Legal Corner: Q and A with League General Counsel William Bock

Please join the League in welcoming the League's new General Counsel William Bock!

On Bill's first day on the job, April 1, 2013, we sat down with him and asked him some questions.

Where were you born and where did you go to school?
I am originally from Racine, Wisconsin. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a BA in political science. I them received my JD from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1972.

I understand that you started practicing law in Wisconsin. Can you tell us about your Wisconsin legal experience?
My very first job as a lawyer was as an assistant city attorney in my hometown of Racine. I prosecuted ordinance violations, and traffic cases. I then because deputy city attorney for the city of Racine, and began to handle larger cases, including cases against the city for accidents, and cases involving adult businesses. I even argued a case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

In 1976, I was named the corporation counsel for Racine County, Wisconsin. That is the equivalent of a County Attorney in Arizona, except I only handled civil matters. In that position, I represented the county in all legal matters, including liability defense, contracts, and bidding and construction issues. I also handled involuntary mental health commitments.

I remained at the county of Racine until 1989. At that point, my family thought we were tired of snow, and we moved to Arizona after buying a business in Phoenix. That venture, however, did not work out for us, and we returned to Wisconsin in 1990, where I was named as the corporation counsel for Walworth County (which was a county just west of Racine County). My job there was similar to that in Racine County. But Arizona had gotten into our blood. I took the Arizona Bar exam, and passed it in 1992.

You moved from Wisconsin to Arizona. What was your first legal position in Arizona?
On February 1, 1993, I was appointed as an assistant city attorney for the city of Phoenix. My responsibilities included representing the neighborhood services, development services, and planning and zoning departments. In 2000, I was promoted to chief counsel in the Phoenix Law Department. I was in charge of supervising the Civil Division of the office. Then, in 2005, I was promoted to chief assistant city attorney, which is the number two position in the law department. During all of this time, I continued to have close contact with my planning and zoning department, as well as being part of the management team in the office.

In June 2011, I retired from the city of Phoenix, after 18 years with Phoenix, and 38 years of representing municipal governments.

What have you been doing since you retired from the city of Phoenix?
Since retiring, I began teaching a zoning class at a local real estate school in Scottsdale. I also was a volunteer with the city of Mesa prosecutor's office, where I was assisting them in establishing a mental health court. That brings me up to my new position at the League.

What are the primary duties of the General Counsel for the League?
One of the services that I will provide to member cities and towns is to file amicus briefs, if requested, in litigation involving a member city or town if there are issues that would be of importance to all cities and towns. The Executive Committee of the League has an adopted a policy about how to go about requesting an amicus brief. The link to that policy is here.

Another service that I will provide is answering questions from League members. Because I am governed by Arizona's Ethical Rules for Attorneys, I cannot give specific legal advice to any member of a city or town without the approval of the city or town attorney. The best practice would be for people to raise their question with their attorney, and then if the attorney wants to consult with me, I can do that, and stay in bounds with my ethical requirements. I am connected to the listserv, which links all city and town attorneys in the state. Attorneys periodically post questions on the listserv, and many attorneys may weigh in with any thoughts. I can weigh in on those questions as well.

I will also present classes on things like open meeting law, anatomy of a city council meeting, public records, etc. at training sessions or conferences.

What type of service will you provide to the staff and Executive Committee for the League?
Each year there are hundreds of bills that flow through the office that relate to cities and towns. I will help staff look at the language of proposed bills to make sure it is clear, legal, and enforceable. I will also review any contracts, and provide legal advice to the executive director when requested.

Final thoughts you wish to share?
I hope that my long standing experience with municipal law will allow me to assist the League and its member cities and towns with questions and concerns as they arise.

League of Arizona Cities and Towns
1820 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ  85007
Phone: 602-258-5786
Fax: 602-253-3874

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