make a federal case of

make a federal case (out) of something

  (American)
to make something seem more important or serious than it really is (usually negative) He only swore at you - there's no need to make a federal case out of it!
See also: case, federal, make, of

make a federal case of

Also, make a big deal of. Give undue importance to an issue, as in I'll pay you back next week-you needn't make a federal case of it, or Jack is making a big deal of filling out his passport application. The first hyperbolic expression, almost always used in a negative context, alludes to taking a legal action before a high (federal) court. The second alludes to an important business transaction (see big deal, def. 1).
See also: case, federal, make, of