New York City Law Department
The New York City Law Department is the branch of the municipal government of New York City responsible for most of the city's legal affairs. The Department is headed by the Corporation Counsel of New York City.
The Law Department represents the mayor and city officials in all civil litigation, in juvenile delinquency proceedings in Family Court, and in prosecutions in the New York City Criminal Court under the New York City Administrative Code. Among the Department's other duties are drafting contracts, leases, municipal bond issues, and other legal documents for the city; reviewing local and state legislation, and providing legal advice to city officials on a wide variety of issues.
History of the Department
The origins of the Law Department lie in the English office of the Recorder. After the City fell under British control following the Third Anglo-Dutch War, New York's Royal Governor created the Office of Recorder of New York City in 1683 to serve as legal and political counsel to the City Government.
After the American Revolution, New York City continued to grow, and during the 19th century, the City Council began hiring private attorneys to do the internal legal work of the City. When this arrangement proved unsatisfactory, the City Charter was amended in 1849 to create the Office of the Corporation Counsel (so named because New York City is a municipal corporation).
Among the better-known cases that the Department has litigated before the U.S. Supreme Court are Goldberg v. Kelly, Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City, Ward v. Rock Against Racism, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, and Permanent Mission of India v. City of New York. The Department also prepares amicus curiae briefs in many major court cases.
The Law Department has 17 legal divisions and 3 support divisions. As of 2008, the Department employs 690 lawyers and 850 support professionals in ten offices located in all five boroughs, and an auxiliary office in Kingston, New York.
The legal divisions are:
- Administrative Law
- Affirmative Litigation
- Commercial and Real Estate Litigation
- Contracts and Real Estate
- Economic Development
- Environmental Law
- Family Court
- General Litigation
- Labor and Employment Law
- Legal Counsel
- Municipal Finance
- Special Federal Litigation (handles civil rights lawsuits under 42 U.S.C. 1983 brought against police, District Attorneys, or correction officers)
- Tax and Bankruptcy
- Workers' Compensation
The support divisions are:
- Information Technology
- Official homepage of the New York City Law Department
- Press release for "Fighting for the City", a history book about the Office of the Corporation Counsel