The County Counsel is the chief civil law officer of the county and provides legal services to the Board of Supervisors, county and court officials, and other agencies and districts. The County Counsel is a statutory officer appointed by the Board of Supervisors and serves a four-year term in general law counties and without a term in some charter counties.
Many of the official duties of the County Counsel are prescribed by state law. Counsel must render legal services to the county and may provide legal services to school districts and other local public entities as requested. Such services include legal opinions and advice, as well as preparation of contracts, ordinances, and resolutions. As the legal advisor to the Board of Supervisors, County Counsel attends its meetings, both public and closed sessions. Upon request of the county auditor or treasurer, County Counsel defends or prosecutes any action brought by or against these officers relating to the payment of funds when it is consistent with the county’s interest. Upon request of any judge of the superior, municipal, or justice court, the County Counsel represents the court or judge, unless there is a conflict. In most counties, the County Counsel provides legal advice to the grand jury on civil matters.
The County Counsel in most counties defends or prosecutes all civil actions and proceedings in which the county or any of its officers is concerned or is a party in an official capacity. In some counties, the County Counsel handles most of the civil litigation involving the county or its officers, while in others the Board of Supervisors hires private attorneys to do some or all of this work under the County Counsel’s general supervision. In addition to administrative and judicial proceedings, the County Counsel represents county officers in probate and conservatorship proceedings, and in guardianship and juvenile cases.
The County Counsels’ Association of California is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to providing continuing legal education to its members in the field of governmental law, improving law affecting local agencies and fostering and maintaining the highest ethical and professional standards of all persons engaged in local governmental agencies.
CSAC sponsors a Litigation Coordination Program which is administered by the County Counsels’ Association. The Program is directed by the Association’s Litigation Overview Committee, consisting of ten county counsels representing all areas of the state, in conjunction with a Litigation Coordinator who also serves as the Association’s Executive Director. Association offices are in the CSAC building in Sacramento. The Program monitors litigation of concern to counties statewide, coordinates the defense of major multi-county litigation, provides amicus (friend of the court) support where appropriate, and disseminates current information on cases involving public law issues to counties in the form of litigation alerts and updates.
The goal of the Program is to benefit counties by:
- Achieving cost savings by avoiding duplication of effort,
- Strengthening the response of each county to litigation affecting its interests,
- Collecting and communicating current information on the state of the law, and
- Advancing concepts favorable to counties in the development of public law.
- Individual County Counsels participate in case-specific subcommittees as legal issues of importance to all counties arise which need special attention.