Chapter 17: Law Department

Section 391.

Section 391. Department; corporation counsel; vacancy.

  1. There shall be a law department the head of which shall be the corporation counsel.
  2. Within 60 days following the occurrence of a vacancy in the office of the corporation counsel, the mayor shall submit to the council the name of the mayor’s nominee for corporation counsel. If the council disapproves a nomination while the office of the corporation counsel is vacant, the mayor shall submit a new nomination to the council within 60 days of council disapproval. Each subsequent council disapproval of a mayoral nomination shall begin a new 60-day period. The mayor shall make all reasonable efforts to ensure that the vacancy is filled through the process described in this subdivision within 120 days of the occurrence of the vacancy.

Section 392.

Section 392. Assistants.

  1. The corporation counsel may appoint a first assistant corporation counsel and such other assistants as may be necessary within the appropriation therefor.
  2. The first assistant corporation counsel shall, during the absence or disability of the corporation counsel, possess all the powers and perform all the duties of the corporation counsel and in case of the death or the corporation counsel or of a vacancy in that office shall act as corporation counsel until the appointment and qualification of a corporation counsel in accordance with law.
  3. Any assistant shall, in addition to the duties regularly assigned to him or her, possess such of the powers and perform such of the duties of the corporation counsel as the corporation counsel shall empower such assistant to exercise by written authority filed and remaining on record in the department.

Section 393.

Section 393. Offices.

The corporation counsel may maintain an office in each of the boroughs or any of them.

Section 394.

Section 394. Powers and duties.

  1. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter or other law, the corporation counsel shall be attorney and counsel for the city and every agency thereof and shall have charge and conduct of all the law business of the city and its agencies and in which the city is interested.
  2. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter or other law, the corporation counsel shall have charge and conduct of the legal proceedings necessary in opening, widening, altering and closing streets and in acquiring real estate or interests therein for the city by condemnation proceedings, and the preparation of all leases, deeds, contracts, bonds, and other legal papers of the city, or of or connected with any agency or officer thereof, and the corporation counsel shall approve as to form all such deeds and bonds and, individually or by standard type of class, all contracts, leases and other legal papers.
  3. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter or other law, the corporation counsel shall have the right to institute actions in law or equity and any proceedings provided by law in any court, local, state or national, to maintain, defend and establish the rights, interests, revenues, property, privileges, franchises or demands of the city or of any part or portion thereof, or of the people thereof, or to collect any money, debts, fines or penalties or to enforce the laws. The corporation counsel shall not be empowered to compromise, settle or adjust any rights, claims, demands, or causes of action in favor of or against the city, and shall not permit, offer or confess judgment against the city, or accept any offer of judgment in favor of the city without the previous approval of the comptroller, except that with regard to matters involving excise and non-property taxes, such previous written approval shall be obtained from the finance administrator; provided, however, that this inhibition shall not operate to limit or abridge the discretion of the corporation counsel in regard to the proper conduct of the trial of any action or proceeding or to deprive such corporation counsel of the powers and privileges ordinarily exercised in the courts of litigation by attorneys-at-law when acting for private clients.

Section 395.

Section 395. Legal service to agencies.

The corporation counsel may assign an assistant or assistants to any agency. The head of each agency, within appropriations for such purpose, may employ staff counsel to assist in the legal affairs of the agency. No officer or agency, except as provided in this chapter or otherwise especially provided, shall have or employ any attorney or counsel, except where a judgment or order in an action or proceeding may affect such officer or agency individually or may be followed by a motion to commit for contempt of court, in which case such officer or agency may employ and be represented by attorney or counsel at their own expense.

Section 396.

Section 396. Actions and proceedings for recovery of penalties.

All actions and proceedings for the recovery of penalties for the violation of any law shall be brought in the name of the city of New York and not in that of any agency, except where otherwise provided by law.

Section 397.

Section 397. Delegation of legal authority.

  1. The mayor may delegate to any agency, after consultation with the corporation counsel and the head of the agency, responsibility for the conduct of routine legal affairs of the agency subject to standards, policies, and guidelines of the corporation counsel, and consistent with city-wide controls and uniformity. The mayor may transfer or assign attorneys from the law department to the agency to assist in the conduct of such delegated functions. The corporation counsel shall monitor and evaluate on a regular and continuous basis the exercise of authority delegated pursuant to this section and the mayor, on recommendation of the corporation counsel, may suspend or withdraw any delegated authority whenever in his or her judgment the interests of the city justify such action.
  2. Nothing contained in this section shall abrogate the authority of the corporation counsel as attorney and counsel for the city and every agency of the city.

Section 398.

Section 398. Ex parte administrative warrants.

If entry to a location or premises to be inspected pursuant to an agency’s powers and duties is not gained on consent, or if circumstances call for entry without prior notice, the commissioner of such agency, or his or her authorized representative, may request the corporation counsel to make an application, ex parte, in any court of competent jurisdiction for an order directing the entry and inspection of such premises or location and, in accordance with applicable law, to abate any nuisance thereon. Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit, abridge, affect or amend the power of an agency under law, including state, local or case law, to enter and inspect any location or premises or abate any nuisance thereon, either with or without a warrant, to carry out any of its functions, powers and duties.