Wednesday, August 31, 2005

On the role of local government attorneys

This commentary from Kerry Dougherty in the Norfolk paper concludes:

"It's time to re-examine the role of city attorneys across Virginia. These lawyers are paid by the taxpayers, yet they serve at the pleasure of city councils and as the councils' attorneys. At times they seem to be serving two masters.

Their advice is supposed to protect the public interest. For instance, city attorneys are supposed to caution councils against holding illegal secret sessions. They're also supposed to help protect the public in contracts and complicated land deals.

But it's wrong for city councils to enlist 'their' attorneys to help them circumvent the will of the people."

Well, that's not quite right. The local government attorney does not have an attorney-client relationship with "the people" as such, although some members of the people have told me from time to time in no uncertain terms what I should do as a local government attorney (or perhaps even, where I should go).

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