You can fight City Hall if you use the appropriate Government Law. “Government Law” is the body of statutes, codes, rules and regulations governing the administration, agreements, and transactions of government entities. In fact, you encounter Government Law frequently when you get a driver’s license or vote or combat discrimination or request a zoning variance or obtain a building permit or use the public library or otherwise use the services of literally thousands of government entities in villages, towns, cities, counties, states and the federal government.
Some Government Law has been around as long as the United States of America. Starting with the Bill of Rights, specifically the 14th Amendment’s federal/state checks and balances, and the 4th Amendment’s protections against illegal searches and seizures, Government Law is essentially concerned with protecting your rights and providing ways to get things done, just because you are living and breathing in America. These protections and methods were then expanded by major legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, amendments to those acts, and further state/local laws expanding, explaining and facilitating protections and processes. Given all the protections, all the government entities and all the tasks that people are trying to accomplish, Government Law cuts across many areas of law. Exercising Government Law may mean also dealing with Environmental Law, Education Law, Social Security Law, Civil Rights Law, Real Estate Law and any other body of law that interfaces with the business of a government entity.
How, then, do you argue with the government? Mind you, we are talking about thousands of processes with thousands of entities, so these steps are as general as possible.
First, hire a lawyer who specializes in Government Law. He/She is used to arguing with all sorts of government entities about all sorts of issues. Clearly, the more information and documentation you can provide, the better your lawyer will be able to argue your position. Furthermore, as always, you should keep copies of all information and documentation in your own expandable file folder.
Secondly, since government entities tend to have laws and regulations specific to their own operations, you and your lawyer will find out exactly which government entity is involved in your issue. It might not be immediately obvious and there might be more than 1 entity involved.
Third, once you know the government entit(y)(ies), you will want to know the laws and regulations governing arguments between an individual/organization and the entit(y)(ies). Some government entities are downright friendly, organized and helpful: they’ll tell you exactly how to argue with them and will provide the necessary forms/instructions. But other government entities? Ooooh, are they ever NOT friendly, organized and helpful. This is where your Government Law attorney summons his/her special powers for ferretting out required forms and procedures.
Fourth, you will typically be required to argue with the government entity on its own turf and with processes specific to that entity. With your lawyer’s assistance, you will follow the procedures, use the proper forms and meet the required deadlines to convince this entity of your position.
Fifth, if the argument is not resolved to your satisfaction, you will typically have a way to appeal the entity’s decision, either by the entity’s own appeals process or by bringing a court action in which you ask the appropriate court to decide in your favor and against the government entity.
Sixth, once you are in the judicial system, you are typically – though not always – given further opportunities for appeals. Consequently, if the court rules against your position, you will usually have recourse to an appeal of that court decision and sometimes even further appeals right up the judicial ladder, possibly all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. Some clients have vowed to take arguments all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court but broke that vow like a bad habit after receiving the first bill for attorney’s fees and costs. Nevertheless, an argument with a government entity can at least theoretically go all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court.
DO’S AND DON’TS
DON’T be intimidated by the process or the people.
DO hire a lawyer who specializes in Government Law.
DO gather and provide for your lawyer as much detailed information and documentation as possible.
DO keep copies of all information and documentation in your own expandable file folder.
DO find out exactly which government entity is involved in your issue.
DO obtain the laws and regulations governing arguments between an individual/organization and the appropriate government entit(y)(ies).
DO follow the procedures, use the proper forms and meet the required deadlines to convince this entity of your position.
DO appeal the entity’s decision, either by the entity’s own appeals process or by bringing a court action.
DO use the opportunities for further judicial appeals, if necessary.
By Kathy Catanzarite
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.