Federal courts are authorized to hear cases when the case involves federal question jurisdiction. State courts, on the other hand, are authorized to hear civil cases when the case involves state law. Suppose one wishes to file a suit to compel arbitration in a matter that involves both state and federal law, can one submit overlapping lawsuit to federal & state court at the same time?

For example, suppose two parties have an executed contract with a binding arbitration clause. Party A believes that Party B is in violation of both federal and state law and wishes to force Party B to arbitrate both claims. Party B holds that the contract does not force them to arbitrate (let's say because it expired) and believes that they have not violated any laws.

Can Party A file a suit to compel arbitration in both federal and state court?

What if they file two lawsuits and the state court rules differently than the federal court?

Assuming Party A can only file one lawsuit at a time, what stops Party A from first filling a lawsuit in state court and if the court rules against them to file a suit in federal court on the federal question? Presumably, if the federal court rules in their favor it would override the state court's decision.

Note: Although the reason for each lawsuit is different (federal vs. state law), the underlying question of whether the parties are bound to arbitration is the same. In other words, if the federal court arrives at the conclusion that the parties are bound to arbitrate the federal question (for example, because they arrive at the conclusion that the contract didn't expire), the same logic would apply to the state question (and vice versa).

  • One court will certainly deny taking on the case, and if one’s not lucky, it will be decided without them having control over it after they filed.
    – HJay
    Dec 21, 2022 at 5:59
  • Why would anyone want to do that?
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 22, 2022 at 5:08
  • @ohwilleke I can think of multiple reasons. On reason is that if one is pressed for time and is uncertain whether both the federal and the state suit will be accepted, it is not necessary to wait for one to be rejected before filling the other. By filling both at the same time, one can pursue the complaint that is accepted.
    – S.O.S
    Dec 22, 2022 at 17:53
  • 1
    @S.O.S. State court always has concurrent jurisdiction over federal claims. And, if one is drafting a complaint one can state claims that are clearly enough federal to leave no room for dispute if you want a federal forum. Forum concerns are particularly weak when the merits will be decided in arbitration and not be the forum court.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 22, 2022 at 19:25
  • @ohwilleke Meaning that there is a lower bar to acceptance when all is needed from the courts is an order to arbitrate (as appose to a ruling on the actual case)? Thanks!
    – S.O.S
    Dec 22, 2022 at 22:41


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