1st Edition

Local Government Law
A Practical Guidebook for Public Officials on City Councils, Community Boards and Planning Commissions

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after May 24, 2021
ISBN 9780367856014
May 24, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
280 Pages

USD $39.95

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Book Description

Local Government Law provides a unique resource, with concise, easy-to-understand explanations of important legal issues faced by local public officials, community boards, and city councils. From the moment officials take office, they face decisions related to basic principles found in state and federal law. The same is true for those in the private sector aiming to work successfully with local governments. This practical guidebook will empower public and private representatives with a functional grasp of legal principles, with chapters explaining what a local government is, the requirement to follow due process, local land use controls, the basics of the Freedom of Information Act and many other important subjects that regularly arise. As a practical guidebook on local government law, this book provides a basic and empowering understanding for officials and private actors in the local government arena.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Just what is a "local government?" Chapter 2. What is a "sunshine law" that requires local government meetings to be open to the public? Chapter 3. Deciphering the procedural code" used at government meetings. Chapter 4. Does the sun need to shine on "public records" to provide the public with a meaningful understanding of local government? Chapter 5. What do the Bill of Rights & the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution have to do with local government? Chapter 6. Can citizens take the law into their own hands and use direct democracy to "create" and "undo" laws? Chapter 7. Can a local government be liable under the Federal Fair Housing Act if it’s decisions make housing unavailable to certain people? Chapter 8. How do officials raise money to run their local governments? Chapter 9. How important are land use decisions in the work of local government officials? A look at traditional land use controls and the predominant land use governance tool – zoning. Chapter 10. How important are land use decisions in the work of local government officials? A look at non-zoning land use controls. Chapter 11. Can two or more local governments work together to provide services? Chapter 12. Can the government actually take property away from private owners – intentionally and unintentionally? Chapter 13. Two fundamental institutions: the court system, and the office of the local government attorney. Chapter 14. Can I be held personally liable if sued for actions taken as a public official?

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Gerald A. Fisher practiced local government law for 20 years at a mid-sized law firm in southeast Michigan, representing cities, villages and townships, and serving as a senior partner and manager of a large municipal practice group. He then taught for 15 years as a full-time professor at WMU Cooley Law School, teaching property law, constitutional law and state and local government law. Mr. Fisher is the contributing co-editor of a text entitled Michigan Municipal Law, and co-author of a text entitled Michigan Zoning, Planning, and Land Use Law. He has argued several state and local government cases in the Michigan Supreme Court, and has been a long-term member of the Council, and past chairperson, of the State Bar of Michigan Government Law Section. He continues to serve as a legal consultant for local governments, and as a mediator in local government disputes. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America in land use and zoning, and in 2001 was named a Lawyer of the Year in Michigan by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He recently completed 10 years of services as chairperson of the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission, and is a board member for Scenic Michigan.


"The conduct of governance at the local level is increasingly challenging. This is so for those preparing for careers in management, planning and law, and particularly for current practitioners – most especially elected officials. Demands on their time are extreme – thus of most importance, Professor Fisher approaches the topic of local government in practical terms. I would hope that each city, village and township hall would have a copy of this book for reference, especially for newly elected and appointed officials."

William C. Mathewson, Legal Consultant, and former General Counsel, Michigan Municipal League. Honorary Life Member, Michigan Municipal League.

"Local government affects people daily in ways that both enhance and limit their freedoms and wealth. But many Americans, including local officials, don’t understand what "local" encompasses, where local government powers come from, what power citizens have in making local law, and their rights to witness and review local government decisions. Mr. Fisher’s book is an enjoyably readable and concise treatment of local government law; it should be read by all who take on the responsibilities of local elected officials and members of local boards and agencies."

Joseph DiMento, Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine

"It’s common to think that being elected to local office, or being a local official, doesn’t require any special understanding of local government—either the laws it works with or the procedures it must follow. That’s just not true. This guidebook, organized and written for local officials themselves, will be an invaluable aid to both new and experienced local officials alike, as well as to students of local government."

Richard K. Norton, Ph.D., J.D., Professor, Urban and Regional Planning Program, Program in the Environment, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning , University of Michigan

"The law is often hard to understand, but this guidebook provides the reader with a fundamental understanding of how it works for local officials. This work not only provides an up to date look at the law, but also the history of how it came to be. Understanding where we have been, helps us know where we are and where we are going."

Christopher Johnson, General Counsel for the Michigan Municipal League.

"The book will be of great value to persons considering running for office, or desiring to be appointed to various boards or commissions. However, it may have the greatest value to newly elected members of the governing body or persons on boards appointed by elected officials. It will also be useful for young local government professionals who have been trained in a particular discipline (like engineering, accounting, law enforcement, planning or law), but have not yet been exposed to all aspects of local government operations."

Mark A. Wyckoff, FAICP. Fellow, American Institute of Certified Planners. Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University. Editor, Planning and Zoning News.

"Gerald A. Fisher has been a preeminent force in Michigan for over forty years as a municipal attorney, consultant, author, educator, and advocate for local government. The number of local units of government that have benefited from his advice is incalculable.

Mr. Fisher’s experience, insight and intellect is brilliantly displayed in the most comprehensive guidebook ever written for local governmental officials. Local Governmental Law explains both the opportunities and pitfalls local officials face in today’s complicated environment. The Guidebook is clearly written, well organized and provides excellent examples of practical problems and solutions. Whether a newly elected or long-serving veteran, every local official would be wise to have a copy of Mr. Fisher’s book on their desk."

Richard K. Carlisle, Fellow, American Institute of Certified Planners. President, Carlisle/Wortman Associates.