Diversity Jurisdiction of Federal Courts

Even under the appointive system, the selection of judges is subject to the influence of politics and the appointees are selected from the political party of the President or Governor. However the names of the proposed candidates for appointment as judges have to be submitted to a committee of the American Bar Association. The appointments are made only when the committee clears the candidates for their qualification. The Office of the chief justice is usually filled in the same manner as other judicial judges.

But some of the states follow the system of appointing the judges from among the members of the court by rotation. In making such appointments, the seniority of service and the vote of the judges are also taken into account. The Chief Justice of the United States is appointed by the President subject to the confirmation of the Senate. The judges normally serve for a term of service rather than for life. For lower courts the term of service is generally four, six or eight years and for appellate courts it is six, eight or ten years.

Even the initial appointment is made by popular election it is customary to return the sitting judges to the offices when their services were found to be satisfactory. In the case of few of the state courts and the federal courts the judges occupy the positions for life. A judge on the bench whether for a term or for life cannot be removed from the office for any reason except for a gross misconduct and also only by following the procedure of formal proceedings . However there are only few incidences of removal of federal judges by formal proceedings.

In order to improve the appointment process of the federal judges it is better to specify a basic qualification in terms of the number of years of service in the practice of legal profession as at present it is not the case. Now the position is more political oriented rather than the profession oriented. Hence it is advisable that certain years of experience be specified as necessary for qualifying the candidates for appointment as judges. This would necessarily bring the years of experience along with the judges when they occupy the jobs.

The distribution of power between states and federal also influence the determination of jurisdiction of state and federal courts. The Constitution has granted certain powers to the federal and the states enjoy the residual powers. Whatever judicial jurisdiction that has not been granted to the federal courts exclusively would remain with the state courts. Therefore the division of powers is to be considered in relation to federal courts rather than jurisdiction of the state courts. The understanding of the concept of jurisdiction is lot easier in the case of state courts.

Every state in the United States has its own court system to solve the cases arising in the respective states. For instance a case in which a citizen of Mississippi sues a citizen of Alabama with respect to the litigation on a real estate property in Georgia then the case can be heard in any of the three states involved and not in any other state. The case will be dismissed in a fourth state on the ground that there is no jurisdiction. However the federal courts have more extensive jurisdiction than the state courts in that they cover the entire nation of the United States.

The Supreme Court can hear cases from any state and the Federal Courts of Appeal can hear cases from any of the states covered in their region except for the District of Columbia Circuit court which hears cases from the DC only. The Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases where even one of the parties is outside the US. There is yet another form of jurisdiction which is known as ‘subject matter jurisdiction’ which denotes the power of the federal courts to hear and decide on certain subject matter in question.

For instance the federal courts are not authorized to probate a Will, as it is not the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts. This matter has always been the subject matter of the state courts. Cases involving patents can be heard by the federal courts and the state courts do not have the power to decide on the patent cases. “Federal courts also have "exclusive" subject matter jurisdiction over copyright cases, admiralty cases, lawsuits involving the military, immigration laws, and bankruptcy proceedings” .

There are three major types of subject matter of jurisdiction of the Federal courts: •    Federal Question Jurisdiction •    Diversity Jurisdiction and •    Supplemental Jurisdiction Federal courts in general possess the ‘federal question’ jurisdiction which covers issues involving Constitution or Federal laws. Federal law authorizes the federal courts to hear cases where the opposing parties are the citizens belonging to different states. This is known as ‘diversity jurisdiction’ as the plaintiff and the defendant have different or diverse state citizenship.

Diversity jurisdiction enables the federal courts to decide a case where there is not a federal question. The federal courts provide a fair opportunity for the citizens of different states to have a fair forum where they can have their cases heard. According to the Federal Law governing the diversity jurisdiction in order that a federal court can hear a case the amount in dispute should be $ 75,000 or more. Diversity jurisdiction also covers exceptional cases of probate cases and family law cases which are handled by the state courts.

For a federal court to have the diversity jurisdiction there should exist complete diversity among the litigating parties. For example a case filed by a citizen of Georgia having defendants from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia can not be heard in a federal court as the plaintiff and one of the defendants are from the same state which does not signify complete diversity. Still this head is necessary due to the fact that: Jurisdiction can be construed as the power granted to certain courts to hear a given case.

Jurisdiction is considered important because it places the limitation on the powers of the court to hear cases. In case the courts do not exercise jurisdictional powers it may so happen that every court has conceivably hear every case brought to them which ultimately would result in confusion and contradiction in settling the litigations. Hence such a distribution of the powers among federal and state courts can be considered necessary.