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IMLA Home Rule Module

Ended Dec 31, 2022

Full course description

About the Course

This online mini-course introduces and explores the topic of home rule, the delegation of legal autonomy to local governments by their respective state government. This mini-course is intended for law students who are engaged in academic legal externships at cities, towns, and other local governments throughout the U.S. Congratulations on your externship and we (the International Municipal Lawyers Association and I) hope that this little course gives you a running start to one or more projects that you may be assigned as a part of your local government externship.

Included are selected readings and resources on home rule, two instructional videos, an online quiz (with additional feedback for your answers, correct or incorrect), and an opportunity to review the course and provide feedback so we can improve this effort going forward.


What You Gain

Successful completion of this course should prepare you to be able to:

  • Explain the difference between Dillon's Rule and the Inherent Right Doctrine
  • Explain the history and development of home rule in the U.S.
  • Determine the basic parameters of your externship client's local autonomy with regard to the evolution (or not) of home rule for that jurisdiction
  • Identify the three basic forms of home rule
  • Recognize when home rule is being used affirmatively (the sword function) or defensively (the shield function)
  • Identify terms and phrases used to describe the scope and breadth of home rule
  • Apply a four step, basic home rule analysis to determine whether existing law allows a local government to act

Meet the Instructor

Founding Director of the Program on Law and State Government and a Clinical Professor of Law at the I.U. Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Cynthia Baker’s professional responsibilities allow her to follow one of her passions: a deep interest in the confluence of law, governance, and government. She also serves as the faculty advisor for the Program on Law and State Government fellows, law students who are earning the JD/MPA joint degree, and MJ students with a focus on administration and government.

Baker currently holds the position of the Director of Experiential Learning for the law school. As the faculty liaison between and among the administration, faculty, students, and lawyers who work with our students and faculty as supervising lawyers for externships, she aspires to make it smoother for all involved to engage in this important area of the law school’s curriculum. In the recent past, Baker has served as the chair of the Section on State and Local Government Law of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) and as the co-chair of the law school’s ABA Reaccreditation Committee. Baker has also served as the faculty member appointment to Indiana's Commission for Higher Education, as a co-chair of the State Administrative Law Committee of the ABA's Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, and several appointments as a member of Indiana's Code Revision Committee.

Contact Professor Baker at


Program on Law and State Government course and externship placements, State and Local Government Law, Legal Aspects of Government Finance, and Higher Education Law.
Length: 1.5-2 hours
Credit: 0
Audience: Externs

Program: No
Type: Online only