Publication Date


Document Type

Special Contribution


It is both historical and undeniable that local government law does not expose all "local governments" to the same "law." At various junctures, and for various reasons, applicable legal precepts may differ according to the nature of the governmental beast. Moreover, those differences may appear, disappear, converge, and diverge in seeming disorderliness, rendering the law's proverbial seamless web a forbidding fortress of analytical frustration. On occasion, the distinctions are admittedly minor; on occasion, they are of profoundly pivotal prominence.

Primarily, but not exclusively, the focused governmental entities will be municipalities and counties. Belying popular modern perceptions of assimilation, history's approach to the municipal-county corpus juris tended toward dichotomy. Buttressed by felt distinctions in governmental origin, status, purpose, and function, myriad developments in legal principle responded to those distinctions. The inquiry "what law?" can frequently find answer, therefore, only in yet another question: "municipality or county?"