Defending the county when sued, and filing suit for the county when necessary, our litigators have appeared in many venues, from local courts to the United States Supreme Court. Using staff attorneys in litigation develops expertise in governmental issues and is significantly more economical than hiring private counsel. The Civil Division evaluates cases fairly, negotiates where appropriate and litigates when necessary, thereby protecting scarce public resources.
By providing sound legal advice to help county leaders perform their duties, we serve the public through the practice of law. The division is comprised of multiple specialized units.
Business & Transactions
The County is engaged in diverse business operations including buying, selling and leasing real property, building roads and other public infrastructure, operating a wastewater treatment system, managing parks, recreational facilities and open space, procuring the County's goods and services, managing information technology systems, and contracting with other jurisdictions for joint projects. The Civil Division provides legal advice to the various County departments in these areas. By Charter, the prosecuting attorney reviews every County contract.
Elections, Taxes & Bankruptcy
Civil Division attorneys advise the Pierce County Auditor concerning election laws and other matters under her jurisdiction. Our attorneys also appear in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to protect the County's interest in the collection of delinquent real and personal property taxes, and in Superior Court and the Board of Tax Appeals to respond to tax appeals and defend the valuations of the Assessor-Treasurer's Office. Our efforts preserve millions of dollars of tax proceeds, thus assuring fairness and reducing the burden on other taxpayers.
Land Use & Environmental
The County Council makes long-term land use decisions, and the Planning and Public Works Department reviews applications for land use, building, site development, and other permits or approvals. Civil Division attorneys provide regular assistance to county officials concerning all land use matters and represent the County before administrative tribunals and both trial and appellate courts.
The Civil Division works to reduce the impact of public nuisances in Pierce County. 'Pierce County Responds' is a program that enforces regulations concerning zoning, shoreline usage, and public nuisances such as junk vehicles and solid waste. Through an ordinance enacted in 2008, the County is able to get a court order to access a property and remove waste when the owner will not voluntarily comply after receiving a warning from the Health Department.
Accumulation of waste can be a breeding ground for rats and mosquitoes, can impact the function of septic systems and pollute drinking water supplies. Nuisance properties can also negatively impact property values and attract crime.
Civil Division attorneys defend Pierce County and its elected officials and employees against a variety of personal injury and civil rights claims brought in state and federal courts. Typically these cases involve allegations of physical or economic injury to an individual. Examples include the assertion that a County driver was at fault in an accident or that a deputy sheriff or corrections officer used excessive force. Occasionally it is necessary for the Civil Division to file a lawsuit on behalf of the County, such as to require an insurer to fulfill its contractual obligations.
Sheriff’s Legal Advisor
The Civil Division regularly provides legal advice and representation to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. Law enforcement agencies are confronted daily with a multitude of legal issues, including search and seizure protocol, use of force, chain of evidence, custody and care of inmates, employment issues and public records requests. Accurate and timely legal advice is essential to effective law enforcement.
Washington’s voter-approved Public Records Act, RCW 42.56, keeps government agencies open and accountable. The Civil Division responds promptly to all requests for records maintained by the Prosecutor's Office, and also provides legal advice to other county departments in complying with the law.
If you wish to view or obtain a copy of a public record maintained by the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office, please complete the Public Records Request Form. Records requests can also be mailed, faxed, or delivered to:
Adrian McDaniel, Public Records Officer
Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's Office
930 Tacoma Ave S, Room 946
Tacoma, WA 98402
Fax: (253) 798-6713
The Civil Division also advises county public bodies on complying with the Open Public Meetings Act, RCW 42.30. That act requires that meetings of public boards, committees and commissions be conducted in the open, where members of the community have an opportunity to observe and participate in the proceedings. It also requires that the public be given adequate notice of items to be addressed at such meetings.