Why do most people say a defendant should NOT take a case to trial if its federal?
It is difficult to answer this question without understanding the context in which you are asking it. But generally speaking, federal practice can be a bit more stringent than state court practice and from a procedural standpoint, a bit more complex. If you are a defendant, you don't get to pick your forum, the plaintiff or prosecutor picks the forum. Thus, if you are sued in federal court and jurisdiction is proper there, you must defend yourself there, with one exception. If your a defendant in a matter that originated in state court and your attorney removed the case to federal court, the plaintiff can remand the case back to state court within 30 days of its removal. Now, hypothetically speaking, if you did not agree with your attorney's tactical decision to remove your case from state court, then you need to talk to your attorney. If the case was properly brought in federal court, your stuck with that forum. Generally speaking, however, federal judges are quite fair, highly ethical and extremely knowledgable about the law. If given the opportunity to choose between state or federal forums, I would certainly choose federal, especially within the context of deciding whether to take a case to trial. The federal rules of civil procedure are very favorable to defendants and require pretrial disclosures of all information, evidence and witnesses the parties anticipate utilizing at trial. Nothing is a surprise. Whereas, at the state level, you might not know what trial exhibits the opposing side will use until the day of trial. Moreover, you may not even know who is going to be called as a witness, and you certainly won't have the time to depose any such witness. State court trials can be a bit of "trial by ambush" whereas federal court trials have very few surprises and with decent and methodical preparation, a federal court defendant can do quite well. If however, you are speaking of criminal defense, well, then that may be a different story. Generally, criminal defendants at the federal level are sentenced to longer sentences than criminal defendants at the state level, this being particularly true if the charge is a drug offense. However, the burden of proof is still quite high and if you think the prosecution may not be able to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, then it would be in your best interest to take the case to trial. Sentencing guidelines at the federal level are quite stringent with little room to mitigate an offense calculation. Thus, judges are not allowed much discretion in departing from the grid. Generally speaking though, I find that practice at the federal level suits people who are a little more technical, who understand complexities easily and who generally excel academically. But that is just my opinion based on my experience at the federal level. Good luck to you!
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Two comments. First, I have NEVER heard anyone say that in my 20+ years of involvement with matters in the Federal Courts. Second, without more context (i.e. civil, criminal, cost involved relative to amount in dispute, etc.) it is impossible to understand what the "most people" you refer to are referring to.
In my experience, from the standpoint of merits, if you are a defendant and the case law and/or statutes are favorable to you or neutral, and/or have good evidence that reasonably or seemingly conclusively establishes one or more defenses that allow you to avoid liability, you have no reason not to take your Federal case to trial (assuming that you can not acceptably settle). Moreover, I have never seen a Federal Judge who did not give a defendant a really fair shake (unless they were clearly playing games or stupidly did something to "tick off" the Judge).
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Mr. Straussman gives you good advice. I have never heard the admonition that a defendant must not take a case to trial in federal court, and have difficulty believing that "most people" say that. Frankly, I think that if one has a good defense, one might even be better off in federal court, because most federal judges are, as a general matter, unusually accomplished.
Good luck to you.
Michael S. Haber is a New York attorney. As such, his responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to his understanding of law in the jurisdiction in which he practices and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as rendering legal advice involves the ability of the attorney to ask appropriate questions of the person seeking such advice and to thus gather appropriate information. In addition, an attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement. The purpose of this answer is to provide the questioner with general information, not to outline specific legal rights and remedies.
Who are "most people"?
There is no way to answer this question in a general sense save to say when the federal government decides to bring charges against in individual, they typically have all of their "i's dotted and t's crossed."
That being said, there are many cases where a trial is beneficial.
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