1. Diversity cases: First, the federal district courts may hear cases arising between “citizens of different states,” in which more than $75,000 is involved. See 28 U.S.C. §1332. (Also, the courts may hear a case between a citizen of an American state and any foreign subject.) The right to hear cases between citizens of different states is known as the grant of “diversity” jurisdiction, and the cases are called “diversity cases.”
2. Federal question cases: Second, the federal district courts may hear any civil action “arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. §1331. Cases falling under this provision are typically called “federal question” cases.
D. Both systems studied: In a typical first-year Civil Procedure course, both judicial systems are studied. However, certain “chapters” of the course typically focus on just state-court concerns or just federal concerns. Other chapters relate heavily to both systems. Thus “jurisdiction over the parties” relates to both federal and state systems; “subject matter jurisdiction,” on the other hand, is limited to the federal-court context.
E. A road map: Here is a sort of “road map” for analyzing a Civil Procedure problem. If you are currently at the beginning of your Civil Procedure course, just look at this road map quickly, to get some sense of the lay of the land. If you are towards the end, and studying for exams, try to memorize this map so that you can use it as a checklist for spotting issues:
1. Personal jurisdiction: First, make sure that the court has “personal jurisdiction” or “jurisdiction over the parties.” In brief, this means that you must check to make sure that the court can hear the case against the particular defendant. You must check to make sure that: (1) D had minimum contacts with the forum state (whether the court is a state or federal court); and (2) D received such notice and opportunity to be heard as to satisfy the constitutional requirement of due process.
2. Venue: Then, check whether venue was correct. In federal court suits (which are the only types of suits as to which venue problems are usually covered in a Civil Procedure course), the venue requirement describes what judicial district the case may be heard in. Essentially, the case must be heard either: (1) in any district where the defendant resides (with special rules for multi-defendant cases); or (2) in any district in which a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claim occurred. See 28 U.S.C. §1391. (There are special provisions giving venue for other districts in special cases, but most of the time you should be concerned with just “defendant’s residence” or “place of events” venue.)