2 Organization of the Court Systems Both state and federal court systems haveLower courts: Courts of Original JurisdictionWhere disputes are initially brought and triedGenerally known as trial courtsLook at issues of factAppellate Courts: Courts of Appellate JurisdictionWhere lower court decisions are reviewedLook at issues of law
3 Federal and State Judges Federal JudgesFederal judges are nominated by the PresidentConfirmed by a majority vote in US SenateLifetime appointmentMay be removed from office only if Congress impeaches them (intricate impeachment process and rarely happens)Job security guarantees that judges are independent and free from political pressureState JudgesJudges chosen by variety of methodsUnlike federal court, most state judges serve fixed termsBias? Evidence indicates that for elected judges the average judgment in tort cases are larger and out-of-state companies are treated more poorly than in states with appointed judges.
4 Judicial Immunity A judge is absolutely Immune from suit for damages for judicial acts taken within his/her jurisdiction.Applies even if action is excessive/maliciousPurpose: Judges are not concerned with the relative power parties who appear in court.Purpose: To protect the system from undue influence on judicial decision-makingSee Davis v. West
5 Davis v. WestHouston Reporting Service (HRS) provided court reporting services for attorney Davis who failed to pay HRS. It sued for $ (deposition fee), plus attorney’s fees, interest, costs.Davis did not defend – judge entered a default judgmentHRS began collection effortsCourt appointed Radoff as receiver in the caseIssued an order commanding Radoff to take possession of “all . . monies in deposit [by Davis] in financial institutions ”Radoff sent letter to attorney asking for payment.Radofff sent letter to Davis’s bank demanding that the bank turn over $4, to Radoff. Bank did.Judgment satisfied; HRS was paid; receivership closed.Davis sued Radoff for abuse of processTrial court granted summary judgment for Radoff, as he was entitled to derived judicial immunity. Davis appealed. (Continued)
6 Davis v. West, cont.Held: Affirmed. Radoff is cloaked with derived judicial immunityDerived judicial immunity by a person is same as absolute immunity for judges.Judicial immunity can attach to certain non-judges when judges delegate their authority, appointing another to perform services for the court (as an “officer of the court”).Texas uses the “functional approach”– Looks “whether the person seeking immunity is intimately associated with the judicial processAlso “that person exercises discretionary judgment comparable to that of the judgeFunctional approach focuses on nature of the job performed & if persons’ conduct is like delegating judge.Radoff is “cloaked with derived judicial immunity”Every action “good or bad, honest or dishonest, well-intentioned or not” is immune as applied to the judicial function undertaken
7 The Federal Court System Federal District CourtCourts of original jurisdictionUse juries or judge as “trier of fact”Trial courts deal in issues of factFederal trial courts also use judicial officers called “magistrates”94 federal districts in the court systemUS Court of Appeals12 courtsUsual rule: There is the right to appeal to this court3 judge panels deal in issues of law and review most decisionsEn banc proceeding means all active judges in a circuit will a hear a caseSpecialized Federal CourtsLimited jurisdictionI.e. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit--takes appeals fromU.S. District Court in patent, trademark and copyright casesU.S. Court of Federal ClaimsU.S. Court of International TradeU.S. Tax CourtSee Exhibit 2.2
8 The U.S. Supreme Court Highest court in the country Appellate review courtCases usually heard by 9 justicesTerm begins First Monday in October in Washington, D.C.Reviews cases fromUS District CourtsUS Courts of AppealsHighest Courts of the StatesReview is through Writ of CertiorariOften deals with Constitutional decisionsIf writ not granted, lower court decision is final
9 The Typical State Court System State court of “Original Jurisdiction”Where case is first brought; deals in issues of factUsually called District Court (but in NY, is called the “Supreme Court”)State court of Appellate JurisdictionDeals with appeals and issues of lawUsually called Court of AppealsCan have different names (District Court of Appeals in FL; Appellate Division in NYState Supreme CourtSecond appellate review dealing w/ issues of law if state has intermediate appeals court
10 Rules of Civil Procedure (In United States Code, Title 28) Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: Govern procedural aspects of litigationPleadingsDiscoveryTrial proceduresRelevant motionsStates are free to develop their own procedural rulesMost adopt the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or rules very similar to themSee “Test Yourself”, p. 36
11 Subject Matter Jurisdiction Federal Courts Federal court jurisdiction is derived from the US ConstitutionFederal courts may hear cases involving a federal questionsCases in which the US is a party to the suitCases involving citizens of different statesDiversity of citizenship jurisdictionAmount in Controversy is more than $75,000No $ amount for cases involving federal law
12 Jurisdiction Jurisdiction: Right of a court to hear & decide the case A number of courts may have jurisdiction over a given caseNeed jurisdiction over the subject matterNeed jurisdiction over either persons or propertyIf jurisdiction is lacking, judgment is null & void
13 Subject Matter Jurisdiction State Courts A particular court resolves a particular subject matter:Wills & Trusts: Probate CourtDivorces, Child Custody: Domestic CourtMunicipal Matters: Municipal CourtSmall Claims Court - Limited claims of usually $5000 or less, sometimes up to $7,500 will be heardIf there is not a particular subject matter, case goes to general trial courtCourts of original jurisdiction--where case is first broughtCourts of appellate jurisdiction--where lower court decisions are reviewedIf there is no jury, judge decides the factsGeneral right to appeal to at least one higher court
14 Personal Jurisdiction In Personam Jurisdiction Over the person, usually throughSummons through service of process or substituted serviceResidencyDoing business in the stateSubmission to the jurisdictionSee Exhibit 2.4Out of state defendantsJurisdiction is more difficultServe them while in the stateMay not “trick” them to get into the state for service of process
15 Jurisdiction Over Out-of-State Business Defendants Long-arm StatutesAimed at non-resident businessesProtects states’ citizens from business defendants who do business in the state and then leave the stateSee Exhibit 2.5 re: Long-Arm Statute
16 Territorial Jurisdiction “Minimum Contacts” Sales/branch office is “transacting business” within the stateLandmark case--International Shoe Company v. Washington ( Supreme Court, 1945)Legal contact -- legal “nexus”Examples of “minimum contacts” in a state:Sales representative(s)Selling productAdvertisingPlacing product in specific marketsSee Blimka v. My Web Wholesaler, LLCSee “Can Your Firm Be Reached?”
17 Blimka v. My Web Wholesaler, LLC My Web Wholesalers (of Maine) does business on the Internet.Blimka (of Idaho) surfed the net, found My Web and called DePalma, a My Web manager.Ordered 26,500 pairs of jeans for $20,935 and wired money.Shipment of 16,000 jeans arrived. Blimka called My Web to complain about quality. No satisfaction.Blimka sued My Web and DePalma for fraud in Idaho court. Process was served on them in Maine.No response by defendants; court issued a judgment against both, holding it had jurisdiction. They appealed.HELD: Affirmed. Idaho court has jurisdiction. Defendants’ actions invoked the use of the Idaho long-arm statute.Defendants’ purposeful false misrepresentation directed into Idaho created minimum contacts with Idaho that does not offend 14th Amendment “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice”.Blimka awarded attorney fees and costs.
18 Jurisdiction Based On Power Over Property In rem jurisdictionThe dispute between the parties is over propertyWhere property is located creates jurisdictionWhether the defendant-property owner is within the jurisdiction does not matterTangible property creates in rem jurisdiction--i.e. real estate, personal propertyIntangible property creates in rem--i.e. bank accounts, stocksIf property is removed to another state, no in rem jurisdictionQuasi in rem jurisdictionDefendant’s property is attached to pay for unrelated matterOwnership of property within the state is basis of jurisdictionDecision in quasi in rem binds the parties themselvesProperty can be either real estate or personalProperty can be either tangible or intangible
19 Exclusive Jurisdiction (Over certain cases Exclusive Jurisdiction (Over certain cases. In other disputes jurisdiction may be either in federal or state court systems.)State courts have exclusive jurisdiction over some mattersExamples:DivorceAdoptionMatters controlled by state governmentSupremacy of federal law—state jurisdiction cannot infringe on federal jurisdictionFederal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over some mattersExamples:Federal crimesBankruptcyPatentsCopyrightsFederal questionsCongress can specify by statute exclusive jurisdiction in federal courts
20 Concurrent Jurisdiction Federal and state courts have exclusive jurisdiction over some matters; however,Sometimes both state & federal courts have concurrent jurisdictionThen plaintiff may bring suit in either court systemIf plaintiff chooses state court, defendant has right to remove to federal court (right of removal in diversity of citizenship cases)If plaintiff files suit in defendant’s home state court, defendant cannot move case to federal court.
21 ***Applying Appropriate Law in Federal Court Issue: When there is diversity of citizenship, which substantive law should the federal court apply?Ex: Smith & Jones have contract dispute; Smith is from Arizona; Jones from California. Which law applies?See Erie v. Tompkins
22 Erie RR Co. v. Tompkins (1938) Which Law Applies? Protruding object from train injures TompkinsTompkins--PA citizenErie--incorporated in NYAccident--in PAIf federal common law applies: Erie is liableIf PA common law: Tompkins trespassed & Erie is not liableHeld: Concept of federal common law in diversity of citizenship cases is ended. Courts will apply state law.PA law applies. Tompkins is a trespasser. Erie is not liable.
23 Applying Appropriate Law in State Court Incidents of the case take place in more than one stateConflict of laws or choice of law rules applyRules vary according to nature of dispute, i.e.Contract cases: Laws of state in which contract was made will be appliedTort cases: Laws of state where tort takes placeStates try to look at interests of the parties, gov’t, policiesGeneral rule: Laws apply for state that has the most “significant interest”See Williamson Pounder Architects v. Tunica County, Miss.
24 Williamson Pounder Architects PC v. Tunica County, Miss. Tunica County hired Williamson, a Tennessee company, to design a park.County employees decided park job should expand from $18 to $22 million.Orally approved by County Administrator.Later, Williamson billed County for extra work.County Board of Supervisors refuse to pay—they did not authorize extra work by a vote as required by state law.Williamson sues for breach of contract in federal court—diversity of citizenship.Contract states that Tennessee law would apply (choice-of-law clause).County claims Mississippi law applies as state law requires state contracts to be under state law.Federal district court agrees with County and dismisses suit.Williamson appeals to federal appeals court. It affirms.In Mississippi the “center of gravity” of a case is most important to determine jurisdiction. In Mississippi, oral contracts cannot be formed or enforced against counties.Mississippi public policy controls; Tennessee law (which would likely produce opposite result) does not apply.
25 VenueDoctrine of forum non conveniens - a special venue doctrine: Either party may request a change of venue to a more convenient court that could hear the case. Court will consider such issues asWhere actions of case take placeWhere witnesses are locatedUnfair burdens to partiesVenue: Appropriate geographical location of the court that has jurisdictionIn controversial or well-publicized cases, defendants will ask for change of venue