The Office of the County Counsel is required to provide legal advice and assistance to the County Board of Supervisors and County departments, commissions, and agencies. Health, public safety, child welfare, jail operations, environmental protection, personnel and human resources, taxation, elections - are among the wide range of subjects that engage the Office of the County Counsel.
The Office of the County Counsel’s mandated duties are found in the Government Code and the State Bar Act. The Government Code establishes the County Counsel as a public officer and sets forth the general and specific civil duties the office must perform. The State Bar Act and implementing regulations establish the ethical obligations and professional standards of members of the bar.
General Legal Mandates
The County Counsel is the attorney for the County, including the Board of Supervisors and all County officers, departments, boards, and commissions. All County officers and employees receive the services of the County Counsel. The primary client of County Counsel is the Board of Supervisors. With the exception of specified core functions of elected officers, County Counsel’s legal services are rendered to other County officers and employees only because of their status as agents of the Board of Supervisors.
Upon request, the Office of the County Counsel serves as legal counsel to the Grand Jury and the Superior Courts, and for special districts whose governing board is composed in whole or in part of persons who serve due to their status as members of the County Board of Supervisors. In addition, the County, through the Office of the County Counsel, may provide legal services to various other local public entities. NCTPA and LAFCO are examples involving Board membership. The Mosquito Abatement District is an example of a local public entity without Board membership.
The Most Common Specific Legal Mandates
1. Attend meetings of the Board of Supervisors, when required, and to attend and oppose all claims and accounts against the County when such claims and accounts are deemed unjust or illegal. Government Code Section 26256.
2. To render legal services, including legal opinions, to the County and all County officers. Government Code Sections 26520 and 27642.
3. To defend or prosecute all civil actions and proceedings in which the County or any of its officers is concerned or is a party in his or her official capacity, except where the Board provides other counsel to defend an action or proceeding brought against a county officer or employee. Government Code Section 26529.
4. To act as the attorney of the Public Administrator in all estates in which the Public Administrator is the appointed executor or administrator and represent the Public Guardian in conservatorship matters. Government Code Sections 27643, 27430.
5. To represent the County in mental health proceedings as established by law. Government Code Section 27646.
6. To represent the County’s Department of Health and Human Serivces in proceedings in which minors are adjudged dependent children of the juvenile court, including proceedings to terminate parental rights. Welfare and Institutions Code Section 318.5.
7. To assist in the issuance of school bond issues within the County upon request. Government Code Section 26522.
8. Upon request of any Judge of the Superior Court, to appear and represent the court or judge if the court or judge in his or her official capacity is a party defendant or the judge is a witness. Government Code Section 26254, 27647.
9. To prepare a ballot title and summary of proposed county ballot measures. Elections Code Section 9105.
10. To serve as legal advisor to the Grand Jury with respect to civil matters. Penal Code Section 934.
11. To discharge all duties vested by law in the District Attorney of the County other than those of a public prosecutor. Government Code Sections 26529 and 27642.
12. To appear and defend certification allegations in habeas corpus proceedings brought by persons involuntarily confined for treatment in private hospitals under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. Welfare and Institutions Code Section 5000 et seq.