Legal Services

Description of legal services available to League members.

Legal Staff
The League has two attorneys on staff to assist employees and officials of member municipalities. Claire Silverman has been with the League since 1992. Daniel Olson joined the League in 2001.

The League's attorneys are here to assist you and we look forward to serving you. We hope the description below of our legal services helps you understand what services we offer, as well as some of our constraints and limitations, so that we can better assist you and your municipality

  1. Claire Silverman

    Legal Counsel

  2. Daniel Olson

    Assistant Legal Counsel

  1.  Inquiries
  2. Formal Advisory Opinions
  3. Legal Resources
  4. Amicus Briefs
  5. Education
  • Availability: We try to have an attorney available to answer telephone inquiries daily between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. Call the League at (608) 267-2380 or (800) 991-5502.

    The attorneys split the day covering the telephone. Claire typically takes calls in the morning and Daniel takes afternoon calls. However, this schedule is frequently modified as a result of meetings, conferences, vacations and written workload. If we are on the phone or busy with other matters when you call, leave a message. We try to return calls the same day, although sometimes it's not possible to do so.

    It's helpful if you can call in advance of when you need an answer. We get many last-minute calls from officials as they are heading out the door to that night's meeting. We may need to do some research or look through our files to answer your question, and a little advance planning on your end will help us assist you more effectively.
  • Who may call? We answer telephone inquiries from member municipal officials and employees who are calling about matters within their official responsibilities. In response to phone inquiries, we will provide verbal advice and mail or fax any existing written legal opinions, sample ordinances, articles and other relevant information that we have in our files. However, due to the volume of calls we receive, we don't provide written answers to questions we receive over the telephone. League attorneys will only provide written advisory opinions when the request comes through the proper channels, as discussed below under the sub-heading "Requests for Formal Advisory Opinions."

    Because we represent the League and the interests of its member municipalities, we don't typically take calls from private citizens and will not give advice on specific municipal law questions to private citizens. However, we recognize that many private citizens who call us have been directed to us by municipal officials. Thus, we will sometimes share articles that have been published in our magazine or other general information we have on hand with citizens who call us.
  • Confidentiality: In general, we do not consider our conversations with municipal officials or employees confidential. It is important that Municipal officials and employees understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between League attorneys and municipal officials or employees that call seeking assistance. Our client is the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, acting through the League's Board of Directors. If you request that our conversation be kept confidential, we will attempt to honor your request, but we do not guarantee confidentiality. We will be unable to honor your request if a dispute later arises regarding what we told you or what we understood the facts relevant to your inquiry to be.

    A municipal employee who takes issue with the way the municipality is proceeding or treating the employee will most likely be directed without comment to the appropriate state agency. League attorneys cannot advise an employee or official whose interests are adverse to the municipality because it is the municipality that is a League member and not the individual municipal employee or official.
  • Subject matter of inquiries: It's best to call the League's attorneys with general questions pertaining to municipal law. We are here as a resource for you. Sometimes we can save you from expending a lot of time and effort by quickly directing you to a controlling statute or case. We can also give you a head start on your research by sharing information we have already gathered.

    However, we prefer not to answer questions pertaining to fact-specific situations in your municipality. First of all, we do not represent individual communities and meeting your community's legal needs is the responsibility and prerogative of your municipal attorney. Secondly, when a situation is specific to your community, we may not have all of the information necessary to answer the inquiry correctly and we may not know to ask the necessary questions.

    We also request that you be candid with us when you call regarding a particular matter. If you have already asked the municipal attorney for an answer and either did not like the answer or believe the municipal attorney was incorrect in his or her answer, please tell us. This is very important. Again, it is the municipal attorney's responsibility to represent the city or village and if push comes to shove, the municipal attorney will be the one in court representing the municipality. Although it may seem like there are so many laws that there should be one to concretely address every question that arises, each situation presents its own set of facts and unique facts add their own wrinkles. That's why answers to legal questions sometimes come in gray rather than black and white. In such situations, attorneys presented the same facts and law can reasonably reach different conclusions. Moreover, it may be that your municipality has enacted an ordinance that governs the situation. The League's attorneys would not necessarily be aware of that ordinance.

    Finally, please recognize that we answer legal questions and are not in a position to advise regarding policy matters. For example, if your municipality is considering building an aquatic center and wants to know whether it can hold an advisory referendum on the issue, we can tell you whether an advisory referendum is permissible. We cannot tell you whether holding such a referendum is a good idea or a bad idea. If your municipality is installing sidewalks and wants to know what the various options are for paying for the sidewalks, we can explain what the various options are. However, we cannot advise you regarding which option makes the most sense for your community. Such matters are policy questions, rather than legal questions, and must be determined by the legislative body.
  • Letters, Faxes and E-Mail Inquiries: In addition to phone inquiries, League attorneys receive written requests for assistance. The way we respond to any written inquiry depends largely on what type of information or response is sought. The League attorneys will respond to written requests for information by sending articles, past opinions, legislative information, sample ordinances and other information that we have readily available. We will respond to a written request which seeks an opinion but which does not comply with the League's policy governing requests for formal advisory opinions (see below) in one of two ways. We will either send a written response, declining to give a written opinion and suggesting that you call us if you are interested in discussing the matter, or call the sender if a telephone number is provided. We will address your inquiry by telephone if we are able to do so.