Practice Area Descriptions

​​​​​​                 Litigation Practice
                Contracts and Proc​urement and Commercial Practice
                Transactional and Financial Practice
                Land Use and Environmental Practice
                Board of County Commissioners, Boards and Advisory Committees

Litigation Practice

Eminent Domain/Quiet Title
Eminent Domain is the right to acquire property for a public purpose. It is an absolute right of government limited by Article 10, Section 6 of the Florida Constitution, which requires the payment of full compensation to the landowner. Condemnation lawsuits involve the County’s acquiring of private property for public purposes. Quiet Title actions involve the determination of conflicting claims to real property or removal of clouds on title to real property.

Inverse Condemnation
Inverse Condemnation is the use by a public entity of private property for a public purpose without that entity having acquired the property through voluntary negotiation or condemnation. This type of proceeding is initiated by a landowner who is demanding payment for the taking of property.

Civil Rights Actions
Civil rights lawsuits involve allegations that an individual or entity’s constitutional, or in some instances federal statutory rights, have been violated. Civil rights cases include actions to redress violation of the rights of freedom of expression or freedom of religion, the right to due process, the right to privacy, to be free from unlawful search and seizure, and to be provided appropriate medical care when confined in a penal institution. Such lawsuits also address unlawful employment discrimination under various civil rights acts and employment laws including the ADEA, ADA, FMLA, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Civil Rights cases handled by our Office commonly arise in the context of employment and land use matters.

Commercial/collection/finance lawsuits are cases in which Alachua County has a lien, penalty or contractual indebtedness or is otherwise owed money from a third party. These cases include tax collections, code enforcement lien foreclosures, second mortgage down payment assistance liens, impact fees, and disputes involving special assessments or other funding mechanisms. The collection of monies owed to the County often occurs through bankruptcy court proceedings.

Public Records, Sunshine Law
Chapter 119 and Section 286.011 of the Florida Statutes implement the Florida Constitution’s mandate for open government. Chapter 119 is the Public Records Law. Section 286.011 is known as the Sunshine Law. The County Attorney’s Office is occasionally called on to defend suits against the County or its employees alleging violations of these laws.

Labor, Personnel
The Labor, Personnel litigation area covers for all administrative disputes pertaining to the employment relationship, including allegations of unfair labor practices, employment discrimination charges, veterans’ preference claims, and due process and pre determination hearings on behalf of career service employees. Some of the litigation involves proposed actions by departments, while other aspects of this area of practice are defense oriented in nature, involving appearances before other government agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (EEOC), Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR), and Public Employees Relations Committee (PERC).

Tort Claims
This negligence area consists of tort lawsuits in which it is alleged that the conduct of the County or an employee of Alachua County caused personal injuries or property damage to the plaintiff. Tort cases include automobile accidents, trip and fall accidents, emergency medical services, and any other situation where it is alleged that the plaintiff or his property was damaged by the negligence of the County or an employee. Also included are cases where property of Alachua County has been damaged due to the negligent act of another person and this Office has been requested to take legal action in order to recover the damages for such loss. Most of these actions are defended through the County’s risk management program.

Land Use, Environmental
Land use and environmental litigation includes the defense of the County’s land development, zoning, and environmental permitting ordinances and decisions. It includes the defense of the Comprehensive Plan in administrative proceedings, appeals of the Board’s rezoning or variance decisions by the applicant or others, appeals of actions by the Board of Adjustment, suits by developers over development conditions or facilities requirements.

Administrative Hearings
The designation, “Administrative Hearings” involves litigation proceedings in a non-judicial administrative forum, often involving state or federal agencies, permitting, development activities, ordinances and other governmental functions.

Code Enforcement
Code enforcement involves the prosecution of persons or entities alleged to have violated Alachua County ordinances. The Office of the County Attorney prosecutes violations of many ordinances. The two primary methods by which the County enforces its ordinances are: (1) through the Code Enforcement Board and (2) through the County Court civil citation process.

Constitutional Officers
Alachua County’s constitutional officers (the Sheriff, Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, Clerk of the Courts, and Supervisor of Elections) are separate from the County government. The Office of the County Attorney provides counsel to constitutional officers when requested by the constitutional officer.

Contract Disputes and Enforcement
The Office of the County Attorney handles litigation arising from contract disputes and breach of contract claims.

Contracts and Procurement and Commercial Practice

The practice areas included in the Contracts, Procurement, and Commercial category relate to services rendered by the Office of the County Attorney in connection with the transaction of business by the County. This category includes commercial and business law services associated with contracts and their performance, public procurement and the public procurement process, and special forms of agreements available to counties, such as interlocal agreements, franchise agreements, and license agreements.

Performance Bonds, Payment Bonds, Letters of Credit
The County requires developers to provide to the County a bond or letter of credit to ensure conformity with the County’s Land Development Regulations. Bonds and letters of credit are also required in a number of other transactions with the County. The Office of the County Attorney drafts and reviews these documents to protect the County.

Bidding and Public Procurement Process
The County’s Purchasing Division works closely with the Office of the County Attorney on issues involving State and local procurement laws.

Contract Drafting and Review
The Office of the County Attorney reviews, revises and drafts contracts with public and private sector entities. Included are contracts and amendments for the construction of such public projects as County buildings and facilities, roads systems, as well as consulting/engineering agreements for analysis, design and supervision of public projects. As a result of the Voter Approved Indigent Health Care Sales Surtax (CHOICES), the County Attorney’s Office assists staff by drafting contracts for the provision of health care to indigent and medically poor County residents. Other contractual documents reviewed by the Office of the County Attorney include: real property leases; licenses to use public property; concessionaire agreements; a variety of vendor agreements; and grant agreements. In addition to assisting departments in the preparation of contracts, the Office of the County Attorney also advises County departments about contract claims submitted by contractors or brought by the County during the course of the contract.

Collections (without litigation)
This Office handles attempts to collect debts or liens to Alachua County or its officers. There is no litigation involved. These efforts include establishing the collection of citations and penalties entered in code enforcement or other County ordinances.

Interlocal or Franchise Agreements
The area, “Interlocal, Franchise, and License Agreements,” encompasses issues relating to the drafting or interpretation of either agreements between the County and other governmental bodies, or franchises or licenses granted to private entities for the provision of service within unincorporated Alachua County.

Transactional and Financial Practice

The Transactional and Financial Practice area includes the establishment of special assessment districts and municipal service taxing and benefit units. This area also includes services performed by the Office of the County Attorney in association with the purchase or acquisition of interests in real estate for the County's many public needs and projects.

Special Assessment Districts, Municipal Service Benefit Units
Special assessment districts and municipal service benefit units are used to construct capital facilities and spread the cost of such facilities among the properties benefited by the project. The Office of the County Attorney assists in the review and formation of such districts and units.

Real Property Acquisitions
This area involves the County’s negotiation and voluntary acquisition of real property (that is, acquiring property by means other than through condemnation), the County’s sale of real property, and other issues relating to the County’s interest in land. The majority of this Office’s work under this area is performed in conjunction with the Public Works Department.

Public Finance
Alachua County provides for the issuance of private activity/industrial revenue bonds pursuant to Chapter 159, Florida Statutes. The Office of the County Attorney provides legal services associated with securing financing under these programs.

Labor and Employment
Labor/Employment legal services includes providing advice and preventive programs on personnel policies, benefit issues, collective bargaining, union contract implementation, and employee disciplinary issues.

Land Use and Environmental Practice

The Land Use/Environmental category encompasses the services that the Office of the County Attorney performs in connection with the County's growth management program. It includes services performed in association with the development and implementation of the County's growth management plan, as well as in assisting the County to comply with State and federal regulations affecting the development and use of property.

Building and Zoning Consultation Services
This area involves questions related to issuing building permits, subdivision site and development plan approval, and other similar land use issues raised by the Growth Management Department.

Development Review
The Office of the County Attorney provides legal advice to County staff reviewing development applications made pursuant to the County’s land development regulations, and acts as advisor to the Development Review Committee, the Planning Commission, and the Board of County Commissioners in their consideration of such applications. Where these applications are deemed quasi judicial, the Office also assists in assuring that the proceeding accords with the procedural and evidentiary requirements of law.

Comprehensive Plan amendments and Amendment Applications
Comprehensive Plan amendments are authorized by the Growth Management Act (Chapter 163, Part II, Florida Statutes). The Office of the County Attorney provides legal advice to staff, the Local Planning Agency, and the Board of County Commissioners in their review and evaluation of Comprehensive Plan amendment applications, and assists the County in its discussions with the Florida Department of Community Affairs when such amendments are transmitted or adopted.

Rezonings and Rezoning Applications
The Office of the County Attorney advises staff and the Board of County Commissioners on rezoning requests. Numerous issues are addressed with each request, including notice, advertising, Comprehensive Plan consistency, concurrency, and the validity of development conditions.

Variances and Waivers
The Alachua County Comprehensive Growth Management Plan and the Land Development Regulations provide for relief from undue hardship. The Office of the County Attorney provides legal services to staff and to the Board of County Commissioners in reviewing and considering applications for variances and waivers.

Land Development Regulations
As part of the planning and growth management program called for in the Growth Management Act, Alachua County is required to develop and implement land development regulations that are consistent with the Alachua County Comprehensive Plan. The Office of the County Attorney assists in the drafting of land development regulations.

Solid Waste Issues
“Solid Waste,” involves relating to the disposal and collection of household garbage, yard waste and recyclables. The Office of the County Attorney assists the Public Works Department in revising ordinances for solid waste collection and disposal, and the negotiation, preparation and review of contracts.

Environmental Regulation and Permitting
Included are issues relating to wetlands, solid waste, hazardous waste, air pollution facilities, industrial waste, sewage treatment, water quality, and stormwater management.

Developments of Regional Impact
The DRI practice area involves the processing of the adoption or amendments to Developments of Regional Impact. Notices of Proposed Change to Adopted DRIs are also handled under this practice area.

This area primarily involves the review of applications for subdivision plats approval and vacation, and their supporting documents for compliance with Chapter 177, Florida Statutes, and the Alachua County Land Development Regulations before the applications are sent to the Board of County Commissioners.

The State Housing Initiatives Partnership program is a program to assist in providing affordable housing in Alachua County. A significant portion of the funding for the SHIP program comes from state and federal grant funds. The Office of the County Attorney provides legal services in the SHIP program.

Board of County Commissioners, Boards and Advisory Committees

The Board of County Commissioners, Boards and Advisory Committees area encompasses the services that the Office of the County Attorney performs for the Board of County Commissioners and for the County boards created by statute to assist the Board of County Commissioners or by the Board of County Commissioners itself. This area also includes services performed by the Office for the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization.

Board of County Commissioners
The Office of the County Attorney performs a number of services to the Board of County Commissioners. Typical examples of these services are advising the Board of County Commissioners at its meetings and drafting ordinances. In addition, the Office of the County Attorney provides legal services to individual county commissioners requesting such services to assist them in performing their duties to the County. The Office of the County Attorney answers written and verbal questions from the commissioners on a wide variety of matters to aid the commissioners in making their decisions.

Local Planning Agency/Planning and Zoning Board
The Growth Management Act requires each county to establish a Local Planning Agency to assist the Board of County Commissioners in comprehensive planning. The Planning Commission is separately created to advise the Board of County Commissioners on matters of zoning and land development. Both advisory boards have the same members. The Office of the County Attorney works closely with these boards.

Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization
By statute, a Metropolitan Planning Organization is designated for each urbanized area of the State, and is created through an interlocal agreement between the State and the governing entities designated by the Governor. The membership of the Alachua County MTPO is comprised of members of the Board of County Commissioners and the Gainesville City Commission. The charge of metropolitan planning organizations is to develop, in cooperation with State and public transit operators, transportation plans and programs for metropolitan areas. The Office of the County Attorney attends meetings and provides legal advice to staff and the MTPO on an as needed basis.

Choices Program
Provide legal advice and prepare documents to support the implementation of a sales tax program to provide health care services to indigent and medically poor Alachua County residents. (CHOICES—Community Health Offering Innovative Care and Education Services)

Miscellaneous Boards and Committees
By statute, ordinance, or resolution, the County has established a number of boards and committees not mentioned above. The Office of the County Attorney provides legal services and representation to these various boards and committees throughout the year.