The United States is a federal republic. This basically implies to the fact that in addition to having a national (federal) government, the country also exist fifty semi-independent state governments. As Judge Charles Burns points out, there are two basic types of court systems in the United States: the federal court system and the various state court systems. The federal court system consists of three levels: the district courts, the circuit courts of appeals, and the Supreme Court. On the other hand, each state has its own court system, which may vary in structure
Judge Charles Burns underlines how the federal and state court systems interact
The judicial system of the United States comprises of both federal and state courts. Each of these court systems has its own distinct jurisdiction and responsibilities. However, even though they do operate in an independent manner, the state and federal court systems ideally interact in diverse ways to uphold the rule of law, as well as provide justice to individuals across the nation.
There are instances where both federal and state courts can have jurisdiction over a case. This is known as concurrent jurisdiction. In such a situation, the plaintiff or petitioner may opt to file the case in either federal or state court, based on the specific legal issues involved and the desired outcome. Basically, if a case involves both a federal law and a state law claim, the plaintiff may choose to bring the case in federal court, asserting federal jurisdiction, or file it in state court. In a similar manner, a state court of general jurisdiction may have concurrent jurisdiction with specialized courts in the same state, like family courts or small claims courts.
In case a defendant if the case involves federal law or raises significant federal issues, at times a case initially filed in state court may be “removed” to federal court. This allows the defendant to transfer the case from state court to federal court, as long as the federal court has jurisdiction over the matter. On the other hand, if a case filed in federal court no longer involves federal issues or meets the criteria for federal jurisdiction, the federal court may “remand” the case back to state court.
As Judge Charles Burns mentions, the principle of federal preemption comes into play in situations where federal law conflicts with state law. Federal preemption essentially occurs when federal law takes precedence or supersedes conflicting state laws. This implies that the state courts must apply federal law for cases where federal preemption is established. The Supreme Court is responsible for resolving disputes regarding federal preemption and ensuring the uniformity of federal law.
The federal and state court systems have separate appeal processes. However, they might interact in cases where the Supreme Court is asked to review decisions from both federal and state appellate courts. The Supreme Court of the United States might review state court decisions if they involve federal law or raise constitutional issues. This enables the Supreme Court to effectively resolve conflicts between state court interpretations of federal law and offer authoritative guidance on constitutional matters.