County Counsel Functions
The Office of the County Counsel provides legal advice and assistance to the County Board of Supervisors and County departments, commissions, and agencies on every important issue of law or public policy that faces the County of Monterey. Health, public safety, welfare reform, child welfare, jail operations, environmental protection, personnel and human resources, public finance, taxation, elections - these are among the wide range of subjects that engage the Office of the County Counsel as legal advisor and primary civil litigator for the County.
The Office of the County Counsel performs legal services under the authority of essentially two sets of California statutes. The Government Code establishes County Counsel as a public officer and provides that the County Counsel perform general and specific civil duties. In addition, the State Bar Act and the Rules of Professional Conduct establish the ethical obligations and professional standards of members of the bar. Thus, the Office of the County Counsel discharges its statutory duties as public officers by performing professional services as members of the bar, delivering our services within the context of the attorney-client relationship.
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 because of their status as agents of the Board of Supervisors.
Upon request, the Office serves as legal counsel to the Grand Jury and the Superior and Municipal Courts, and for special districts whose governing board is composed in whole or in part of persons who are appointed by members of the County Board of Supervisors. In addition, the County, through the Office of the County Counsel, provides legal services to various other local public entities, including the Fort Ord Reuse Authority, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County, the County Board of Education, and various school districts.
The need for legal services is controlled by the specific and changing needs of each local public agency and by dynamic regulatory, legislative, and judicial environments. It is a primary goal of the County Counsel that the Office stays on top of these dynamic environments, poised and ready to adapt to the County’s changing needs while assisting the County to achieve its goals and attain its service expectations.
Specific Legal Mandates
- To 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.
- To render legal services, including legal opinions, to the County and all County officers. Government Code Sections 26520 and 27642.
- 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 an officer, employee, or servant. Government Code Section 26529.
- To act as attorney for the Public Administrator in all estates in which the Public Administrator is the executor or administrator as established by law. Government Code Section 27643.
- To represent the County in mental health proceedings as established by law. Government Code Section 27646.
- To represent the County’s Department of Social Services 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.
- To prepare all legal papers and forms necessary for the voting of school bond issues within the County upon request of any Board of Education, Board of School Trustees, or High School Board, and to advise them in relation to school bond issues. Government Code Section 26522.
- Upon request of the Auditor or Treasurer, to defend or prosecute any action brought by or against the Auditor or Treasurer for the purpose of testing the validity or constitutionality of any act of the Legislature or of the Board of Supervisors or of any order providing for the payment of any funds held in the County Treasury in those cases where the interest of the County is not adverse. Government Code Section 26523.
- Upon request of any Judge of the Superior Court or Municipal Court, to appear and represent the court or judge if the court or judge in his or her official capacity is a party defendant in any action. Government Code Section 26254.
- Upon request of any Judge of the Superior or Municipal Court, to represent such judge when the judge is a witness in his or her official capacity. Government Code Section 27647.
- To prepare a ballot title and summary of a proposed county ballot measure. Elections Code Section 9105.
- To serve as legal advisor to the Grand Jury with respect to civil matters. Penal Code Section 934.
- 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.
- 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.