Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between the City Attorney and the District Attorney?
    • The City Attorney is the attorney for the City of Modesto in all if its functions as a municipal corporation. The role of the City Attorney is similar to that of the general counsel of a large private corporation. The attorneys in the Office provide legal advice and services to the City Council, City officials, staff, departments, boards, commissions, and related City entities and enterprises such as the Modesto Redevelopment Agency. In addition, the City Attorney is responsible for prosecuting all misdemeanor and infraction all violations of the Modesto Municipal Code which includes animal control, housing and building issues and other City laws.

      The District Attorney is an elected official serving the entire County of Stanislaus. The District Attorney investigates and prosecutes all felony crimes occurring within the City of Modesto, and all felony crimes and misdemeanor violations of state law occurring in Stanislaus County outside of the City of Modesto.

  • Can the City Attorney represent private citizens?
    • No. The City Attorney does not represent individuals in private legal matters. Attorneys in the office only represent City departments and employees in the course of their official business.

  • Who does the City Attorney work for?
    • Under the City Charter the City Manager, City Attorney, City Clerk and City Auditor are each directly appointed by the City Council and serve at the pleasure of the Council. The City of Modesto, acting through the City Council, is the client of the City Attorney. The City Attorney, by law, also represents all City officers and employees relating to their acts which are within the course and scope of their employment or official duties.

  • How can I get a copy of the City Code or a City ordinance?

  • Who do I call to report a potential Modesto City Code violation?
    • All violations of local laws must be made to an investigative agency such as the Modesto Police Department or the Neighborhood Preservation Unit.

  • My neighbor's tree limbs and branches overhang my property. Can I trim them without my neighbor's permission? If my neighbor's tree limbs and branches fall on my property, can I make my neighbor clean them up?
    • This is a private civil matter. To obtain specific legal advice on your situation, you need to consult a private attorney.

  • I drove my car through a pothole in the street and sustained damage to my car. I feel the City was negligent. Will the City pay for this?

  • Someone made a complaint about a code violation on my property and I want to find out who made that complaint. Do I have a right to that information under the Public Records Act?
    • No. The City takes the position that such information is exempt from the disclosure requirements of the Public Records Act. Therefore, the City will not release such information without a valid court order directing it to do so. Such information could be used to harass citizens who complain about code violations in their neighborhoods and therefore citizens may be reluctant to contact the City about legitimate problems that need to be addressed.