Leysen Local Government Law

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Sherry Leysen
Reference Librarian
Loyola Law School
William M. Rains Law Library
919 Albany St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015-1211

This lecture was prepared as one topic in an intersession course on California Legal Research, but also can be used for a Bridge the Gap session or as a topic in advanced legal research. The goal of the lecture was to introduce students to the notion that local government laws, regulations, and policies can have a tremendous impact on business and commerce, and often need to be considered and evaluated along with state and federal law and regulation. The lecture is in four parts: Quick Facts, Research Tools, an In-Class Hypo, and an Exercise. Quick facts introduce students to the structure of local government. Research tools introduce selected research guides, treatises, and a few online databases where local government charters, ordinances, and codes can be found. The in-class hypo uses an example of a fictional entrepreneurial business, which by its nature (a food truck) requires the business owner to comply with the local law of more than one city and county, illustrating the potential complexities of local law compliance. The hypo is used to identify secondary sources that reveal the broader policy issues, followed by an in-class demonstration of how to navigate one city’s online municipal code.

The goals of the exercise (which can be used either in or out of class) were (1) to have students consider local law and its impact on business decisions, and (2) to practice navigating two different municipal code databases. Using a current hot topic and a fictional business, students are asked to conduct a research task beginning with secondary sources. The exercise also asks students to find and read a state statute and find a case where a local ordinance is a topic of litigation. Then, students practice navigating two city’s databases (each city uses a different municipal code database) to answer the research question. The exercise can be expanded by requiring the preparation of a short research memo or a draft letter to the fictional business client.