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Research Locally!

 

Eat Local – buy Local – much is made of these current popular movements for food and local businesses. But don’t forget to Research Locally also. City and county ordinances are important sources of law that may in fact be more relevant to your research needs than state and federal law. A recent article by a fellow law librarian, Mary Whisner at the Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington School of Law, points out some interesting and noteworthy facts, about the importance of city and county ordinances. 

City and county ordinances have a far greater impact than most of us realize. In fact, the city laws for  larger cities, such as New York and Philadelphia, can actually affect more people than the laws of many states. At the same time, we often fail in law school to emphasize the importance of this source of law. Whether the issue is parking, zoning, health and safety, discrimination, or even cleaning up after your dog, the answer to your research question may lie in a city or county ordinance and not in state of federal law.  
 
          Thumbnail image for Phila City Hall.jpg
Philadelphia City Hall, August 29, 1946.
 
 
Searching city and county ordinances was difficult before modern search engines. Now all you need to do is Google the name of your city and the word “ordinance” to see the table of contents of most city ordinances. Here are the links to a few cities that might be of interest to you.
 
Philadelphia: http://www.locallawpub.com/phila.htm
 
New York: http://24.97.137.100/nyc/AdCode/entered.htm/
 
Chicago: http://www.amlegal.com/library/il/chicago.shtml
 
Los Angeles: http://www.amlegal.com/library/ca/losangeles.shtml
 
To view or search many municipal codes, try the Municode Library by Municode.com, or the Code Library by American Legal Publishing.
 
For an in-depth discussion of municipal law, you may wish to consult McQuillin Law of Muncipal Corporations, a classic twenty volume treatise available in both print and electronic formats.
 
Don't forget, research locally!