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Virginia Law Review



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state sovereignty, federal-local collaboration


Contemporary debates about federalism and localism often proceed with, at best, a glancing reference to each other.' Commentators portray parallel, largely disconnected worlds in which the federal government relates only to the states, and the states, in turn, hermetically encompass local governments. In practice, however, numerous federal regulatory, spending, and enforcement policies actively rely on the participation of local governments independent from the states. Indeed, direct relations between the federal government and local governments-what this Article calls "cooperative localism"-play a significant role in areas of contemporary policy as disparate as homeland security, law enforcement, disaster response, economic development, social services, immigration, and environmental protection, among other areas of vital national concern. This Article proceeds as follows: Part I provides background on direct federal-local cooperation. Part II describes the prevailing view of local governments as powerless instrumentalities of the state and the Court's increasing incorporation of that view in its revival of state sovereignty. Part III contrasts this prevailing view with the tradition of federal empowerment of local governments implementing national policy. Part IV then argues that when this federal empowerment directly confronts resurgent state sovereignty, the Court should not reflexively limit the ability of local goverhments to collaborate independently with the federal government. The Article argues that the very same instrumental goals driving the Court's contemporary federalism jurisprudence provide a foundation for preserving federal empowerment of localities. Finally, Part V identifies a limitation inherent in this cooperative localism posed by the risk of local parochialism and a potential regionalist response to this risk. The Article concludes by placing the jurisprudence of cooperative localism in a pragmatic context.