Private Enforcement in the Public Sphere – Towards a new model of residential monitoring of local governments

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Private enforcement litigation, namely class and derivative actions, are powerful tools in the commercial domain. By empowering a representativeplaintiff to litigate in the name of a harmed dispersed group, these procedures solve collective action problems, and improve shareholder and consumer monitoring. The article explores the potential of using such litigation tools also in the local public sphere. It examines local residents' possibility to sue on behalf of a dispersed group of taxpayers ("taxpayer suits") and to receive remedy for harms the group (as a whole) suffers. The article provides the most extensive analysis of such local taxpayer suits to date. We show that although taxpayer suits are legally available in almost all states, they are, by and large, a dead letter. As opposed to their commercial equivalents, and despite their considerable potential importance, taxpayerplaintiffs scarcely use them; courts constrain them and the legal literature mostly ignores them. We argue that the implementation of several relatively simple reforms can increase the use of this forgotten legal tool--thereby improving the monitoring on local officials, decreasing corruption, and empowering local residents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657-708
Number of pages52
JournalNevada Law Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2018


  • Public sphere
  • Actions & defenses (Law)
  • Taxpayer advocates
  • Plaintiffs
  • Enforcement Acts (United States)


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