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Making a Federal Case Out of It


by Barbara M. Callahan, Esq.

There are actually two judicial systems operating in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; the federal court system and the Massachusetts court system.   Both are provided for by their respective constitutions; the federal courts by the United States Constitution and the state courts from the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (which is sometimes referred to as the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights).  Both have court houses across Massachusetts and their jury pools are made up of Massachusetts residents.  But did you know some of the major differences between the two systems?

The Massachusetts court system, like the court systems in most states, hears cases involving probate and family law matters, contract matters, juvenile cases, property and land issues, and most criminal cases.  Our state system also deals with cases related to the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and Massachusetts laws and regulations.

Most personal injury cases are heard here in Massachusetts state courts; but if a case involves another person or entity in a different state (or country) and involves more that $75,000 in potential damages, then it may be filed in federal court as a “diversity” action.  If a case involves some sort of federal law or constitutional right, it may also be brought in federal court as a “federal question.”  If there are many claims involved in a particular case, with some being state claims and others being federal claims, then that case may also be brought in federal court.

Sometimes one can have a choice of courts given the circumstances of a case.   There are a lot of considerations that go into where and what level a case should be filed.   We practice in both the federal and state courts, and our knowledge and experience offers an advantage to those individuals who may have a personal injury claim.



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