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Center on Federalism and Intersystemic Governance

The Center on Federalism and Intersystemic Governance sponsors research, conferences, workshops, and other projects exploring patterns of overlap among governmental structures.

Through these efforts, the center seeks to advance understanding of the characteristics, benefits, and concerns associated with layers of governance and accompanying jurisdictional overlap.

The center was established in February 2007 with an inaugural program co-sponsored by the Thrower Symposium at Emory Law, "The New Federalism: Plural Governance in a Decentered World." The Thrower Symposium brought together 20 distinguished scholars to address this theme, including 12 from beyond the Emory campus. The papers delivered at the symposium were thereafter published in a special issue of the Emory Law Journal.


In recent years, federalism has been the focus of renewed scholarly and political interest in the United States and abroad. Debates over the reach of federal and state power have raged in the federal courts, as well as in legislative and agency venues. The active revision of federalism doctrine in the judicial and political spheres, in turn, has led to a concomitant explosion in federalism scholarship. In both political and scholarly debates, a pervasive source of tension has been the range of disparate views on the desirability of distinct and separate roles for federal and state governments, especially when viewed against the widespread adoption of regulatory schemes calling for overlapping, conflicting, and interactive roles for federal and state authorities, as well as regimes incorporating significant roles for other public and even private actors.

At the same time, issues of layers of governance have assumed significance across the globe. In many—and perhaps most—arenas, the nation-state no longer represents the sole source of legal regulation. Supranational bodies such as the European Union and the World Trade Organization promulgate rules that overlap with national laws. The adoption of constitutional federalism in new settings, such as Iraq and Ethiopia, creates the possibility for additional levels of law—and further areas of study.

Against this backdrop, the Center on Federalism and Intersystemic Governance seeks to explore the extraordinary rise of interest in—and debate over—federalism and intersystemic governance. Interest in the center thus springs from a shared view that the expansion of cross-jurisdictional interactions among courts, regulatory institutions, regulations, and regulators is an undeniable reality and is deserving of our close study. Domestically, internationally, and in transnational settings such as the European Union, one finds innumerable examples of federalist and interactive regulatory arrangements. Many real-world problems lie at the intersection of multiple regulatory regimes. Any viable regulatory approach, as such, must be constructed to operate within this web.

The related topics of federalism and intersecting spheres of governance cut across numerous fields of law, including constitutional law, administrative law, conflict of laws, international law, corporate and securities law, and environmental law, among others. The center also draws on the insights of political science, international relations, economics, anthropology, sociology, political philosophy, and other areas that focus on the complex interactions of formal and informal regulatory systems. The work of the center thus relates closely to programs throughout Emory University, including Emory College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Goizueta Business School, and the Halle Institute.