Government law is a substantial pool of different types of cases that involve local, state, or federal government laws and regulations, including the protection of the federally granted rights of U.S. citizens. A government law attorney can represent either a government agency or citizens in these cases and can focus on one of many niches of government law practice, such as civil rights law, environmental law, and tax law.
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UPDATED: Aug 9, 2021
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- Government law involves all levels of government and the laws and rights imposed on citizens
- The rights of U.S. citizens to be free from discrimination or abuse by their government are granted through the U.S. Constitution
- Corporations in the U.S. are required to observe laws pertaining to discrimination in the workplace as well as to protect the environment from damage caused by their business practices
In all forms of U.S. government, from the federal level down to the town councils of the nation’s smallest municipalities, there are key laws that control how the various governments and corporations operating within the U.S. must perform. Keep reading for government law examples, including which rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution, how local governments and state laws vary where you live, and when to hire a government attorney.
While many government law attorneys work as in-house counsel for the governmental agencies themselves, others are available to represent citizens in claims against the government.
If you have been the subject of a civil rights violation, are trying to become a U.S. citizen, or have questions regarding your legal right to live and work in the country, you should seek a government law attorney who practices immigration law. Enter your ZIP code above now to get in touch with an affordable government law firm near you.
What is government law?
Government laws and regulations cover a wide umbrella of practice areas, with cases involving the creation and enforcement of local, federal, and state laws, as well as those protecting the rights granted to U.S. citizens through the U.S. Constitution.
While all laws in this country are created at some level of government, government lawyers focus on how those laws interact with an individual’s Constitutional rights. They also specialize in how these laws can protect government agencies from liability when members of the public are harmed through an arm of the government.
Government law attorneys typically represent the local, state, or federal government in cases against them, but other government lawyers are trained in this niche of practice to represent private citizens in their dealings with the government.
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What types of cases do government law attorneys handle?
Agencies at every level of government require legal counsel, from small-town police departments, county administrative law offices, state governor’s or lawmaker’s offices, as well as federal agencies such as the Department of Defense or the Social Security Administration. Likewise, individuals dealing with all of these agencies often require the assistance of legal counsel.
Government law attorneys are often prosecuting attorneys. Prosecutors are elected officials who are responsible for investigating, charging, and prosecuting those who break local or state laws.
Prosecutors are involved with every aspect of a criminal case, including:
- The police investigation
- The decision as to whether there is sufficient evidence to arrest and charge a suspect with a crime
- The presentation of evidence to a grand jury as part of the local and federal indictment process
- Making bail recommendations to the court
- Negotiating plea bargains with defendants who agree to a guilty plea in exchange for being charged with a lesser crime or facing lesser consequences
- Selecting members of a jury, including questioning potential jurors to determine if they have a particular issue that will cause conflict with the case
- Recommending the sentencing of an offender who has been convicted of a crime
A prosecutor’s office is made up of criminal defense lawyers and other legal staff who work for the federal or state government, or another type of taxing authority such as a judicial district made up of neighboring counties.
The various types of prosecutors include:
- The U.S. Attorney, including the U.S. Attorney General, as well the U.S. attorneys appointed to lead each federal district in the nation
- A state attorney, who is the highest level of legal authority for the state and tasked with ensuring that new state legislation is legally sound and enforceable while upholding existing state and federal laws
- A district attorney, who is responsible for the prosecution of citizens for breaking local, state, or federal laws
- A county attorney, who is generally the highest elected legal official in a rural area that is not able to be readily served by a district or state official
- An appeals prosecutor, who handles cases in which a defendant has filed an appeal and has been granted a new trial
- Independent counsel, which is responsible for investigating and prosecuting government officials suspected of wrongdoing
Government law attorneys may also act as public defenders for those who cannot afford their own defense. If you have been accused of a crime and cannot afford to hire a criminal defense attorney to defend you, the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that the government must provide a lawyer for you. This lawyer is known as a public defender.
While the public defender’s position and office space is paid for by the state or by the municipalities that make up a district branch of the office, the job of the public defender is to protect your rights and liberties during the state’s investigation and trial. Public defenders also assist inmates with requesting an appeal and provide representation during the appellate process.
It should be noted that not all states or districts have public defender’s offices. Some jurisdictions choose to have a judge appoint a case involving an indigent defendant to a government lawyer who regularly practices in that court and has indicated that they are willing to take on court-appointed cases.
Scroll through this list of government law examples for more information on when you should consult with a government law attorney about your case:
Local, State, and Federal Law Cases
Over 30,000 federal laws have passed since the U.S. became a country. On top of that, there are thousands of additional state laws which law enforcement officers working for government agencies are required to enforce at all times. Government lawyers can handle cases where these laws failed to protect private citizens, but more often these attorneys work for government agencies.
Local, state, and federal governing bodies have legal professionals to assist them with the administrative aspect of government, but their expertise doesn’t stop there. Some of the tasks that government attorneys working for local, state, or federal governing bodies include:
- Developing policies and procedures for a governing body that determine the way the body interacts with the public
- Harassment cases in which a government employee has accused his or her employer of harassment
- Wrongful death or excessive force cases involving police departments
- Eminent domain cases, in which the governing body must make choices that can impact an individual’s private property rights for the greater good of the public
Not all government attorneys work for government agencies, and you can find an affordable government law attorney focused on individual cases. Do your research and take advantage of our free legal resources to find a lawyer near you.
Civil Rights Cases
Basic civil rights are rights granted to U.S. citizens by the Constitution. These rights include:
- Protection against discrimination based on age, gender, ethnicity or nationality, religion, or disability
- The right to speak freely about the government
- The right to assemble and peacefully protest
- The right to a fair trial
- Freedom of the press to print articles that do not necessarily portray the government in a positive light
- The rights of residents in institutions such as nursing homes or prisons to be treated in a humane manner
- Issues involving equal pay and employment
- The right of most adult citizens to vote
The role of a civil rights attorney is to protect and uphold these rights as well as to represent citizens whose civil rights have been violated in the workplace, in public education, when seeking housing, or when obtaining benefits from government agencies.
You may need to hire a civil rights attorney for any of the situations mentioned below:
- Unreasonable search or seizure
- Cruel and unusual punishment
- Abuse by a public official
- Excessive force by a law enforcement officer or public official
A government law attorney with experience in civil rights cases will be able to give you the legal advice you need to move forward with your case.
The environmental laws in the U.S. are quite complex in nature and regulate such things as air quality, soil and water quality, the management of municipal waste, cleanup of contaminants, regulations that govern the safe use of chemicals, and recreational activities that take place on public lands, such as hunting and fishing.
The types of cases and environmental law violations a government lawyer will handle include:
- Violations of clean water and air regulations and enforcing corporate compliance with environmental regulations
- The use of clean technology and applying existing laws to new technologies
- The development and enforcement of regulations pertaining to climate change
- The management of public lands in accordance with native title and land use regulations
Government lawyers will represent environmental organizations, communities, or private citizens in environmental matters, it’s just a matter of finding an environmental law firm near you that fits your needs. Take advantage of our free law advice resources and legal tools to get in touch with attorneys near you.
Those immigrating to the United States must meet certain requirements as set forth by the nation’s immigration laws to live and work in the U.S. or to obtain U.S. citizenship.
For example, to become a naturalized citizen, you must:
- Be at least 18 years of age or older
- Be legally living and working in the U.S. for at least five years, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen
- Have resided in the U.S. for at least half of the time you were authorized to live and work here
- Be able to read, write, and speak basic English (there are some exceptions granted to this requirement)
- Must have knowledge about the fundamentals of U.S. history and government
- Must be of good moral character
- Must take an oath of loyalty to the U.S.
An immigration lawyer generally helps individuals who have experienced difficulty with the naturalization process, including getting a green card, becoming a citizen, employment hurdles, or when facing deportation proceedings. Some of the services provided by an immigration attorney include:
- Representation in cases in which a non-citizen resident has been accused of breaking U.S. laws or when an applicant for residency is convicted of a crime in his or her home country that is now impacting his or her ability to immigrate to the U.S.
- The green card applicant has been previously denied entry into the U.S. for any reason or has been previously deported
- Representation of applicants who have been denied entry into the U.S. because they suffer from a medical condition that poses a public health hazard
- Assistance to an applicant is seeking an employment visa but is not receiving assistance with immigration issues from his or her prospective employer
- Adjustments to the status of permanent residents who recently married or divorced a U.S. citizen
- Assistance to a family who is moving to the U.S. with a child who might reach the age of 21 before permanent resident status is granted
U.S. immigration laws are complex, and a government attorney experienced with federal immigration law can help you navigate these legal proceedings and ensure your paperwork meets all federal requirements.
There are approximately 144.3 million taxpayers in the U.S. who pay taxes on their income at both the state and federal levels. In addition, there are several other state and local tax authorities who are authorized to collect sales and property taxes that go toward financing local public services.
A tax attorney is an attorney who practices tax law. Some services a tax lawyer can provide assistance to citizens who failed to pay their taxes or are facing IRS audits. Other situations that involve taxes and taxation law include the receipt of capital gains, estate planning, and social security law.
Tax attorneys often work on cases providing:
- Assistance to individuals who have a substantial tax debt that they are unable to pay
- Assistance to companies in withholding the proper amount of income or social security taxes
- Assistance to individuals who have obtained money or other assets as an inheritance and are faced with an estate tax, or to those who wish to alleviate the amount of estate tax that their beneficiaries will have to pay in order to receive their assets
- Assistance to those who are starting a business and need help reducing the tax implications
Many people mistake the tasks of a tax attorney with the tasks of a certified public accountant (CPA). While there are many areas in which these two fields overlap, only a tax attorney is authorized to represent you in court on a tax matter or provide legal advice on matters pertaining to tax law.
Social Security Cases
The Social Security Administration protects the economic security of citizens through the provision of medical coverage and wage replacement when an individual suffers a disabling injury or illness that leaves them unable to earn an income. Most U.S. workers pay into the Social Security Administration through the collection of an income tax.
About 20% of U.S. citizens are currently receiving some type of Social Security benefit, and one-third of those recipients are either disabled or are the survivors or dependents of an individual who became disabled before he or she retired. The ability to receive Social Security depends on how many years the individual worked and paid into the system, as well as how recent that work history was.
The types of social security cases can vary. Some social security lawyers work for the Social Security Administration itself and develop policies and procedures that ensure the protection of citizen’s economic rights. Other times, social security attorneys will work on cases involving:
- Applying for Social Security benefits, including eligibility requirements and submitting all required documentation
- Collecting and sorting the medical evidence you need to prove your disability
- Establishing and retaining communication with the Social Security Administration about your case in order to avoid delays in the receipt of your benefits
- Filing necessary appeals if you have been denied Social Security Administration benefits
- Assisting clients who have been asked to undergo an independent medical evaluation typically ordered in situations when the SSA is not convinced of the severity of the injury or disability
- Representation at Social Security Administration hearings
- Assisting those who wish for a family member, such as a spouse or disabled child, to receive the benefits they were originally entitled to in accordance with their history
While no one is required to obtain legal representation when seeking Social Security benefits, having a government law attorney is strongly encouraged. The administration regularly denies first-time claims for reasons such as incomplete applications, failure to provide sufficient evidence, or failure to understand how many hours you are permitted to work while receiving disability payments, and an attorney can help you overcome these hurdles.
Education law, which pertains to situations arising between a citizen and the body of federal and state laws that pertain to the U.S. public education system, falls within the practice of government law.
Government attorneys typically handle education cases involving:
- Title IX issues, which relate to sexual discrimination in the educational system, such as the provision of sports activities for both genders or discrimination against female students who are pregnant
- Other anti-discrimination issues, such as the prohibition of segregated schools for white and black students, or the failure to provide equal access and opportunities for disabled students
- The provision of special education, which provides access to the educational system to all students, regardless of disability
- Educational reform issues, including the provision of state-administered standardized tests as required through No Child Left Behind, anti-bullying policies, and the creation and funding of charter schools
- The provision of Miranda Rights by law enforcement authorities in situations where they are required to question a student while he or she is at school
Local government attorneys can also assist local school boards in the development of policies and procedures that meet local state regulations and protect students’ rights to a fair and equal education, including the collection, storage, and distribution of student records as well as how the school district handles student discipline
When do you need to hire a government law attorney?
If you are experiencing a legal issue involving treatment by a governmental agency of any type, an attorney who is experienced in government law can guide you through the legal process and provide much-needed relief in this situation. Because there are so many specialties involved in the area of government law, it is often easier to search for a government law attorney who works in the legal niche of your case.
For example, if you need legal advice on a naturalization issue, calling an immigration lawyer would likely yield the results you’re seeking. If you need help with a tax dispute you’re having with the Internal Revenue Service, you need to speak with a tax attorney.
No matter the kind of government lawyer you need, you can search for one right here for free. Enter your ZIP code below to speak with local government law attorneys today.