With increasing frequency, cities and states are engaging in affirmative, plaintiff-side litigation. City and state initiated litigation, over the past decades, has resulted in some of the largest monetary judgments and settlement in U.S. history, including in the multistate tobacco litigation and the multi-jurisdiction opioid litigation. Cities and states also use affirmative litigation, often successfully, to push affirmative policy priorities—often against the federal government—in issue areas as diverse as climate change, civil rights, immigration, and others.
This class will take a close look at city and state-initiated litigation, from both a doctrinal and theoretical perspective. The course will cover the authority and causes of action cities and states have to sue. Case studies examined will include major, headline-grabbing cases including opioid litigation, gun litigation, climate-change litigation, and litigation against presidential administrations of both parties. We will also, however, examine smaller-scale cases brought at a local level, particularly in the State of Michigan. Through it all, we will examine broader questions: when is it appropriate for a city or state to sue? Who are their “clients,” and who do they represent? And when should litigation be initiated by governments as opposed to private plaintiffs?