#ask a legal question
Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Before picking up the phone, keep in mind that some questions may be answered by visiting either the “Legal Q A” section or selecting the appropriate topic from the “Topics” drop-down menu on the left-hand side.
The Texas Municipal League Legal Services Department provides legal assistance to TML member cities. We answer general questions; participate in educational seminars; provide support services for the legislative department; and prepare handbooks, magazine articles, and written materials including legal opinions and amicus briefs. Since our staff of five attorneys serves over 1,128 member cities, there are limits on the types of assistance we can provide. For more information on the Legal Services Department, please click on the following:
Telephone and Email Inquiries
A top priority is a timely response to your telephone call or email. We are available for phone consultation during regular business hours. On some occasions – during our annual conference or on especially busy days during the legislative session, for example – our response may be delayed. Sometimes, all five of the attorneys are on the phone with other legal inquiries or are involved in projects outside the office, and our switchboard will take your message. Please leave a message only once ; repeatedly calling back slows down the legal staff and creates a logjam of messages. We receive approximately 1,200 calls per month, and we make every effort to return calls promptly. It is best, however, not to put off your call until the last minute before a deadline. If your call is extremely urgent, you should contact your city attorney.
Please remember that the TML attorneys serve as a resource to provide general guidance on legal issues. We do not directly represent your city, and our legal guidance should never be substituted for that of your local counsel. Thus, we cannot provide definitive answers to many questions, such as whether to terminate an employee or adopt an ordinance.
Who Can Call or Email?
We have ordinances on many topics, from cities large and small, available for our members to review. The ordinances we provide are furnished to us by other cities and have not been drafted by TML attorneys. Before you use one as a guide, have it reviewed by your local counsel for compliance with statutes and case law.
We get many calls asking us to interpret ordinances and charters. We can make educated guesses, but we cannot give a definitive interpretation because the meaning often depends upon the context of the entire ordinance or charter and the way it was enacted. Only your local counsel can give you a final answer.
Through the Legal Defense Program, in coordination with the Texas City Attorneys Association, we often submit amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in state or federal court on behalf of our member cities. If your city has an issue of municipal law which could have a statewide impact, please review the Legal Defense program guidelines and send a written request for an amicus brief to the legal department.
TML has two risk pools, the Intergovernmental Risk Pool and the Intergovernmental Employee Benefits Pool . These pools are separate entities with different boards of directors. Specific liability and coverage issues should be directed to the pools.
Seminars And Presentations
TML attorneys frequently serve as speakers at TML educational seminars, legal question and answer sessions, and regional meetings. If your TML region, affiliate, or other city organization requests a speaker for a particular program or seminar, we will make every effort to comply.
As attorneys, we answer your general questions regarding municipal law. Often we get calls for “legal assistance” when the caller is seeking the resolution to political differences. These calls are awkward, and we cannot give you an answer about who is right and who is wrong. Every town has political disagreements; most cannot be solved by looking at a statute. Legal ethics will prevent us from taking sides in your political disputes. TML’s constitution further prohibits us from answering questions that involve conflicts or litigation between member cities.
The mission of the Texas Municipal League Legal Services Department is to provide as much assistance as we can to our member city officials. The field of municipal law is very broad, so we coordinate with other organizations and state agencies in order to give you the best assistance available. If something you need is not available from us, we try to find the best person to whom to refer you.
Coordination With City Attorneys
Our role is to answer your general municipal law questions. If the answer hinges on complex local facts, documents, or the peculiarities of local ordinances or charters, we will recommend that you contact your local legal counsel. Also, if we know that your attorney is working on an issue for your city, we will request that your questions be directed to that attorney.
Lawyers give opinions, and no lawyer’s opinion is a guarantee. Your city attorney gives you an opinion believing it to be a defensible one. Some areas of the law are more uncertain than others and are therefore open to interpretation. When the law is especially unclear, we will suggest that you talk to your local counsel, to get an answer from the one who will be following through as an advocate for that answer. Of course, we will be happy to discuss any issue with your city attorney if she or he wishes to consult with us.
Due to the large number of member cities and our limited staff, we do not directly represent your city in legal matters. We also cannot visit your city for an individual consultation on matters of concern.
Click above to research Texas statutes on the Texas Legislature Online Web site.