What do they do?
The Law Department provides a variety of legal services to the City, its elected officials, departments, agencies, offices, commissions, boards, and employees. The department is led by the Corporation Counsel who both represents the Mayor and the City legally, and is independent from mayoral oversight. If an individual sues the City for example, Corporation Counsel defends the City in court.
This person and the law department also provide legal reviews and recommendations to city officials, including supporting the review and development of ordinance language. As an independent department, Corporation Counsel can also legally challenge the Mayor or City Council.
The department enforces the City Charter and notifies city workers when they violate it, but it largely focuses on many different parts of city business such as contracts with vendors, FOIA requests, and employee lawsuits.
How is the Department organized?
The Mayor, City Council, and the City Clerk are labeled as main directors of the law department’s legal services, and when requested they receive legal advice from the law department regarding their governance and actions. The Mayor is identified in the charter as the main director of any prosecutions conducted by the city and largely guides the Department.
The Department has roughly 70 attorneys led by “Corporation Counsel,” the top lawyer and Director of the Department. The Corporation Counsel oversees teams of attorneys who work in many specialized areas such as development projects, union contracts, and state law.
How do I get involved?
Attend an Election Commission meeting!. The Commission has three members, Corporation Counsel, the Chair of City Council, and the City Clerk. These meetings are a good opportunity to become familiar with Corporation Counsel. Additionally, legal questions about the validity of who is and isn’t on the ballot can arise at these meetings.
The Commission is subject to the Open Meetings Act and must publicly announce its meetings. You can find the most accurate information about its meeting dates through the City Clerk’s office.
Corporation Counsel or a representative from the law department is also present at all City Council meetings.