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Law 792-A: Advanced Legal Research: Illinois: Class 7: Illinois Municipal Law

This is guide to support an advanced legal research course which focuses on Illinois legal research.

Illinois Municipal / Local Law

Municipal / local law governs a lot of issues in Illinois, from traffic and vehicle codes to environmental and health ordinances, and including, of course, zoning and taxation. All these topics are likely covered in the Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS), however the Illinois Municipal Code, 65 ILCS 5/, also reserves some powers for communities to self-regulate at the local level.

When researching an Illinois legal issue, it is important to think about how local laws might affect your client. In addition, some of you may find yourself working for a municipality either directly or as outside counsel. This class session will assist you understanding how to find relevant municipal law. In addition, this session will connect you to other resources which can benefit someone using his/her legal knowledge in a municipal setting. 

Constitution / Home Rule / Municipal Code

The U.S. Constitution states that whatever powers are not enumerated to the federal government are reserved to the states. States, in turn, often delegate or defer certain rights and responsibilities to local municipalities, such as cities, towns, townships, and villages. Municipalities are, in many cases, free to create law which does not conflict with other rights or laws at the state or federal levels. 

The 1970 Illinois Constitution addresses municipal / local law in Article VII, Local Government. Specifically, Section 6 ("Powers of Home Rule Units") and Section 7 ("Counties and Municipalities Other Than Home Rule Units") are important, as they detail the legal concept of home rule as currently practiced in Illinois.

Below is the Illinois Municipal Code, which governs both the structure and creation of municipalities, as well as delegates the ability of municipalities to create ordinances.

Municipal / Local Law Resources

Municipal codes, or ordinances as they are commonly referred, are an important part of legal research. Just as a lawyer needs to consider how state and federal law might apply to a given issue, so must the lawyer think about local law. 

Most communities have their local ordnances available online. This may be self-published by the municipality or it maybe hosted by one of the municipal code publishers listed below. Even when a municipality uses a third-party host, the municipality will almost certainly link to the content from its own website. This is why going to the official municipal web presence is the best place to begin your reseach.

Some of the third-party resources do, however, offer some extra features such as tracking tools.