Although most of your research may deal with federal or state law, you may find yourself needing to do research on the local government level. This could be a county, parish, borough, town, township, city, municipal corporation, or a village. It could also include a special district organized for a specific purpose such as a water district. Local governments are creatures of state law and possess only those powers granted by the state constitution and/or legislature. Some times the boundaries of local governments will overlap so you may find yourself needing to research more than one local government's documents. This guide will introduce you to local government law.
Please contact any of our UC Law Librarians if you need assistance in finding or using any of the resources in the guide.
Within the framework of state law, the municipalities often adopt a charter. Like the federal or state constitution, the charter describes the powers, duties, and responsibilities of the particular local government unit. For example, a person doing research in the municipal law of Cincinnati might wish to consult Cincinnati’s City Charter (available at: http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/council/references-resources/city-charter/).
A local government will pass ordinances which are "laws" having force and effect within the boundaries of the entity. These ordinances are often compiled into codes, a subject arrangement of the ordinances. Many municipal codes are now available online, however, be aware that these sources may not be considered official versions of the code.
There is not one master website containing charters, ordinances, or codes but many code publishers make their codes available online for free. If you do not find your particular code through one site, be sure and search the additional publisher websites.
Most municipal codes do not provide references to cases ("annotations") that apply and interpret city charters and ordinances.
An easy way to find ordinances online is to look under the Municipal Government topic in Lexis, or Municipal Law Practice Center in Westlaw (there is a Municipal Practitioner tab in Westlaw that you can add).
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