The Legal Division is headed by the General Counsel and is comprised of staff attorneys, Political Reform Consultants and support staff.
Responsibilities of the General Counsel
In addition to serving as the Chief of the Legal Division, the General Counsel serves as the legal advisor for the Chair and other Commissioners on a full range of policy matters. The General Counsel advises members of the Commission and the staff on the interpretation and analysis of laws, court decisions, and rules and regulations affecting the Commission. In addition, the General Counsel coordinates litigation strategy, ensures that consistent and sound advice is given by staff, and coordinates the development of legislative proposals, regulations and Commission opinions.
Responsibilities of the Legal Division
Representing the Commission in Court
Unlike most state agencies, which are represented in court by the Attorney General, the Commission is specifically authorized to be represented by its own lawyers. This is only one of the many provision of the Act designed to ensure the independence of the Commission. However, in instances where the staff’s time constraints or the litigation costs may be too burdensome, the Commission may request representation by the Attorney General’s office. The Act provides that, upon request, the Attorney General must provide legal advice and representation without charge to the Commission. In these cases, the Commission’s staff attorneys provide expertise and ensure that the representation conforms to Commission policy.
The Legal Division staff receives a large number of requests via email for advice from state and local officials, candidates and campaign committees, and lobbyists. Many of these questions concern conflicts of interests – officials asking whether they must disqualify themselves from certain decisions. Staff attorneys and Political Reform Consultants also assist the External Affairs and Education Division in providing informal advice in response to telephone requests when the questions are relatively straightforward. In response to some requests, the legal staff can give written advice, which are also known as Advice Letters.
Drafting regulations to implement the campaign, lobbying, and conflict of interest provisions of the Act is an important part of the Legal Division’s work. The FPPC regulations must comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, which provides procedures and standards for state agencies to follow in adopting regulations.
The Legal Division is involved in drafting Commission sponsored legislation and provides analysis on other bills that impact the Act.
Developing State and Local Conflict of Interest Codes
The Legal Division Political Reform Consultants prepare recommendations to the Executive Director or Commission Counsel for code adoptions and amendments for all state and multi-county agencies. The Political Reform Consultants also serve as a resource to all government agencies as they work to develop their own conflict of interest codes via webinars and training materials.