Federal Question Law and Legal Definition

Before a federal court can hear a case, or "exercise its jurisdiction," certain conditions must be met. A federal question is one of the bases for the exercise of federal district court jurisdiction over a controversy. A federal question is involved when the matter in dispute is based on subjects enumerated in the U.S. Constitution or when a federal statute or treaty is involved. A federal question may also exist when a dispute arises from controversies between states, or between the United States and foreign governments. Federal questions are often used as a basis for removing a case from state courts to federal courts.

The federal circuit courts have disagreed concerning a fundamental issue of federal court jurisdiction: whether cases that may implicate or involve the foreign relations of the United States, but do not otherwise raise a more traditional federal question under federal law, may be removed from state courts to federal courts.