Reference Number: 
CTAS-450

The county attorney or law director is a popularly elected official in a few counties by private act or county charter, an officer elected for a term of office by the county legislative body under a private act in a few others, and an executive appointed department head in others by county or metropolitan government charter.  In most counties, however, there is not an office of county attorney; rather, the position is one of employment or retainer under the general law authority of the county mayor to employ or retain counsel when there is no county attorney.  An attorney employed or retained by the county mayor is to advise the county mayor and the members of the county legislative body as to their legal rights as members, prepare resolutions for passage by the body, and represent the county either as plaintiff or defendant in such suits as may be brought by or against the county, except suits by the county to collect delinquent taxes.  An attorney employed or retained by the county mayor under this general law authority is entitled to a reasonable fee for such counsel's services and/or retention, which amount is to be fixed by a majority vote of the members of the county legislative body at one of its regular meetings and paid out of the general fund of the county. T.C.A. § 5-6-112.  The counties that have an office of county attorney or law director by charter or private act may have different duties and compensation schemes, but all play an important role in advising the county mayor or metropolitan mayor and representing the county.  The county charter, metropolitan government charter or private acts must be examined to determine the exact role and duties of the county attorney in those counties.