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Public Administration and Law  |  PSPA 636  

Master of Public Administration elective

Northern Illinois University 


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Catalog description

Understanding of law, and the legal processes that shape the law, for public managers. Study of the courts as a decision-making system and as a governmental entity making policy, and the intersection of the justice system and public administration. Uses decisions from federal and state courts, with a focus on local governments as parties to litigation in the Seventh Circuit and Illinois


  • Identify and analyze key legal issues in factual scenarios

  • Read with comprehension legal documents, such as cases, statutes, regulations, and contracts

  • Engage in basic legal research using publicly available sources

  • Write descriptive and analytical documents about legal issues, including briefs and memoranda

  • Describe historical and contemporary dynamics in the relationship between the legal system and public administration

Learning modules with concepts and key readings

The Legal System  

Structure of the legal system (types and levels of courts)

Binding authority and stare decisis

Modes of resolving disputes (litigation; administrative adjudication; arbitration; mediation)

Standards of review 

Justiciability (standing, mootness, ripeness, political questions)

Key cases: Juliana (2020)Reed (2015)

Practice: Case briefing 


Individual Liberties and Rights

Levels of scrutiny (rational basis review; heightened scrutiny (strict, intermediate, etc.))

Substantive due process (fundamental rights)

Speech (Reed (2015); categories; content-based regulation; public fora)
Firearms (ancillary rights; longstanding prohibitions; McDonald (2010); Ezell (2011); Young (2021);

Wilson (2019); Easterday (2020))

Religious exercise (narrow tailoring: over-/under-inclusivity; RLUIPA; Hialeah (1993)Masterpiece

Cakeshop (2018)Meriwether (2020)South Bay United (2021))

Property (property interests; vested rights; takings; note: see Planning / Zoning course for more)

Equal Treatment and Procedural Fairness

Procedural due process (general overview)

Equal protection (suspect classifications; levels of scrutiny; California Grocers (2021)Bostock (2020)LMP Services (2019))

Statutory civil rights (general overview of Civil Rights Acts; Voting Rights Act overview; Fair

Housing overview; ADA overview)

Federal / State Administrative Law

Rulemaking and adjudication (rulemaking overview)

Deference (Chevron (1984)after Chevron)

Statutory interpretation (general overview)

Application: Will County (2018)

The State-Local Relationship

The organization of local government (general-purpose local government; special-purpose local

government; Illinois system compared to others)

Local autonomy (Home rule; Dillon's rule; enabling legislation; preemption)

Interlocal relationships

Other topics as selected by students (Spring 2021: contracts and negotiation)

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