Marble Cake Federalism | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Marble Cake Federalism is a metaphor of federalism that symbolizes the mixing of powers and resources among local, state, and federal governments.

Contrast with Layer Cake Federalism.

Marble Cake Federalism, also known as cooperative federalism or intergovernmental cooperation, represents a shift away from the traditional “layer cake” federalism model, where each level of government has distinct and separate responsibilities. In the marble cake model, the boundaries between the levels of government become blurred, with each level working collaboratively to achieve common goals. This means that responsibilities and powers are often shared or overlapping, and there is a greater degree of interdependence between levels of government.

The origins of marble cake federalism can be traced back to the New Deal era of the 1930s, when the federal government began to take a more active role in addressing social and economic issues. The need for greater cooperation and coordination among different levels of government became apparent, and the marble cake model emerged as a way to facilitate this cooperation.

In the criminal justice system, marble cake federalism has led to the development of partnerships between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to combat crime and maintain public safety. These partnerships may involve sharing information, resources, and expertise to coordinate efforts and enhance effectiveness.

For example, the FBI‘s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) is a collaborative effort between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to investigate and prevent acts of terrorism. Similarly, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) works with state and local law enforcement agencies to combat drug trafficking and related crimes.

Marble cake federalism also allows for greater flexibility in the allocation of resources and responsibilities, as each level of government can contribute its unique strengths and expertise to address specific issues. This approach is particularly valuable in addressing complex issues such as environmental protection, transportation infrastructure, and public health.

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Last Modified: 06/30/2021

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