1. What Is a Cause of Action?
2. How Did Cause of Action Start in Federal Courts?

Federal causes of action relate to a party's right to take legal action due to a violation of its legal rights. This is different from the general term cause of action. In federal litigation, a party only has cause of action if it has a recognized statutory or constitutional right to sue for a violation.

What Is a Cause of Action?

Plaintiffs are required to have a cause of action before being allowed to sue in federal court. The arena of federal litigation has a special meaning for this term.

Most attorneys use the terms legal claim and cause of action in the same way to indicate a plaintiff's legal rights violated by a defendant. In American law, cause of action is frequently used, and plaintiffs plead this all the time.

Plaintiffs may have a cause of action even when they're not entitled to any relief. For instance, a plaintiff may sue for declaratory or injunctive relief, even though the case doesn't meet preconditions for these types of remedies.

A cause of action is a set of factual elements that call for a legal remedy. The elements a plaintiff needs for a specific cause of action may come from the following:

  • Statute
  • Constitution
  • Administrative regulation
  • Judicial precedent

A lawsuit may contain several causes of action listed separately, such as the following:

By the end of the 20th century, federal courts began reacting to the administrative state and statutory innovations. As a result, they began to differentiate between rights, remedies, causes of action, and jurisdiction. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is just as guilty as other courts in not always using cause of action correctly. This causes unnecessary confusion for a variety of legal issues.

How Did Cause of Action Start in Federal Courts?

For a long time, judges and scholars have debated federal common causes of action, which weren't created by state law or Congress. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected federal general common law in Erie Railroad v. Tompkins. Since then, the court has cautiously embraced some specific aspects of common law.

In federal court, there's a question regarding federal judicial power and if it can recognize common law causes of action. For example, a federal court may recognize implied causes of action for a federal statute violation, but that doesn't create a cause of action itself.

Despite the longstanding debate between courts and scholars, they have failed to reach a consensus or find a solution on how to resolve it. Judges and scholars have come to different conclusions using different contexts about the level of power federal courts have in recognizing federal common law.

From the time the U.S. was founded up through the 19th century, the Supreme Court didn't recognize common law in the federal area. It's a false premise that federal courts used the common law as an abstract to supply a cause of action in a civil suit. Congress passed certain statutes making civil causes of action available in federal courts, along with other related matters.

Today, the full importance of these statutes is often overlooked. However, they provide key context to help people understand the level of judicial power that federal courts hold, even within a limited subject matter jurisdiction.

Individuals in the First Congress debated many facets of federal power over civil disputes, such as the following:

  • How much federal courts could exercise equity jurisdiction
  • If litigants could enjoy the right to a jury trial
  • Procedures for federal courts ordering execution on judgments
  • How inconvenient or expensive federal litigation would be

In addition, Congress considered the source of causes of action.

The types of proceedings that federal courts typically use in civil cases had a large role in determining how to resolve these questions and considerations. Congress addressed these considerations by passing a series of early laws that detailed the types of proceedings that federal courts could apply.

The law isn't necessarily the same; it depends on where you live or the jurisdiction in which you bring suit. It's always best to consult with a legal professional if you feel you have a case, particularly a federal one.

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