The decision whether to bring a case in federal court or Florida state court can have significant consequences to the disposition of non-compete litigation. While both federal and Florida will usually apply the same substantive law, the procedure applied differs. This is particularly pertinent in non-compete litigation. Florida courts, when considering whether to enjoin a former employee from competing, will not consider particular categories of evidence because of a Florida statute (§ 542.335(g)(1-3). Federal courts are free of this limitation, and may consider nearly any admissible and relevant evidence. This distinction can ultimately mean the difference between whether an employee or an employer will prevail in non-compete litigation. Peter Mavrick is a Miami non-compete attorney, and also advocates for clients in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach, Florida. The Mavrick Law Firm represents clients in business litigation, trade secret litigation, employment litigation, trademark litigation, and other legal disputes in federal and state courts and in arbitration.
Non-compete litigation can be heard in both federal courts and state courts. While a Florida court almost always has jurisdiction to hear a Florida non-compete case, there are certain requirements before a matter may be heard in federal court. The primary method by which a federal court would have jurisdiction is that a “federal question” is raised. This can happen when a non-compete claim is brought along with a trade secret claim under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act. 18 U.S.C. § 1836, et seq. While it is technically possible that a federal court can have jurisdiction over the parties because a “diversity of citizenship” between the plaintiff and defendant, this would rarely happen because both a company attempting to enforce a non-compete and the employee will usually qualify as a citizens of Florida.
Federal courts and Florida courts have their own rules of civil procedure. While the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure were derived in significant part from the federal rules, the differences between them are substantial, and include different pleading and discovery requirements. There are also differences between federal and Florida courts which do not arise from the differences in procedural rules. Generally, federal courts have a greater budget and fewer cases, and so may have more time and staff to address complex and nuanced issues. Federal courts also tend to place more time constraints which are less flexible than their Florida counterpart.