Legal coalition to advocate for local governments in high-profile cases

Local governments have a new legal advocate in cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Government Finance Officers Association has joined with the National League of Cities, National Association of Counties and the International Municipal Lawyers Association to form the Local Government Legal Center, which will promote local government priorities before the nation’s top court. The coalition will also track and may weigh in on lower court cases, the groups said in a press release announcing the center.

A new legal coalition formed by National League of Cities and other municipal advocates will “ensure needs of cities, towns and villages are considered as the Supreme Court and lower courts rule on cases of consequence to our communities,” said NLC director Clarence Anthony.

National League of Cities

The center will also serve as a resource for local governments to educate officials about SCOTUS, pending cases and potential impacts on key issues.

“We feel like it’s really important for local governments to have a unified and strong voice in front of the Supreme Court, and in certain cases we want to be able to elevate beyond our individual organizations and work together to make sure the court knows if there’s an issue that’s extremely important to local governments,” said Amanda Karras, IMLA’s executive director.

Filing amicus briefs on cases that affect municipal governments will help bring the issues to the justices’ attention, Karras said.

Pending cases that may be important to local governments include Moore v. Harper, which focuses on federal elections and gerrymandering, and a case out of Hennepin County, Minnesota, that questions whether governments can keep excess revenue from homes with unpaid property tax debt that have been sold.

“There are several others out there,” Karras said, adding that each organization will continue operate independently — possibly filing its own amicus briefs in cases — and the legal center will weigh in on a case if agreed to by the three founding members, NLC, NACo and IMLA.

“NACo and our partners formed the Local Government Legal Center for two primary reasons,” said NACo chief public affairs officer Brian Namey in a statement. “First, our federal advocacy extends to educating federal courts on the local government perspective and potential frontline implications of legal decisions. And second, the LGLC will serve to update county governments on the Supreme Court docket and consequential cases for local governments.”

GFOA director Chris Morrill said SCOTUS cases can impact local government finances.

“It critical to our members that skilled legal minds monitor Supreme Court cases and, when necessary, provide strong advocacy for local governments,” Morrill said. “We are fortunate that IMLA has this expertise and experience and has stepped forward to lead these efforts.”

“The National League of Cities places a strong value in our legal advocacy program,” said NLC’s CEO and director Clarence Anthony in a statement. “We are excited to continue to advance our legal goals and ensure needs of cities, towns and villages are considered as the Supreme Court and lower courts rule on cases of consequence to our communities.”

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