This page contains answers to questions frequently asked of the City Attorney.
Q: “What does the City Attorney do?”
A: The City Attorney represents the City of Green Bay as a corporation by protecting the city’s legal interests, advising city administration, advocating on the city’s behalf, and representing the city in court, administrative hearings, quasi-judicial hearings, and any other legal action. The City Attorney does not represent any particular citizen. The City Attorney only represents employees and elected officials in their official capacities when the City’s interests are at stake. Just like a corporate business attorney who works solely for a corporation and does not represent any other person or business, the City Attorney acts in a similar capacity for the City of Green Bay.
Q. “Can you represent me in my case?”
A: No. The City Attorney is prohibited from representing any citizen in a private legal action. The City Attorney may only represent the city as a municipal corporation and its employees, departments, officers, boards, commissions, and authorities in their official capacities.
Q: “I want to sue the city, how do I do that?”
A: The City Attorney cannot advise you on the procedure to sue the city. You should speak with a private attorney if you need assistance with your case. If your type of case requires you to file a notice of claim against the city, click here for information on the claims procedure.
Q: “What is the difference between the Municipal Code and a Charter Ordinance?”
A: The Municipal Code contains all the general ordinances passed by a majority of the alderpersons present at a meeting. It is a book of all the laws that city departments enforce in municipal court and laws that control how the city operates. The Municipal Code defines every offense, from parking violations to disorderly conduct. State law allows cities to publish all general ordinances, organized by topic, in a Municipal Code.
Charter Ordinances amend or repeal the city’s original charter and are usually created by two-thirds of the entire common council. They are used to make major procedural changes or change a legal status within the city. Charter Ordinances are usually important to city administrators because they contain fundamental rules on how to operate the city. State law has very specific rules on how to pass a Charter Ordinance and what a Charter Ordinance may regulate.
Q: “Can you refer me to a private attorney?”
A: The Wisconsin State Bar is the governing organization for all attorneys in the state. To use the State Bar lawyer referral service you may call 1.800.362.9082 or click here.
Q: “I received a municipal citation, what should I do?”
A: If you do not want to challenge the citation, you can pay it before the first appearance date on the citation. The municipal court accepts payment in person at 330 S. Jefferson Street, or online. If you wish to challenge the citation, appear at court on your first appearance date and enter a plea of “Not Guilty.” You may enter a plea by mail before the first appearance date only if your citation says an appearance is not mandatory. If you plead “Not Guilty,” you can always change your plea on a later date if you wish. By pleading “Not Guilty,” you will receive a date to meet with the city prosecutor for a pre-trial conference. Your appearance at that conference is mandatory, and you can discuss your case with the prosecutor at that time. Due to the high volume of cases handled by the city, the prosecutor is not able to discuss your case prior to your pre-trial conference.
Q: “Where do I pay or challenge a parking ticket?”
A: You can pay for a parking ticket by submitting payment in the pre-marked envelope by mail, dropping it off in a drop box outside of City Hall, or pay in person in Room 300 in City Hall . If you wish to contest a parking ticket, you must appear in person in Room 300 and file a contestation form. At that time, you will receive a date to appear in municipal court to challenge your ticket. If you challenged the parking ticket already, contact municipal court for payment questions.
Q: “What is the difference between a City Attorney and a District Attorney?”
A: The City Attorney represents the city in a wide variety of legal matters, from economic development to contracts to risk management. Along with many other duties, the City Attorney prosecutes non-criminal municipal court cases, but does not prosecute any criminal matters.
The District Attorney represents the state and the county by focusing exclusively on prosecution of county and state crimes and offenses.
Q: “I am having a dispute with my neighbor, can the City Attorney give me advice or assist in getting the dispute resolved?”
A: No. Matters between neighbors are private and the City Attorney’s Office will not become involved except to enforce code violations.
Q: “My neighbor’s tree is growing over the property line and causing problems for me. What can I do?”
A: If the tree poses a threat to the right-of-way, like the sidewalk or a street, the City can take action against the owner of the tree. However, if the tree poses no threat to the public right-of-way, the issue is a private matter, and you should contact a private attorney if you wish to explore your rights regarding trees.
Q: “My neighbor built a fence on my property. What can I do?”
A: There is no setback for fences, so the city does not have any ability to order a fence moved. The location of a fence is a private matter, so you should contact a private attorney if you wish to explore your rights regarding the location of a fence.
Q: “My neighbor did something to his property that causes mine to flood. What can I do?”
A: These kinds of drainage issues are private matters. Only a circuit court can apply the “reasonable use” test discussed in State v. Deetz, 66 Wis. 2d 1 (1974). You should contact a private attorney if you wish to explore your rights regarding surface water runoff.