In the early years of our nation, federal courts were not as active or important as state courts. States had jurisdiction (the power to make and enforce laws) over the most important aspects of business life. The power of state law has historically included governing the following kinds of issues and claims:
- Contracts, including sales, commercial paper, letters of credit, and secured transactions
- Property, including real property, bailments of personal property (such as when you check your coat at a theater or leave your clothes with a dry cleaner), trademarks, copyrights, and the estates of decedents (dead people)
- Domestic matters, including marriage, divorce, custody, adoption, and visitation
- Securities law
- Environmental law
- Agency law, governing the relationship between principals and their agents.
Over the past eighty years, however, federal law has become increasingly important in many of these areas, including banking, securities, and environmental law.