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Legal Services

The Legislative Counsel and the staff maintain an attorney-client relationship with each Member of the Legislature and the Governor with respect to the office's provision of legal services.  Other persons may discuss drafting problems or other legal issues regarding legislation with the Legislative Counsel and staff under designated circumstances, or when authorized to do so by a Member of the Legislature.

As one of its principal functions, the Office of the Legislative Counsel prepares a legislative draft for virtually every legislative proposal that is considered by the Legislature, including bills, constitutional amendments, resolutions, and amendments to those measures.  Requests from Members of the Legislature or their staff are each referred to a Legislative Counsel attorney having expertise in the affected subject matter, who typically drafts the appropriate wording, determines how best to integrate the proposal into existing law, identifies potential constitutional or other legal problems that may be raised by the proposal, and works with the requester's office to resolve those problems.  The office also prepares the Legislative Counsel's Digest, which is printed on the first page of each bill and contains a brief summary of the effect of the bill.  In addition, when the Governor submits an executive reorganization plan to the Legislature, the office prepares the plan in statutory format.

The law provides that "[n]either the Legislative Counsel nor any employee of the bureau shall oppose or urge legislation."  This requirement of nonpartisanship, together with the confidentiality assured by the attorney-client relationship, enable the Office of Legislative Counsel to provide legal services, including the preparation of legislation, to each of the 120 Members of the Legislature and the Governor without regard to partisan political considerations.

Another major function of the office is the preparation of legal opinions in response to requests presented by a Member of the Legislature or the Governor.  These opinions typically address the interpretation or constitutionality of provisions of existing law, or of pending legislative proposals, and cover a wide range of subject areas of the law.  In addition to these formal opinions, attorneys of the Office of Legislative Counsel routinely provide informal legal guidance to Members or legislative staff in the course of committee deliberations and in the context of individual consultation.

In addition, the Legislative Counsel prepares for the Governor an analysis, or enrolled bill report, of each bill that the Legislature sends to the Governor for approval, identifying, for example, conflicts between the bill and other bills passed in the same legislative session.  A copy of the analysis is delivered to the author of the bill, as required by the joint rules of the Legislature.

Attorneys of the Office of Legislative Counsel also prepare contracts authorizing the provision to the Legislature of various services, and represent the Senate or Assembly in litigation, including the preparation of briefs in pending lawsuits.