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Government and Municipal

Municipalities throughout the state and beyond regularly seek our advice as special counsel

Whether you are negotiating contracts, managing a development project or immersed in zoning and planning issues, our depth of experience in the public sector means that when you call us with a question, we’ll provide the answer.

Municipalities throughout the state and beyond regularly seek our advice as regular and special counsel. Varnum has represented municipalities in significant development and public utility projects, such as establishing sanitary sewer and water supply systems as well as extensions and additions to such systems. As part of our representation, we prepare the necessary resolutions and ordinances to establish the system and the rate structure to support it. We have been involved in periodic reviews of such rates to determine that they support necessary operating and other expenses, and to ensure compliance with any financing covenants.

We represent municipal suppliers of utility services and municipal customer communities on both a wholesale and retail basis. We have served as bond counsel in the issuance of revenue bonds to finance such projects.

The firm also represents municipal utilities all across the United States on matters involving retail rates, extra-territorial sales, long-term retail power sales contracts, interconnection agreements, hydroelectric licensing, nuclear power plants, fossil power plants, franchises, labor matters, antitrust, environmental problems and other issues.

Public Finance

The complexity and diversity of bond projects demands expertise beyond legal knowledge. Our attorneys have broad experience in a variety of financing projects and a long track record of successful representation.

Since 1980, Varnum has been listed in the Bond Buyer’s Municipal Marketplace (the “Red Book”), and our public finance attorneys are members of the National Association of Bond Lawyers. We couple our significant bond counsel experience in traditional governmental bonds, small issue private activity bonds and qualified 501(c)(3) bonds with careful attention to detail.

In addition to serving as bond counsel, the firm has represents bond purchasers, letter of credit banks, borrowers and bond obligors in hundreds of other tax-exempt financing transactions. The bond purchasers for these issues have included individuals, institutional investors, underwriters and other investment funds. We have also served as underwriter’s counsel for small issue private activity bonds and qualified 501(c)(3) bonds.

Governmental Bond Financing

These projects have involved general obligation, capital improvement, building authority, special assessment, transportation fund, tax increment, revenue and refunding bonds. We have served as bond counsel in the issuance of bonds supported by tax increment revenues for downtown development authorities, tax increment finance authorities and local development finance authorities.

Educational Entities

We frequently serve as bond counsel for school districts and community colleges in financing energy conservation improvements and other capital projects. We have also represented school districts issuing building and site bonds qualified with the Michigan School Bond Loan Program and are familiar with the state officials involved in that program. We have also served as bond counsel for the issuance of qualified zone academy bonds, school refunding bonds, tax anticipation notes, state aid notes and equipment financings.

State of Michigan

We have acted in various capacities (including bond counsel, underwriter’s counsel, credit enhancer’s counsel and obligor’s counsel) in tax-exempt and taxable financings by the State of Michigan, the Michigan State Building Authority and several state agencies and departments such as the Michigan Department of Treasury, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan Strategic Fund and the Michigan Finance Authority. In addition, we have been involved with several of its predecessor organizations, including the Michigan Higher Education Facilities Authority, the Michigan State Hospital Finance Authority, the Michigan Municipal Bond Authority and the Michigan Underground Storage Tank Financial Assurance Authority.

Manufacturing and Charitable Bond Financings

The firm is approved as bond counsel for the Michigan Strategic Fund for purposes of financing manufacturing facilities and facilities for 501(c)(3) organizations. The firm has also acted as bond counsel to numerous Michigan municipalities and economic development corporations for such bond issues.

Public Sector Litigation

The range of our specialized public sector practice is illustrated by our litigation experience on behalf of municipalities in all of the Michigan state courts and tribunals, as well as U.S. federal courts and agencies, including:

  • Lawsuits involving land use and zoning
  • Labor relations
  • Elections
  • Eminent domain
  • Ordinance enforcement
  • Special assessments
  • Property tax appeals
  • Solid and hazardous waste disposal

“Varnum does an excellent job in the field of municipal law. We have used the attorneys for 35 years.”

Client, US News – Best Lawyers® Best Law Firms

We have represented hundreds of municipalities as special counsel handling complex and specialized aspects of municipal law

  • Environmental disputes
  • Labor matters
  • Public finance
  • Zoning and planning
  • Cable TV, Wi-Fi, gas, electric and fiber optic franchises
  • Interlocal agreements for the provision of fire protection, water and sewer services, and other municipal services
  • Property tax appeals
  • Eminent domain
  • Boundary adjustments through annexations, Act 425 agreements or other means
  • Licensing and closure of solid waste landfills
  • Sale and licensing of hydroelectric facilities
  • Recalls, referenda, initiatives and local elections
  • Redevelopment

Meet the Team

Our attorneys are routinely recognized for their excellence and ability to litigate, negotiate and advise clients by Top Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Chambers USA and more.

Legal Practices Related to Government and Municipal

Native American Law

As providers of legal services to American Indian tribes, Varnum attorneys recognize that the dramatic rise in Indian economic development has complicated the governance of tribes. Increased interactions with non-tribal parties have brought about a new array of business dealings and commercial litigation matters unique to tribal entities.

Learn more about Varnum's Native American Law Practice


Clients rely on us to handle the strategy and details of immigration issues so that they can get down to business.

We navigate the laws and procedures of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of State (DOS), Department of Labor (DOL) and state workforce agencies (SWAs) to place key personnel within U.S. operations and to facilitate relationships with overseas affiliates and partners. In addition, we counsel employers concerning work authorization issues, and compliance with immigration and labor laws.

Learn more about Varnum's Immigration Practice

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Please be aware that contacting us via e-mail does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm. Do not send confidential information to the firm until you have spoken with one of our attorneys and receive authorization to send such materials.