A state court is a court run by the given state and that handles cases arising from state law. It is distinct from a federal court, which in the United States is a court of limited jurisdiction. State courts have the broad authority to handle numerous cases for residents within the borders of their state.
Under the US Constitution, Article III mandated only the creation of the Supreme Court, which is a federal court. Article III states: "The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish..." The other courts in the federal system, as well as all of the state courts, were created through the voluntary efforts of the legislature. These courts now serve an important role.
State courts have, in many ways, broader power than federal courts. The power of a state court to hear a case and to make and enforce state rules and laws stems from the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution. It reads: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." This means that, unless the Constitution expressly grants the federal government the power to make a given law, the federal government does not have the authority to regulate a given issue. Instead, that issue must be regulated by state laws and rules.
When the state makes a law or rule, or when an issue arises within a state that the federal government can't rule on, someone must make the decision. This is where the state court comes in. The state court can enforce the rules made by state legislatures. It can also make rules — in the form of judge made case law — that apply within the state's borders.
If a case arises from state law, it must be brought in state court. This rule exists because of the limited powers of the federal government. An exception exists when individuals from two different states have a legal dispute arising from state law in which more than $10,000 US Dollars (USD) is at stake. In such situations, diversity jurisdiction exists, allowing the federal court to hear and decide the matter, although it arises from state law. In other cases, if the rule was made by the state, the state court must be the one to interpret and enforce it.