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City Solicitor, Office of the;
Law Department

[Record group 63]
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Agency Function
The mission of the Law Department is to provide high-quality legal representation and service to the City in the most economically efficient manner possible. The City Solicitor, who heads the Law Department, is the chief legal officer of the City, and oversees the legal representation of the agencies and officials that constitute the City government. Because the Solicitor represents the Mayor, City Council, and all the City's boards and commissions, the Solicitor is the only executive official appointed by the Mayor who must be confirmed by City Council. In addition to furnishing legal advice to City officials and departments, the Law Department collects delinquent taxes, fines, and other debts owed to the City; prepares and approves all City contracts; represents the City in all litigation to which the City is a party; and prepares or assists in the preparation of ordinances for introduction to City Council.

Administrative Subunits
Corporate Group
(Regulatory Affairs, Commercial Law, and Health & Human Services)
Appeals and Legislation Group
Litigation Group
(Claims, Commercial Litigation, Enforcement, Special Litigation & Labor, and Civil Rights Litigation)
Tax Group

Agency History
The office of City Solicitor was first filled by Mayoral appointment pursuant to an ordinance of 1801, although it may have been in existence a few years earlier. Prior to that time legal service and counsel had been provided for the City by the Recorder. In 1839 the Solicitor was made an appointee of Councils; the Consolidation Act of 1854 directed that he be popularly elected to a two year term (extended to three years in 1873 and to four in 1909) and established a Law Department under his direction to serve as a depository for the City's title papers, bonds, contracts and all evidences of indebtedness to the City as well as to render legal services. In 1859 the Department's function of collecting delinquent taxes was transferred to the Receiver of Taxes. The Department remained unchanged in form by the Bullitt Bill and its status was also confirmed by the City Charter of 1919, although the Solicitor under its terms became once again an appointee of the Mayor. The City Charter of 1951 made no change in the functions of the Department or in the method of appointment of the City Solicitor but did designate him a member of the Mayor's Cabinet and of the Board of Pensions and Retirement. Under the Home Rule Charter, the City Solicitor again became a Mayoral appointee.

Archival Records
63.1 Annual Reports (1914, 1922, 1936-1938, 1943, 1947, 1948, 1952-1972, 1974, 1980-1986)

63.2 Opinions of the City Solicitor (1884-1989)

63.3 Code of General Ordinances of the City of Philadelphia (1956-1989)

63.4 Code of General Ordinances, Work Papers (1952-1956)

63.5 Deeds to City Property (ca. 1750 - .)

63.6 Register of City Property (c. 1905)

63.7 Titles to Fairmount Park Lands (1872)

63.8 Reports on Titles to City Property (1810, 1840, ca. 1856)

63.9 Agreements (1888-1940)

63.10 Reference Works (1951-1963)

63.11 City Solicitor's Correspondence (September 1967 - April 1972)

63.12 Claims Division.North Philadelphia Riot Claims Files (1964-1969)

Current Records
The nature of the work of the City Solicitor/Law Department requires that no current departmental records be available for public access. The files are replete with confidential and privileged information which must be protected in accordance with the Law Department's ethical obligations to its clients.

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Last updated on November 8, 2000