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36 Okla. City U. L. Rev. 253 (2011)


Justice William Brennan rightfully reminded all of us that state constitutional law is too often neglected in our courtrooms and our classrooms. State constitutions, to borrow from the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, ought not to be "relegated to the status of a poor relation" in our constitutional legal structure. They differ in important ways from the federal law Constitution-and those differences provide the space within which our democratic experiment flourishes. And I am sure if Justice Brennan were here with us today, he would agree that we also should not neglect the study of the state and local policies that that experiment generates. As I am constantly reminding my students, the state and local governments-and the laws that they make and enforce have a far greater daily impact on our lives than the federal-law policies that take center stage in most law school classrooms.

Specifically, I would like to focus my remarks, which I am honored to have been asked to give, on local governments and the laws and policies that they make and enforce. As Richard Briffault has observed, the discourse in the legal academy on local government law generally proceeds from an assumption of local powerlessness. And, it is the case, that as a matter of legal theory, local governments exist by the grace of and at the whims of-state governments. In reality, however, local governments exercise considerable autonomy to shape policies that affect, in profound ways, our daily lives. In particular, states entrust local governments with three important, indeed essential, powers—law enforcement, land use regulation, and education. This lecture focuses primarily on law enforcement and land use regulation, and in particular on the often overlooked connections between these two important spheres of local autonomy. In closing, however, I will say a tiny bit about education policy as well.


Reprinted with permission of Oklahoma City University Law Review.



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