federal court or state court for developers (U.S.)?

I know that developers often want their zoning disputes with local government taken to federal court instead of state court (I don’t think they’ve been able to win on this, but correct me if I am wrong). Why? Is there some feature of federal courts in general that makes this a more desireable venue, or is it just that for now they are assumed to be more “friendly” to developers due to appointments?


Federal courts and procedures are more uniform and predictable. Federal judges are also (rightly or wrongly) perceived as more impartial (because appointed, not elected as in some state courts) and (sometimes) sharper.

Thanks. I guess also, federal laws give you only one legislative target to lobby.

That’s probably true too. I do not know how zoning issues would readily get before a federal court, unless there is some arguable constitutional “takings” issue in play.

Federal law may or may not come into it; if the plaintiff is suing under in federal court under diversity jurisdiction, the federal judges apply state law. If it’s federal question jurisdiction, the federal courts may (or may not) be the only place the case can be heard. It’s only when the federal and state courts have concurrent jurisdiction that choosing a court comes into play.

Huerta88 covered most of why someone may prefer federal court if it’s an option. Federal judges are generally seen as sharper and more predictable than their state court colleages; in addition, a lot of lawyers just prefer to get their case into federal court in the hopes that the other side will be intimidated and less familiar with federal civil procedure. In your example there’s a more specific reason as well: local government. If you were suing your local government you’d probably be concened that your state court judge, as another locally elected official, might be concerned about angering the community or making political enemies. Federal judges sit for life and generally couldn’t give two shits about angering anybody or making any political enemies any lower than the U.S. Senate judiciary committee.