Office of Corporation Counsel
The Office of the Corporation Counsel serves as chief legal counsel to all Milwaukee County departments, offices, boards, commissions and elected officials. Its three main functions are to:
- Provide general legal advice
- Provide quasi-prosecutorial functions in mental health, guardianship and protective placement, open records requests, and public meetings
- Provide litigation defense services that are billed to the Wisconsin County Mutual Insurance Corporation
By county ordinance, this office also serves as chief legal counsel to the Milwaukee County Employees Retirement System.
Areas of Practice
Advisory Services & Legislative Interpretations
Milwaukee County as a local governmental entity consists of 34 departments, 25 elected officials, nearly 4,000 employees, and a budget in excess of one billion dollars. As Milwaukee County’s legal counsel, the Office of Corporation Counsel advises the executive and legislative branches on ethical, statutory, contractual, administrative, and policy matters in which the county has an interest or which relate to the discharge of official duties. That advice is provided both informally, by telephonic, electronic, and in-person communications to department heads and elected officials, and formally, by a one-third vote of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors for a written opinion on a report, resolution or ordinance.
The Office of Corporation Counsel also interprets and opines on state legislative enactments that impact Milwaukee County, as requested by its clients. The subject matters are varied and involve a host of legal issues. Recent examples range from jurisdiction over county mental health policy (Act 203), the viability of local governmental initiatives for special voter registration deputies (Act 261) and minimum wage and labor peace agreements (Act 327), and the scope of authority of the county’s executive and legislative branches as to contracts and county property (Acts 14 and 55).
Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division & Mental Health Board
The Office of Corporation Counsel provides advice and counsel to the Milwaukee County Mental Health Board (MHB), created in 2014 by Wisconsin Act 203. The MHB determines mental health policy, functions, programs and services for Milwaukee County, matters previously under the purview of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. The MHB is comprised of 13 members and includes mental health professionals, consumers, and advocates. The Office of Corporation Counsel staffs MHB meetings to ensure compliance with open meeting rules and procedures, and provides guidance regarding the board’s statutory duties, including submission of an annual mental health budget with a tax levy range of $53 to $65 million dollars.
In particular, the MHB sets policy for the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division (BHD), which provides care and treatment to adults, children, and adolescents with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual disabilities through both County operated programs and contracts with community agencies. BHD’s services include intensive short-term treatment through crisis services and inpatient services, and a full array of supportive community services for persons with serious mental illness and substance use disorders. The Office of Corporation Counsel provides legal counsel to BHD as a county division with the Department of Health and Human Services, and also handles Chapter 51 involuntary civil commitment proceedings involving emergency inpatient hospitalizations at BHD and its contracting hospitals.
Outside Counsel Management
The Office of Corporation Counsel manages outside counsel in litigation where the county and its public officials and/or employees are named as defendants and greater resources are required than available within the Office of Corporation Counsel. Outside counsel management involves collaboration with the county’s insurer to achieve the best mix of internal and external legal resources, and ensure selection, retention, and receipt of the best caliber legal services from firms that reflect the county’s principles, values, and diversity.
Corporation Counsel in the News
Milwaukee Business Journal
Milwaukee County’s corporation counsel will insist that law firms the County retains hire more attorneys who are racial minorities, women and LGBT. At stake is unspecified millions of dollars in legal fees from Milwaukee County for outside attorneys who handle cases that the in-house county legal staff doesn’t.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Milwaukee County sued several pharmaceutical drug-makers and distributors in federal district court in Milwaukee for creating a public nuisance and violating federal racketeering laws while contributing to a local opioid epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths.
Milwaukee is taking on 13 drug companies in the opioid fight. The county's top attorney is suing them for damages from the devestating toll that opioids have had here.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"This case is particularly extraordinary because of the financial abuse and the scale of it, the length of time that this was going on, the vulnerability of this particular older woman," Milwaukee County Corporation Counsel Margaret Daun said.
WITI Fox 6
The Wisconsin Attorney General’s Task Force on Elder Abuse met for the third time on April 11 to discuss elder financial cases in the courts, the Medical College of Wisconsin’s work to identify elder abuse and Legal Action of Wisconsin’s elder rights project.