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Profiles of University of Michigan Faculty Experts in State and Local Policy Areas

Professor Roderick (Rick) Hills

Professor of Law, University of Michigan School of Law

Years On UM Faculty: 11

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When asked how he selects policy-related research topics, Professor Hills states:

"Often the research hinges on an unsettled question of legal doctrine. If the legal materials are ambiguous, then one might use policy to resolve the impasse. Sometimes the issue will arise out of pure academic controversies about what the law should be: Will federalism, for instance, promote or undermine city power? These academic questions are relevant to lawyers because judicial decisions often rest on assumptions about policy consequences that are inadequately explored or defended by the courts."


Land-use regulation, local government law, education law, constitutional law, and federalism.


"Against Preemption: How Federalism Can Improve the National Legislative Process." How easily should courts infer that federal statutes preempt state law? One side calls for judges to protect federalism and only apply federal law when federal statute explicitly demands such action. Others say that federal statutes should preempt state law more broadly, in an effort to encourage efficiency by preventing states from inflicting external costs on their neighbors. This article sidesteps this debate and instead argues that a more limited application of the preemption doctrine has benefits for the law-making process. Because federal lawmakers tend to avoid controversial issues, states are more likely to engage in controversial business regulation. The business interest groups that oppose contentious regulation will help put these issues on Congress' agenda, and those that favor anti-preemptive policies (i.e. more diverse state approaches on a policy issue) will have the opportunity to counter these efforts. Thus, an anti-preemption rule would promote a more highly visible, vigorous style of public debate in Congress.

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