Brent Legner


Every state has its own constitution. But state constitutions are frequently overlooked or misunderstood as independent sources of civil rights, as the emphasis tends to be on the rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. This Article seeks to examine the important role that a state constitution may play in creating important rights for a state’s citizens. In particular, the modern Illinois Constitution of 1970 provides an excellent illustration of the ways that a state constitution can differ in scope and purpose from its federal counterpart and can embody changed or evolved social values or concerns.

Moreover, even where the state constitution appears to cover the same ground as the Federal Constitution, the state charter may be interpreted to provide more protection than the federal document. Over the course of the last three decades, the Illinois Supreme Court has refined its interpretive approach to analyze Illinois constitutional provisions in this situation. Tracing the development of the court’s approach reveals significant points about the relationship between the federal government and the states, and examining the approach in practice sheds light on a number of important state constitutional rights.

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