What is State, Local and Municipal Litigation Law?

Government missteps can be addressed in the legal system

By Super Lawyers staff | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on February 17, 2023

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While a lot of attention is rightly given to the impact of federal laws on people’s lives, the role of local or municipal laws may go overlooked. But laws and public agencies at the local level are central to the everyday lives of citizens.

Local governments and city councils are highly involved in their communities, from creating local ordinances and regulatory systems, engaging in code enforcement, and administering public finance and law enforcement. Examples of local government laws include land use and zoning laws, real estate matters, regulations of school districts, tax assessments, and environmental regulations.

When things go well, this proximity can be a benefit to the citizens of the local community. But, when there are problems with local officials, they can often hit close to home—literally.

Sometimes harm caused by your government’s missteps or intentional actions can be addressed in the legal system through municipal litigation. Like other tort cases, a lawsuit against the government might involve personal injury or premises liability. Other cases may involve civil rights violations. This overview discusses limitations you will need to keep in mind when considering whether you want to pursue legal action against your state or local government.


You are generally permitted to sue any person or business that is responsible for your injuries, and that includes local governments. That said, it is a little more complicated to bring a lawsuit against a government entity because of more stringent requirements. The county or city attorney will advise and represent the local government in court, and it is very wise to seek your own legal counsel if you are considering legal action against the municipality.

While the specifics can vary by jurisdiction, you should generally be aware of notice requirements and statutes of limitations.


Some jurisdictions require you to file a “notice of claim.” This document lays out the circumstances that led to your injuries, the nature of your injuries (including whether they are financial or physical), and the amount you are seeking in damages. It’s important to check the statutory requirements about who you need to include in the notice and where the notice should be filed, though typically you will be required to address it to the public entity or individual who caused you harm.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations sets the length of time you have to file a lawsuit after the events alleged occurred. If you miss this window, your case will be thrown out of court—even if it’s airtight. This is why it’s important to act quickly after an injury and speak with someone who understands what part of your experience kicked off the statute of limitations, and when it runs out. This time period can vary whether you are suing a city or a state, so you will want to make sure you know who you are suing and how long you have.

Common Questions for an Attorney

Below are some common questions you might want to consider when meeting with an attorney for the first time.

  1. Can you sue a city in state court for not enforcing laws of public safety or land use?
  2. Can you sue a state for constitutional violations, such as my first amendment rights?
  3. Can I sue the government for not providing reasonable accommodations for my disabilities?
  4. How long do I have to sue my local government?
  5. What are open meeting laws?
  6. How do I obtain public records?
  7. Can I sue my city for negligence?
  8. Is arbitration an option for settling a dispute?

Finding the Right Attorney for Your Needs

It is important to approach the best lawyer for your case—someone with extensive experience who can help you through your entire case. To do so, you can visit the Super Lawyers directory, and use the search box to find a municipal lawyer based on your legal issue or location.

To help you get started, you may want to consider looking for a lawyer who has experience in the state, local and municipal litigation practice area.

Why Should I Talk to a Lawyer?

Even when your case seems straightforward, you will want an experienced lawyer by your side who can make sure you have taken every necessary step so that your case does not get thrown out of court on a technicality. Your lawyer will also have the know-how to help you get the documentation you will need to prove your case and will be able to interview potential witnesses to strengthen your case. They can further help you determine whether you would like to seek a settlement.

A lawyer will be able to anticipate potential problems with your case and advise you on how to approach them and will keep track of deadlines and file all the paperwork with the necessary courts and agencies—giving you one less thing to worry about.

What do I do next?

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