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Basic Legal Research: Jurisdiction

This guide is intended to support your legal research instruction as a part of Legal Methods. It does not replace any instructions from your professor.

Jurisdiction Matters

Is the issue governed by federal law, state law, or both?

What law is involved - a constitutional provision, a statute, common law (case law), an administrative regulation, or a combination thereof?

If litigated, will the action be filed in state or federal court? Even if state law is at issue, does diversity of citizenship exist permitting filing in federal court? Which court rules will govern? Are there local rules you need to know and follow?

You need to answer these questions before beginning your research.

State or Federal?

Not sure whether you're looking at a state or federal issue? Use the CALI lesson Decision Point: State or Federal? to help you determine your jurisdiction.

Listen to the podcast How to Select Case Law When Writing a Legal Memo on a State Law Issue from CALI.

U.S. Court System

The U.S. court system is separated into federal and state courts.  Each system has a similar hierarchy, with the highest or supreme authority being the courts of last resort, at least one intermediate or appellate court, and a district or trial level court.

     U.S. FEDERAL COURTS                                                                              FLORIDA STATE COURTS

Understanding Appellate Jurisdiction