In addition to statutory law, court cases and constitutional provisions provide guidance for county officials in determining what actions may properly be taken. The county mayor should be familiar with the local court system. When the chancellor or circuit court judge makes a determination in a case which affects a county’s operation, the order of the court must be followed. If either party to the action disagrees with the court’s determination, that party can appeal to a higher court. Decisions of the court of appeals or the Supreme Court are binding on all counties and must be followed. When a lower court in a judicial district gives a decision, it is not binding on other judicial districts; however, it is a good indication of what courts in other districts would hold in similar cases.
Constitutional provisions are written in general language. Normally, their application to local governments is determined by case law. A single court case or a series of cases on a particular constitutional provision form the case law on that issue.
The county mayor who is not a lawyer, and even those who have legal training, should work with the county attorney when interpreting the law, in determining the legal viability of a proposal, assessing county liability issues or the county mayor’s duty in various situations.