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A system of government wherein power is constitutionally divided between a central government and local governments.
EXAMPLE: The United States Supreme Court decides that the constitution does not protect a person’s privacy from a certain police tactic. Under the doctrine of federalism, though, a state court may nonetheless interpret its state constitution as prohibiting the same police conduct. The federal and state judicial systems are sufficiently separate so that a state court can afford greater protection to its citizens than the federal courts by a more liberal interpretation of its own constitution and laws. The state courts must observe any minimum federal rights, however, under the Supremacy Clause to the United States Constitution.
Source: Barron's Dictionary of Legal Terms, Steven H. Gifis, 5th Edition; ©
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