Subdivisions, Standing and the Supremacy Clause: Can a Political Subdivision Sue Its Parent State Under Federal Law

This Note argues that political subdivisions should be able to seek protection from their parent states under the Supremacy Clause when alleging a conflict between state law and any federal law, be it the Constitution, treaty, or a federal statute. Part I argues that the precedential cases like Hunter and Trenton were limited to the constitutional provisions in question and therefore did not bar all suits under the Supremacy Clause. Part II shows that the issue is one of constitutional protection of political subdivisions, rather than Article III standing, which had a completely different meaning when Hunter and Trenton were decided. Part III finds that suits based on the Supremacy Clause best fit into the dual nature of our federalist system and rejects some possible counter arguments based on the idea of state sovereignty. Part IV shows that subdivisions’ need to protect themselves supports allowing them to sue their parent states. Part V examines the proper rationale for Supremacy Clause suits by political subdivisions and rejects the reasoning of the Fifth and Tenth Circuits, advocating instead a rationale based solely on the nature of the Supremacy Clause.