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Series S481 - Law Department special files

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Law Department special files

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  • Textual record

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  • Source of title proper: Title taken from records schedule.

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  • 1905-1966, predominant 1925-1950 (Creation)
    Vancouver (B.C.). Legal Services

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2.36 m of textual records

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Administrative history

The Law Department originated 9 Aug. 1886 when a part-time City Solicitor was appointed to handle the City's legal affairs (drafting City by-laws, drafting charter amendments, interpreting legislation, representing the City in court actions, and giving legal advice to City Council). On 18 July 1910 the first full-time City Solicitor (and counsel for the City) was appointed and authorized to hire several support staff. Despite numerous configurations of position titles over the years, the functions of the City Solicitor's Office (1886-1936) and the Law Office or Law Department (1937-1995, designations alternated during the earlier years) have remained remarkably consistent. These were/are:
(1) By-law writing.
(2) City internal legal advisory.
(3) City of Vancouver counsel.
(4) Provincial legislation interpretation.
(5) Vancouver Charter writing.
Predecessors of the Law Department were: the Law Office or Law Department, 1937-1974; City Solicitor's Office, 1886-1936.
From 1886 the City Solicitor (and at times, the Corporation Counsel) reported to City Council. In 1956, with the establishment of the Board of Administration, the head of the Law Department reported to the Board. (In 1974 the Board was replaced by the City Manager.)
The internal organization of the department has undergone a number of changes since it was created. A department as such was formed in 1910; the City Solicitor was the head, 1910-1935, then the Corporation Counsel, 1935-1974. The legal office was known by the following names:

  • City Solicitor's Office, 1886-1936;
  • Law Office, 1937-1947;
  • Law Department, 1948-1995
  • Legal Services Department, 1995-
    The following individuals served as chief officer of the City's legal office. Initially the position was City Solicitor on contract: J. J. Blake, 1886-1887; T. T. Black, 1887-1892 (combined position of City Solicitor and Police Magistrate). Permanently appointed City Solicitors, though still on contract, were: A. Hammersley, 1893-1904?; A. McEvoy, 1905-1907 (combined position of City Clerk and City Solicitor); G. H. Cowan, 1907-1910 (combined position of City Solicitor and City Prosecutor); John Gilmour Hay, 1910-1914 (City Solicitor only, Legal Department with staff added); Edward F. Jones, 1915-1922; James B. Williams, 1923-1935. As of 1935 the position was called Corporation Counsel: Donald Edgar McTaggart, 1935-1948; Arthur E. Lord, 1948-1951; Russel Kemp Baker, 1951-1972.

Related Resources:
The Office of the City Clerk set up annual files on "City officials", "City Solicitor", "Law Office", "Law Department", in the extensive series 20 ("Subject files - including Council supporting documents").

Custodial history

Scope and content

Series consists of case files on significant City legal issues, e.g. amalgamations, land and property matters (including disputes with railway companies), etc. Also included are two files of photographs which were kept for their historical interest only. Arranged alphabetically by case file title (with the photographs at the end).

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