The Detroit Charter and City Government
ARTICLE 7.5. INDEPENDENT DEPARTMENTS and OFFICES
CHAPTER 2. LAW DEPARTMENT
Annotations By: Jacqueline Bejma
Sec. 7.5-201. Law Department
The Law Department is headed by the Corporation Counsel who is the duly authorized and official legal counsel for the City of Detroit and its constituent branches, units and agencies of government
Corporation Counsel can be removed without cause by the mayor with the concurrence of 2/3 of city counsel or by city council with the concurrence of the mayor
The client of the Corporation Counsel is the City of Detroit as a body corporate
Failure of city council approval within 30 days will be automatic confirmation
The Law Department is headed by the Corporation Counsel who is the duly authorized and official legal counsel for the City of Detroit and its constituent branches, units and agencies of government. The Mayor shall appoint the Corporation Counsel subject to approval of the City Council. However, if the City Council does not disapprove the appointment within thirty (30) days, it is deemed confirmed.
The Mayor may remove the Corporation Counsel without cause, with a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the membership of City Council. City Council may remove the Corporation Counsel, without cause, by a two-thirds (2/3) vote and concurrence of the Mayor. A Mayor occupying the Office of Mayor through succession under section 5-109 (Succession to Office) may only remove Corporation Counsel with cause and approval of one (1) less than the entire membership serving on City Council.
Client and Representation
The client of the Corporation Counsel is the City of Detroit as a body corporate. The agents and representatives of the City of Detroit, for purposes of receiving and directing legal services in a manner consistent with Corporation Counsel’s professional obligations to the City of Detroit, as herein provided in this Charter or allowed by law, shall be the Mayor, City Council and City Clerk.
Corporation Counsel represents the City of Detroit as a body corporate and may represent its branches of government, departments, agencies, elected officials and employees as required or allowed by law, Charter, ordinance, city policy or contract. For purposes of conducting city business and in the performance of their duties therein, no branch or unit of government, department, agency, elected official or employee required or allowed to receive legal services by law, Charter, ordinance, city policy or contract, may solicit or obtain formal legal advice, or retain services or representation from an outside law firm or attorney, in the execution of their duties, without requesting and receiving the approval of Corporation Counsel, unless expressly allowed by Charter. Upon request of an agency or officer, the Corporation Counsel may retain an outside law firm or attorney as Special Corporation Counsel for any particular matter or proceeding.
Nothing in this section is intended to prevent any branch, officer or employee of city government from consulting with legal experts or convening meetings or hearings for the purpose of obtaining information necessary to execute their duties. Further, nothing in this section is intended, nor shall it be construed, to limit the exercise of any constitutional rights, including those in Article I, §§ 13 and 20 of the State Constitution.
Sec. 7.5-202. Qualifications
The Corporation Counsel and the Deputy Corporation Counsel must be attorneys licensed to practice in Michigan.
Sec. 7.5-203. Civil Litigation
Corporation counsel defends all actions or proceedings against the city
Corporation counsel will prosecute all actions or proceeding involving the city
Corporation counsel may represent any officer or employee of the city in any proceeding involving official duties
No civil litigation of the city can be settled without consent of the city council
The Corporation Counsel shall defend all actions or proceedings against the City.
The Corporation Counsel shall prosecute all actions or proceedings to which the City is a party or in which the City has a legal interest, when directed to do so by the Mayor.
Upon request, the Corporation Counsel may represent any officer or employee of the city in any action or proceeding involving official duties.
No civil litigation of the city may be settled without the consent of the City Council
Sec. 7.5-204. Penal Matters
Corporation counsel and the city prosecutor will:
- Institute and conduct all cases related to the city
- Prosecute all these cases
- Prosecute all actions for recovery of fines, penalties, forfeitures or other money arising from these cases
The Corporation Counsel is the city prosecutor and shall:
- Institute and conduct, on behalf of the people, all cases arising from the provisions of this Charter or city ordinances and, when authorized to do so by law, cases arising under state law.
- Prosecute all these cases, including all recognizance and bail forfeitures, in the court of original jurisdiction and on appeal.
- Prosecute all actions for the recovery of fines, penalties, forfeitures and other money arising out of these cases.
Sec. 7.5-205. Advice and Opinions
Corporation counsel will give legal advice to the Mayor, City Council, members of City Council, City Clerk or agency heads
Each branch and unit of government shall receive the legal advice and opinion of Corporation Counsel on matters pertaining to the execution of their functions and duties as governmental bodies and officials. Upon request, the Corporation Counsel shall give such legal advice or opinions to the Mayor, City Council, and members of the City Council, City Clerk or the head of any agency.
Sec. 7.5-206. Form of Documents
Corporation counsel will prepare or approve all contracts, bonds or other written instruments involving the city
Corporation counsel will keep proper registry of all contracts, bonds or other written instruments involving the city
The Corporation Counsel shall prepare or approve all contracts, bonds and other written instruments in which the city is concerned, shall approve all surety bonds required to be given for the protection of the City, and shall keep a proper registry of all contracts, bonds and instruments.
Sec. 7.5-207. Drafting
Corporation counsel can assist in preparing any ordinance or resolution as requested
Upon request of City Council, any City Council member, or the Mayor, the Corporation Counsel shall prepare or assist in preparing any ordinance or resolution for introduction before the City Council.
Sec. 7.5-208. Intra-Government Dispute Resolution
When a dispute exists between two branches of government, the Corporation counsel will provide a legal opinion that represents the best legal interest of the City. The corporation counsel will then represent that branch and the other branch may retain outside counsel.
Prior to bringing any litigation, branches of government are required to engage in intra-governmental branch dispute resolution – the highest public official (Mayor, City Council President, City Clerk or their designees) will represent the branch in 14 day discussion of the problem with an agreed upon facilitator
In all disputes between branches or units of city government, before any branch or unit can institute legal proceedings, they shall have first requested and obtained from Corporation Counsel a legal opinion which details which party’s position is consistent with the current state of the law. Corporation Counsel shall then instruct the branch or unit whose legal position is inconsistent with the current state of the law to retain legal assistance and representation from an outside law firm or outside attorney if they intend to institute legal proceedings.
In cases of disputes between the branches of government, prior to filing a lawsuit or taking other legal action, the highest public official from the disputing branches of government shall first meet to resolve the matter. In the case of the Executive Branch the highest public official shall be the Mayor or designee; in the case of the Legislative Branch it shall be the Council President or designee; and in case of the Office of the City Clerk it shall be the City Clerk or designee. The parties shall engage in facilitation of the matter over a period of fourteen (14) business days, or more as agreed to by the parties, before taking legal action. The facilitation shall be conducted by a facilitator, mutually agreed to by the parties. Nothing in this section shall preclude a branch or unit of government from seeking a temporary restraining order, injunction or other emergency legal action based on irreparable harm, but this section shall be complied with if the court rules that no irreparable harm exists, in which case the facilitation period shall be twenty-eight (28) business days from the date of the court’s decision, or longer as agreed to by the parties.
Sec. 7.5-209. Enforcement of Charter
Corporation Counsel shall be responsible for enforcing compliance with the Charter
Corporation Counsel must document in writing any charter violation by a branch of government, elected officials or any other person in violation of the charter
No part of this section of the charter can waive any right to attorney-client privilege.
The Corporation Counsel shall be responsible for enforcing compliance with the Charter. Corporation Counsel shall document in writing any violation of the Charter by the executive or legislative branches, Office of City Clerk, elected official or other persons subject to compliance with the Charter. This written notice shall contain the nature of the violation, including the Charter section(s) violated, direct the necessary action to be taken to remedy the violation, and date by which the remedial action must be taken. The time for taking the required remedial action shall not exceed fourteen (14) calendar days. The notice of Charter violation shall be presented to the offending body or individual, with a copy provided to the Mayor, City Council and City Clerk.
In the event the offending body or individual fails to remedy the Charter violation within the time frame and manner required in the written notice, Corporation Counsel shall take all reasonable actions to secure compliance, including, but not limited to, judicial action.
Nothing in this section is meant to waive any right to attorney-client privilege.
Sec. 7.5-210. Claim Reduction
Corporation Counsel shall advise City departments, agencies and entities on risk reduction strategies that are necessary to limit or eliminate the City’s exposure to liability.
Sec. 7.5-211. Other Duties
The Corporation Counsel has such other duties as may be provided by law, this Charter, or ordinance.