New Federalism and Civil Rights Enforcement
Calls for change to the infrastructure of civil rights enforcement have grown more insistent in the past several years, attracting support from a wide range of advocates, scholars, and federal, state, and local officials. Much of the attention has focused on federal-level reforms, including proposals to overrule Supreme Court doctrines that stop many civil rights lawsuits in their tracks. But state and local officials share responsibility for the enforcement of civil rights and have underappreciated powers to adopt reforms of their own. This Article evaluates a range of state and local interventions, including the adoption of state law causes of action for constitutional violations, improved local budgeting and indemnification practices, and new litigation strategies that encourage government attorneys charged with defending civil rights litigation to take better account of the significant public interest in enforcing constitutional norms. Rather than await federal reforms that may never come, the many state and local officials who have advocated for change can promptly translate their professed commitments into law and policy.