This course studies state and local government law in the United States. Although much of legal discourse focuses on the national government, it is in fact state and local governments that influence much of our day to day lives. Moreover, state and local government decision-making will play a prominent role in many of your legal careers. And state and local government law is at the center of some of the most significant theoretical and normative questions in American law, including those regarding democracy, federalism, and distributive justice.
The course will include study of the allocation of authority within and between state and local governments. This will include analysis of the three branches of state government and separation of powers questions arising among them, as well as analysis of how local governments are structured, financed, and organized. We will also study how state and local governments interact, covering doctrines of home rule and intrastate preemption. Throughout, we will ask whether and how current doctrines and policies implicate democracy, efficiency, and distributive justice. In addition, we will explore how these various doctrines and ideas play out in the context of contemporary disputes, including over housing, education, and immigration.
Students have the option of taking the course for 2 or 3 credits. All students will complete two response papers during the semester and take a short final exam at the end of the semester. For an optional third credit, students may write a research paper of approximately 15 pages on a topic approved by the professor. If students wish to use the paper to satisfy the upper-level writing requirement, the paper must be 20 pages.