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The Role of the Lawyer

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… Lawyers appear in the planning commission’s orbit in four distinct roles. A lawyer may be: (1) representing an applicant; (2) representing an opponent; (3) a member of the board; or (4) counsel to the board. Each role has its place and the lawyer’s contribution should be assessed according to the role assumed in any given situation.

1. The Lawyer As Representative of the Applicant.

When the applicant brings a lawyer, listen carefully to the presentation, but don’t assume that the lawyer is necessarily right on every point, either of law or of fact. Lawyers in this situation are advocates and as such will be selective in the points they make to the commission. Lawyers who have done their job will be familiar with the commission’s ordinance and regulations, especially the sections that pertain to their clients’ applications. But a lawyer’s interpretation of a given section may differ from yours. Be consistent in your application of the rules.

Ask questions, but don’t argue with the lawyer. Make notes of any points where you disagree, and the basis for your disagreement. Above all, don’t let yourself be bullied by threats of litigation, unconstitutional takings and other bluster which may come your way. Make your decision based upon the law as set forth in your ordinances and regulations. Be sure that the bases for your decision are clearly stated in the motion or motions on which the commission votes. …

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