City Attorney’s Office

The City Attorney’s Office team is committed to carrying out our duties through means that are just, equitable, and consistent with nationally recognized standards and best practices.

We strive to treat all individuals with courtesy and respect.

We are committed to advancing our understanding of who is, and is not, benefiting from the institutions our society has created.

We seek opportunities to lawfully balance inequities that have long existed and repair imperfections in our systems.

Civil Division

The Civil Division is the City’s law firm. Civil attorneys provide advice and representation to the City’s elected and appointed officials, department directors and employees on a wide range of legal matters without the high price tag of a private law firm. Located in Vancouver City Hall, the Civil Division’s practice areas include contracts and land use, government affairs and administrative law, police practices and litigation.

Government Affairs and Administrative Law

The City Attorney’s Office provides legal advice and representation to the Vancouver City Council, City Manager, Department Directors, Managers, and Employees. While most traditional law firms are concerned only with answering the question: “what is the law today,” the City Attorney’s Office must also consider and advise the City on “what the law should be.” Civil Division attorneys help make laws by drafting ordinances and assisting in the creation of the City’s state and federal legislative agendas each year. They also provide practical guidance to the City on wage and hour laws, collective bargaining and employment laws, and privacy laws.

The Civil Division contributes to the City’s core initiatives by:

  • Drafting legal documents that will allow the City to take steps to help combat greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, such as the City’s moratorium on creation of new, or expansion of existing, large-scale fossil fuel facilities within the city.
  • Developing policies that safeguard the liberty and property interests of people experiencing homelessness, and agreements with community partners that provide direct services to those who are homeless.
  • Preparing legal documents necessary to distribute emergency relief funds and introduce innovative ways to assist local businesses during crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Police Practices

Civil Division attorneys help the Vancouver Police Department in a variety of ways, including:

  • Drafting contracts for new technology, services, and equipment.
  • Providing training on new laws and court decisions.
  • Reviewing policies and practices to ensure consistency and legality.
  • Researching and advising command staff on applicable laws.
  • Advising command staff on employment and personnel matters and compliance with collective bargaining agreements.
  • Providing legal advice to independent investigators, as needed, to help ensure internal investigations into alleged officer misconduct are fair and impartial and that appropriate progressive discipline is administered.
  • The Vancouver City Attorney’s Office is also committed to helping make necessary policing reform changes to ensure the public safety needs of our entire community are provided in a more just and equitable manner.


Civil Division attorneys provide legal advice and help manage public records requests. The team also provides ongoing training of all City Public Disclosure Officers to ensure the City remains in compliance with the Washington Public Records Act to ensure transparency in government.


The Civil Division defends the City and its employees in lawsuits brought by plaintiffs who allege the City or its employees caused personal injury or property damage and seek monetary damages. The Division also pursues claims on behalf of the City for damages caused by the negligence of others.

Our litigation attorneys advise City departments on liability issues and provide training to departments on risk management techniques meant to reduce lawsuits and liability exposure, which also helps increase community safety.

Criminal Prosecution

The Criminal Division prosecutes all misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses committed within the Vancouver city limits. The division initiates criminal cases in Clark County District Court, participates in Specialty Courts, and cooperatively runs the Domestic Violence Prosecution Center with other community partners. Criminal Division attorneys serve the community by seeking to hold offenders accountable and secure justice for victims of crime. The role of a criminal prosecutor is unique in the American legal system, carrying special ethical obligations, and requires that attorneys seek justice, not just convictions. The City’s prosecutors recognize that the decision to bring and maintain criminal charges is impactful, and we approach it with the utmost care, temperance, and restraint. We will never advance or maintain a criminal charge on account of any individual’s race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, or creed.

District Court

Our Prosecution Division researches and advises law enforcement on fact-specific legal questions and prosecutes misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor criminal cases within the city limits.

After conviction, prosecution attorneys advocate for the City at criminal sentencing hearings, seek restitution for crime victims, and represent the City through any criminal appeals.

Specialty Courts

The Criminal Prosecution Division staffs Specialty Courts, including Veteran’s Court, Therapeutic Alternative Court, Driving Under the Influence Court, Mental Health Court, and Community Court. Attorneys also run diversion programs for qualifying individuals accused of certain offenses. In some cases, this allows qualifying offenders with limited criminal history an opportunity to avoid the adverse impacts of having a criminal conviction on their record.

Domestic Violence Prosecution Center

Through an interlocal agreement, prosecutors, legal support staff, and law enforcement from both the City of Vancouver and Clark County work cooperatively to operate the Domestic Violence Prosecution Center.

Attorneys assigned to the center prosecute criminal cases involving domestic violence and provide ongoing domestic violence-related advice and training to law enforcement.

Services and Forms