Federal Question Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Federal Question, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Federal Question?

n. A lawsuit basis in federal court that is based on one of the subject specified in the U.S. Constitution or when a federal statute is involved. If a federal question exists, the federal court has jurisdiction.

History and Meaning of Federal Question

A federal question in legal terms refers to a matter of federal law or constitution that a claim of a case is based upon. According to the US Constitution, lawsuits involving certain subject matters that fall under federal jurisdiction are heard in federal court. Examples of these subject matters include federal statutes and treaties, disputes between states, and any issue that touches on the federal Constitution or federal law.

The origin of the federal question doctrine can be traced back to 1875 when the Supreme Court passed the Judicial Code of 1875 that defined and granted the jurisdiction of the federal courts. However, the concept of federal question as a basis for federal jurisdiction dates back to the Judiciary Act of 1789, which was the first piece of legislation passed by the newly created US Congress.

Examples of Federal Question

  1. A person sues a corporation for a breach of contract of a federal government contract.
  2. An individual challenges the constitutionality of a federal statute
  3. A person brings a case against a state government for violating their constitutional rights.

Legal Terms Similar to Federal Question

  1. Diversity Jurisdiction: Refers to cases involving citizens of different states or citizens of the US and a foreign country. The federal court can hear these cases if the amount disputed is above $75,000.
  2. Original Jurisdiction: This term is used when a court has the authority to hear a case for the first time before any other court.
  3. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction: Refers to the authority that a court has to hear a particular type of case, such as bankruptcy cases or family law cases.