Frequently Asked Questions
Are Municipal violations criminal matters?
No. Municipal Ordinance violations are civil forfeiture actions and are noncriminal in nature.
Do I need a lawyer in Municipal Court?
No, you do not. You are entitled to a lawyer at your own expense, however, you are not required to hire a lawyer and most municipal defendants appear without attorneys.
If I have an attorney, can I still talk with the City Attorney’s office?
Generally, no, it is an ethical violation for an attorney to communicate directly with a defendant who is represented by counsel. If you choose to hire a lawyer, the City Attorney’s Office will direct all communication to your counsel.
Can the City Attorney give me legal advice?
No. The City Attorney’s Office represents the City of La Crosse, not private citizens. The office provides legal services to the La Crosse Common Council, the mayor, and the various departments of the City of La Crosse. The City Attorney’s Office cannot give legal advice to private citizens or recommend the names of private attorneys. If you would like legal advice you need to contact a private attorney or call (800) 362-9082 for the State Bar of Wisconsin Lawyer Referral and Information Service.
Can I call your office to discuss my criminal charges pending in La Crosse County Circuit Court?
No. The office of the City Attorney does not deal with criminal matters. If the case is in La Crosse County and you wish to speak to the prosecutor, you can contact the District Attorney’s Office at (608) 785-9604. If you wish to speak to a defense attorney, you can contact the public defender at (608) 785-9531 to determine if you are eligible for their services or call (800) 362-9082 for the State Bar of Wisconsin Lawyer Referral and Information Service.
Who can I talk to about trouble with my landlord?
If you have a complaint or concern about the conditions of the property you are renting, please contact the Fire Department — Division of Fire Prevention & Building Safety at (608) 789-7260 or http://www.cityoflacrosse.org/fire/buildingsafety. The Division of Fire Prevention & Building Safety will review your complaint or concern and may inspect the property and/or commence enforcement action against the property owner if there are violations of the City's ordinances. Until you file a complaint, the City's ability to respond to your concerns may be limited.
Concerning private matters such as a dispute with your landlord, the City Attorney's Office is unable to assist you. For help with this type of situation, you may want to contact the State of Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection by phone at (800) 422-7128 or email at DATCPHotline@wi.gov. Information about tenant rights is also available at http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/WisconsinWavWEB.pdf and http://wwvv.wisbar.org/forpublic/ineedinformation/pages/landlord-tenant.aspx.
What type of advice or counsel can I get from the City Attorney’s Office?
The City Attorney can provide factual information and procedural guidance regarding the handling and disposition of municipal citations. The office cannot, however, provide legal advice on these matters. The City Attorney does provide legal advice regarding other Municipal matters involving the interpretation and enforcement of Municipal Ordinances.
What is the distinction between the City Attorney and the District Attorney?
Generally, the District Attorney prosecutes criminal matters under State Statutes. The City Attorney is employed by the City to provide legal advice and guidance on municipal matters and to prosecute Municipal Ordinance violations in the City’s Municipal Court.
How do you sue someone because they did not pay me for work that I did?
The City Attorney’s Office is unable to assist in personal matters such as this.
If you would like to bring an action against this person, please contact the appropriate county. For actions in the amount of $5,000 or less, contact the Clerk of Circuit Court – Small Claims Division for the appropriate county:
• La Crosse County: (608) 785-9705
• Vernon County: (608) 637-5340
The attached is a very basic guide to the small claims process:
I want to complain about a business, how do I do that?
To make a complaint about a Wisconsin business, please contact the Consumer Protection office (Wisconsin’s equivalent to a Better Business Bureau) at (800) 422-7128. You can also find more information, as well as an on-line complaint form, at:
How do I file a claim against the City of La Crosse?
To file a claim against the City, please contact the City Clerk’s Office (608) 789-7510 for a form. Please complete the form and then return it to the City Clerk’s Office.
How do I get a copy of a city ordinance?
You can get a copy of an ordinance by either visiting the Municipal Code on-line and print off the section you are looking for, or you can visit the La Crosse Public Library. The Library keeps a current version of the Municipal Code for patrons.
My neighbor has a tree that has a branch that overhangs my property and could damage my house. How do I make him/her trim the branch?
If the tree is on private property, the City Attorney’s Office would not be able to assist you with this. You should try to work it out with your neighbor. The City of La Crosse Ordinances that do exist state that the owner of such trees is responsible for ensuring that the trees do not become dangerous or diseased so as to cause damage to a neighbor’s property. These ordinances are 10.04(D) and 8.01(5)(d)(ii) and can be found on the City of La Crosse website.
If the tree in question is on public/City property (on the boulevard or other rights-of-way), please contact the City of La Crosse Parks and Recreation Department at (608) 789-7533.