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 CITY COUNCIL AGENDA ITEM NO. 06



Meeting Date: January 14, 2003

Subject/Title: City Joinder in Statewide Amicus Briefs

Submitted by: Dennis Beougher, City Attorney

Approved by: John Stevenson, City Manager


RECOMMENDATION
Approve a Resolution authorizing the City Attorney to add the City’s name to statewide amicus briefs.

BACKGROUND
Over the years, cities, largely through such organizations as the League of California Cities, have been effective in protecting the common interests of cities statewide before various courts. The primary method by which the cities and the League of California Cities advance this goal is in its coordinating the preparation of amicus (“friend-of-the-court”) briefs.

When a city has a case which it, or the League of California Cities, feels advances or threatens the common interests of cities statewide, it will ask for various cities to join in an amicus brief or refers the case to the Legal Advocacy Committee of the League’s City Attorneys Department (“Committee”) for assistance. When a city requests or the Committee determines that a case raises important issues common to all cities which merit support, the city or the Committee will coordinate the preparation of an amicus brief and urge or recommend that cities join in the brief. The city or the Committee locates or solicits volunteer brief writers to prepare the amicus briefs. 

ANALYSIS
City Attorneys take one or two approaches in gaining support from their Councils on requests to join amicus briefs. One approach is to bring each request to the Council at the regular council meeting for approval of amicus joinder on a case-by-case basis. This is the method that I have utilized with the Council in the past. The advantage here is that the Council has the opportunity to directly review all amicus requests. A disadvantage here is that because many amicus brief joinder requests arise on very short notice, the deadline for joining often expires before the matter can be brought before the Council.

The other common approach is for the Council to delegate to the City Attorney the power to add the City to the amicus brief. Although some city councils have informally delegated this power to the City Attorney, the better practice is to memorialize the Council’s policy by a resolution which sets standards for the City Attorney’s exercise of discretion, or which requires that certain types of cases be brought to the Council for its direct consideration. 

The proposed resolution would authorize the City Attorney to make a decision to add the City as a participant in friend-of-the-court briefs under the following circumstances:

a) the City Attorney has reviewed the legal issues presented by the case and has determined that participation in the friend-of-the-court brief would protect or advance the City’s legal interests; or
b) joinder in the brief is consistent with existing City ordinances, resolutions or policies and the League of California Cities and/or its Legal Advocacy Committee is recommending cities join the brief;
c) Under (a) or (b) the cost of joining the friend-of the-court brief to the City does not exceed $100.

Additionally, for cases in which the Committee has not considered participation, or in which the Committee has no position, the City Attorney under the following circumstances may make the decision regarding participation in friend-of-the-court briefs:

a) the City Attorney has reviewed the legal issues presented by the case and has determined that participation in the friend-of-the-court brief would protect or advance the City’s legal interests; and
b) joinder in the brief is consistent with existing City ordinances, resolutions or policies; and
c) the cost of joining the friend-of-the-court brief to the City does not exceed $100.

For all other cases, all high-profile, controversial, or significant cases will be, as part of the adopted policy, brought back to the Council for the Council’s prior review and direction.

If the attached resolution is approved, I intend to provide a monthly report that sets forth a summary of the cases in which the City has joined as an amicus.

Attachment:
Resolution


RESOLUTION NO.


A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BRENTWOOD ADOPTING A POLICY CONCERNING THE CITY’S PARTICIPATION IN FRIEND-OF-THE-COURT BRIEFS


WHEREAS, public agencies and municipalities statewide are from time to time involved in cases involving issues of general interest and applicability to the City’s interests; and

WHEREAS, the City is asked from time to time to support other public agencies in “amicus curiae” or friend-of-the-court briefs in cases which have the potential to affect the City’s policies, authority or liability; and

WHEREAS, friend-of-the-court requests typically involve only general issues of municipal law and not difficult, controversial or novel public policy concerns; and

WHEREAS, the City Attorney has control of all legal business, and the City Attorney has advised the Council that participation in friend-of-the-court briefs is in the City’s interest; and

WHEREAS, frequently there is insufficient time to place the issue of friend-of-the-court participation on the City Council agenda for Council approval because of the extremely short time period within which such briefs must be filed; and

WHEREAS, there generally is no or minimal cost to the City in adding its name to a friend-of-the-court brief; and

WHEREAS, the League of California Cities had an extensive process for evaluating friend-of-the-court briefing efforts involving collective review by city attorneys from all regions of the state as well as the city officials who sit on the League’s Bard of Directors, and recommends city participation in briefs only if the legal issues are of statewide significance and are ones in which cities have a common interest in the same outcome, and the City Attorney usually has the benefit of the League’s recommendation on the advisability of the City’s participation in friend-of-the-court efforts for appellate court cases.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BRENTWOOD THAT:

1. The Council authorizes the City Attorney to make a decision to add the City as a participant in friend-of-the-court briefs under the following circumstances:

a) The City Attorney has reviewed the legal issues presented by the case and has determined that participation in the friend-of-the-court brief would protect or advance the City’s legal interests; or

b) Joinder in the brief is consistent with existing City ordinances, resolutions or policies; and the League of California Cities and/or its Legal Advocacy Committee is recommending cities join the brief; and

c) Under both situations stated above, the cost of joining the friend-of the-court brief to the City does not exceed $100.

2. For cases in which participation has not been considered by the Legal Advocacy Committee of the League of California Cities, or in which the Legal Advocacy Committee has no position, the decision regarding participation in friend-of-the-court briefs may be made by the City Attorney under the following circumstances:

a) The City Attorney has reviewed the legal issues presented by the case and has determined that participation in the friend-of-the-court brief would protect or advance the City’s legal interests; and

b) Joinder in the brief is consistent with existing City ordinances, resolutions or policies; and

c) The cost of joining the friend-of-the-court brief to the City does not exceed $100.

3. For all other cases, all high-profile, controversial, or significant cases will be brought to the City Council for the Council’s prior review and direction.

PASSED, APPROVED AND ADOPTED by the City Council of the City of Brentwood at a regular meeting on the 14 day of January 2003, by the following vote:


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