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Ask a Texas Municipal League Attorney
Before picking up the phone, keep in mind that some questions may be answered by visiting either the Legal Questions and Answers (Q&A) section or selecting the appropriate topic from the Topics section of our website. Otherwise, you can contact a helpful member of our Legal Staff.
The Texas Municipal League (TML) Legal Services Department provides legal assistance to TML member cities. We:
- Answer general questions
- Participate in educational seminars
- Prepare handbooks, magazine articles, and written materials, including legal opinions and amicus briefs
- Provide support services for the Legislative Department
Since our staff of five attorneys serves over 1,140 member cities, there are limits on the types of assistance we can provide.
Telephone & 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.
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.
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.
You may email general legal questions to our legal staff. Your email will be routed to an attorney for a response. As with telephone calls, email response time varies based on many factors. However, we attempt to respond as soon as possible.
Who Can Call or Email?
We answer inquiries from the elected and appointed officials of our member cities who call or email about legal issues within their official responsibilities. City officials who call or email with personal concerns will be asked to contact their personal counsel. We can be reached by phone at 512-231-7400 or by email. The TML legal staff serves city officials and will not give advice on municipal law to private citizens because that would be a conflict of interest and a violation of our ethical rules. We do not give legal advice and information to associate members.
Formal, written legal opinions will be provided in response to a written request. A written request may be submitted:
- By email
- By fax to 512-231-7490
- By letter to:
TML Legal Services Department
1821 Rutherford Lane
Austin, TX 78754
Please note that normal email responses are informal. If you are requesting a formal opinion, please indicate that in your email. We do our best to respond in a timely fashion. Response time for written inquiries depends on our volume of work and the complexity of your legal issue.
If you have already requested a written opinion from your city's legal counsel, a request for a second opinion on the issue needs to come from him or her. Supplementing each telephone conversation with a written legal opinion is impractical due to the number of calls we receive, but we may follow up telephone calls by mailing or faxing available written materials.
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 & 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.
- Access order information on National Civic League's most recent model charter.
- Research Texas statutes on the Texas Legislature Online website.