Exhibit 2-1 on page 23; You will probably see it again.
3. General v. Limited Jurisdiction Trial Courts. We briefly touched on this topic earlier. Just to
make sure we got it, general jurisdiction trial courts can hear practically any case, while limited
jurisdiction trial courts can only hear certain types of cases.
4. Hierarchy of Courts. Some additional points about state court decisions.
a. In most states, the state supreme court is the highest court in the state.
b. Appeal court's responsibility is to review lower courts decisions. They try to determine
whether the lower court committed an error.
(1) NOTE, the Appeals court looks for an errors in "law and procedure" not in
c. US Supreme Court may override. The general rule is that the State's Supreme Court
Decision is final. The only exception is when it is a question of federal law. In this case
it may be overruled by the US Supreme Court.
B. Federal Court Systems.
1. Organization.
a. District Courts. These courts are very similar to state trial courts in that federal cases
usually arise in this type of court. The key points are:
(1) Each state has at least one district court.
(2) District judges are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of
(3) US District courts have original jurisdiction in federal matters.
b. US Courts of Appeal. The Courts of Appeal hears cases from the district court. Key
points are:
(1) Usually, the decisions of the Courts of Appeal are final, but in rare situations
they may be appealed to the US Supreme Court.
c. Supreme Court of the United States. This is the highest court in the land.
(1) This court consists of nine justices. These justices are nominated by the
President and confirmed by the Senate.
(2) Once they get there, they are in the job for life (i.e. a lifetime appointment)
(3) The Supreme Court can review any case decided by a lower federal court and it
may review some state court decisions.
2. Judicial Review. Judicial review means that the courts have the authority and power to
determine if a particular law is in violation of the Constitution.
a. Marbury v. Madison. This was established in the famous case of Marbury v.
b. Why is this so Important? It is important because any statute or law passed by
government is subject to the courts' review. You see, the government may pass a
law, but if the court rules that it is unconstitutional, then the law is void.
c. Roe v. Wade was a classic example. In this case, the Texas legislature mandated
an out right ban on abortion.
(1) The US Supreme Court held that such a ban violated an individual's
right to privacy and therefore struck down the Texas Statute as being
2. Jurisdiction and Standing to Sue.
a. The General Problem is " to what extent may Congress curtail the jurisdiction of the
Supreme Court or the lower federal courts.
(1) Answer. Congress has the power to control the number and kind of inferior
courts in the federal system. This is critical because it helps spread the
balance of power between the different branches of government.
b. Federal Question. Whenever a cause of action is based on the US Constitution or any
federal law, then it is a federal question. If it is a federal question, then the case comes
under the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Some examples include: 

(1) Claims based on rights granted by an act of Congress
(2) Claims based on violation of Constitutional rights.
(3) Diversity of Citizenship. Diversity of citizenship cases are those arising between
(1) citizens of different states,

 (2) a foreign country and citizens of a state and
(3) citizens of a state and citizens or subject of a foreign country. The amount in
controversy must also exceed $50,000.
(a) Look at the "Big Picture." The primary reason for diversity of
citizenship is that it was feared that State courts would be biased against
individuals from other States.
(b) Heavy Dee, who is from (let's say NY) hits Aunt Bees car. Aunt Bee is
from Texas. The accident also happens in Texas. Aunt Bees car is
totally destroyed and she has substantial medical bill (i.e. exceeding
$50,000). Do you think Heavy Dee is going to get a fair trial in a Texas
(A) Answer. Probably not. That's why Heavy Dee may take the
case to federal district court.
d. Which Case Reach the Supreme Court.
(1) General Rule. The general rule is that there is no absolute right of appeal to the
US Supreme Court.
(2) Writ of Certiorari. To bring a case before the Supreme Court, a party requests
the Court to issue a "writ of certiorari." This is an order issued by the
Supreme Court to the lower court requiring the lower court to send the case to
them for review.
(A) NOTE, such a writ is not automatic. It is in the discretion of the
Supreme Court.
(B) Page 29 lists some situations in which the Supreme Court may issue a
writ of certiorari.

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