What Is Municipal Law? A Simple Guide for Beginners

There are so many areas of practice in the law; criminal, bankruptcy, family, civil rights,  entertainment, and many more. 

We hear about these areas of law and the court cases that come from trying to uphold this laws all the time. 

But there is one less known area of law which actually affects every day life quite a bit. And that is municipal law. 

If you want to learn more about municipal law and if it even applies to you, you are in the right place!

What Does Municipality Mean?

In order to really understand municipal law, we need to back all the way up and learn what a municipality is. 

The definition of a municipality is a community with a local government and specified boundaries. This includes towns, cities, or villages. 

These areas are formally organized by the larger state where they are located. They are given the authority to have their own laws and standards, as long as they are in line with the state’s laws as well. 

Municipalities and their governments were created in order to give the state’s a way to outsource some of the necessary services. This includes water, garbage disposal, and utilities. 

What Does Municipal Mean and What Is Municipal Law?

Since we understand that municipality is a defined area with a local government, it follows that municipal is a part of that. 

The municipal definition is the governing body in that area. And municipal law is the rules, regulations, and standards that are set by that governing body. 

This type of law gives those in the municipal government set limits to their power and also gives the community regulations to keep things running as smooth as possible. 

Municipal government officials are elected by the people living within their boundaries. After they are elected they are then responsible for upholding the law, adding to the law, and in certain circumstances working with the community to change outdated or unnecessary laws. 

Some of these municipal government titles include mayor, city council, or commissioners. 

Many of these elected officials are required to follow the laws set by their municipality but many of them were not actually trained lawyers before getting their position. 

Who Does a Municipal Attorney Represent?

There is a lot that a municipal government may want to do to help or improve their community. But they do not just have free reign to do whatever they think is necessary. 

A municipal law attorney is their advisor on what they are and are not allowed to do within the government. 

These types of attorneys do not represent a person but instead represent community governments, council boards, or other municipal groups. 

Often a municipality will have a contracted attorney that they can use often for counsel, not just when they are a part of a lawsuit. That attorney is hired through the government.

But a citizen may also need a lawyer who understands and is familiar with the local municipal law as well. If they believe there has been an issue with the upkeep of the law, they need someone who can argue that law for them. 

Many law firms can help people understand specific laws in their community, like estate planning or property management. 

What Falls Under Municipal Law?

Okay, so a municipal government has the responsibility to continually improve their community and make sure it is successful. But they also have the responsibility to stay within the bounds of the law. 

So what exactly falls under municipal law that these government bodies are working under and also creating?

This list obviously varies from place to place, as each governing body has come up with different regulations to cover specific needs. 

But, generally speaking, municipal law covers any liability the municipality may have, use of power, and space management. 

One of the most important aspects of municipal law is in drafting new ordinances for the municipal laws. There are very specific processes and standards that adding to the law takes. A lawyer can help the government body make sure that what they are doing is legal so that it can go through. 

Another common practice of municipal lawyers has to do with zoning for properties. Each community is divided up into sections; business, residential, etc. So the municipal government keeps up with all things concerning the zoning and building in the city. 

Municipal law also covers police operations, what they can and cannot do. These lawyers also deal with some traffic prosecution as well. 

There are a lot of areas that are covered within municipal law. A lawyer with specific training in this type of law is so helpful to make sure everything is done correctly. 

Why Is Municipal Law Important?

There are laws in place to keep order and structure, to maximize safety, and to promote personal rights. 

Each government entity has their own set of laws that are within their jurisdiction, from Federal to State to County to Municipality. That is a lot of laws to keep track of and uphold. 

A municipal lawyer is someone who is trained in municipal law but also has a thorough knowledge of all applicable laws (Federal on down).

This type of lawyer is critical to making sure the government runs as smoothly as possible and that citizens are also protected against abuse of power. 

If you want to learn more about municipal laws or anything legal, please contact us today!