Cities

City governments face complex legal issues that are as significant as any faced by the business community. In addition, cities have the added burdens of complying with laws that pertain only to governmental operations and responding to their constituencies. Bickerstaff provides both City Attorney and Outside Counsel services on specialized municipal legal issues across Texas.

Serving the needs of small villages and large cities requires a variety of expertise that is best provided by specialty groups. We have an experienced city attorney group that serves as city attorney for several Central Texas cities and that provides back-up services in many more cities. Day-to-day experience guiding cities through the complex legal and business issues faced by city officials and staff is the primary responsibility of our municipal legal team. We advise municipal clients in all areas of public law:

  • legal aspects of managing basic city functions such as police, fire, taxation, etc.
  • public finance
  • annexation, zoning, and condemnation
  • land use and development
  • construction
  • economic development
  • municipal court prosecution and operations
  • ordinance drafting
  • employment matters
  • compliance with open meetings and records laws
  • elections
  • water, wastewater, electric utilities, and franchises
  • litigation
  • ethics

Our attorneys deal with municipal issues in all areas of the state and provide to our clients the perspective and lessons of other communities. Our attorneys provide additional assistance on municipal matters in the following areas:

Public Finance

Including advising municipal clients on financing mechanisms, conduit financing, public securities law, and related legislation; serving as bond counsel, underwriter’s counsel and issuers counsel; and interpreting public finance legislation;

Open Government Law

Including training newly elected officials and experienced lawyers; developing numerous widely distributed analyses on open meeting and open records law addressing questions about adequacy of notice, bonafide purposes for executive sessions, what constitutes an emergency, and other problems frequently faced by city governments; counseling on compliance; and defending governments and officials in lawsuits alleging violations of the open meetings and open records laws;

Economic Development

Including assisting with 4B sales tax elections, tax abatement matters, tax increment financing, and the creation of special entities for economic development purposes;

Land Use and Development

Including zoning, subdivision regulation, annexation, and the regulations of signs, wireless communication towers, and nuisances; assisting municipalities in connection with private/public partnerships for economic development, affordable housing, “smart growth” development, downtown revitalization, environmental conservation, and historic preservation; representing cities in negotiating and drafting numerous complex development and economic development agreements;

Real Estate Law

Including representing cities in connection with the acquisition, condemnation, sale, lease, financing, and development of real property; and providing clients services such as title and survey review, review of environmental site assessments, and negotiation and drafting of purchase contracts, deeds, leases, easements, and other real estate documents;

Construction Law

Including drafting and negotiating contracts with architects, engineers, and the construction team; advising on procurement and bidding issues and representation in bid protests; advising cities on insurance and performance bond issues; and if disputes arise during or after construction, handling negotiation and litigation with architects, engineers, and contractors;

Elections

Including interpreting and working with state election laws and election procedures for cities; assisting clients in developing and adhering to election schedules and deadlines; aiding cities with their elections, from ordering ballots and other supplies and materials to translating elections materials into Spanish, coordinating joint elections, verifying signatures on a petition, training elections staff and workers, obtaining polling places, and supervising recounts or handling protests; and representing candidates and local governments in election contests, suits to enjoin elections, and voting rights litigation;

Election Challenges

Including handling requests for recounts, judicial contests of election results, and challenges to candidates’ qualifications, representing candidates running for state and national elected positions, such as the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, Texas House, and Chief Judge of a Court of Appeals;

Water Law

Including securing water rights, drafting interlocal agreements for water service and system operation, contracting, planning and permitting for water supplies and infrastructure construction, representing entities in wastewater discharge permitting, rulemaking and enforcement proceedings; assisting cities in matters involving water and sewer certificates of convenience and necessity (CCN) and water and sewer rate proceedings;

Environmental Law

Including advising clients with regard to landfills, incinerators, municipal waste disposal, and power plants; and litigating matters under the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act;

Electric Utility Law

Including representing both municipally-owned and investor-owned electric utility companies; and assisting our municipal clients with industry restructuring, fuel issues, franchise agreements, and a variety of environmental issues specific to electric utilities;

Representation as City Attorney

Including attending meetings and special proceedings, providing prompt responses to all legal needs, and actively participating in the Texas Municipal League, Texas City Attorneys Association, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the Association of Hispanic Municipal Officers, and similar industry groups.