Tal Rappleyea is a lawyer with expertise in both municipal law and real estate. He practices in Greene and Columbia counties in New York state.

What is a municipality?

A municipality is a technical term for a county or city. The size of the municipality reflects the population density. Some municipalities, like those in rural areas, are very small and don’t go below the county level. Some counties have multiple municipalities because the population is so large.

How is a municipality governed?

The size of the municipality’s government reflects the area’s population. Therefore, a small municipality may only have a handful of council members while a large municipality may have more than 50 council members.

What about municipal law?

The term municipal law refers to the governing bodies of counties or cities where government structures are placed and enforced.

Who creates the municipal laws?

Local city or town councils are mainly responsible for creating municipal laws. Council members are elected from the county or city’s local residents and they have great control over the municipal law in their area.

What does municipal law entail?

Municipal law can cover a wide range of issues for the local area. A few examples are below.

  • Education Policies: Governs standards of education in public schools, student safety, accommodating students with disabilities, job security for teachers and more.
  • Property Taxes: How taxed income from residents is used to benefit the community.
  • Police Power: This is how police officers will oversee resident behavior in the designated municipality.
  • Zoning: This governs how land in the municipality is used. These living documents are constantly reviewed and updated by planners and surveyors to emulate the municipality’s community and goals.

There is also a structure and foundation set forth by the municipality to enforce the laws.

  • Municipal Corporation: These are legal guidelines given to an area that gives the municipality the ability to sue, be sued, or sell and buy property. This is awarded to the municipality at its founding with the municipal charter.
  • The Municipal Charter: Similar to the U.S. Constitution, the municipal charter is a document created at the founding of that town or city. It defines the structure, powers, functions and procedures of the municipal government. It’s most important legal document of any city.

How is municipal law enforced?

Municipalities enact the appropriate local laws and hire staff to enforce those laws, such as a lawyer.

What do municipal lawyers do?

Municipal lawyers work to reflect the needs of the area residents. Some municipal lawyers practice law individually for multiple municipalities while others work internally for one municipality. A few examples of positions for internal municipal lawyers include Attorney for the Town or Attorney for the Village.