Duluth was organized as a township in 1857; incorporated as a City March 5, 1870, under Special Laws of Minnesota for 1870; returned to a village October 2, 1877; and re-chartered as a City March 2, 1887, under Special Laws of Minnesota for 1887.
The position of City Attorney was first created in 1887 as part of the City's organization under the Special Laws of Minnesota. The City Attorney was an "appointed officer" under the legislation, similar to the City Charter in place today. However in 1887, the City Attorney could only hold the office for a term of one year. The appointment of the Attorney was determined by ballot and required the concurrence of a majority of all the members of the common council.
The City adopted its first Home Rule Charter in March 1900. This Charter provided for a mayor-alderman form of government. Under the 1900 Charter the City Attorney became a permanent position with duties as follows: "The city attorney shall be the legal advisor of the city and of all the boards and departments thereof, and shall perform all services incident to that office. He shall appear in and conduct all civil suits, prosecutions and proceedings in which the city or any board or department thereof shall be directly or indirectly interested and when necessary take charge of and conduct all prosecutions for violation of all ordinances or resolutions of the city or any board or department thereof, and for the violation of any of the provisions of this charter."
The 1900 Charter also expanded the Office to include an Assistant City Attorney who, "in the absence or disability of the city attorney shall have the same powers and duties for the city attorney."
Currently the City is operating under City Charter adopted March 20, 1956 by voter mandate. Today's Charter allows for the mayor-council form of government. Under the current City Charter, the City Attorney is appointed by the Mayor, subject to confirmation by the City Council by a simple majority vote. Section 26 of the City Charter provides that the City Attorney: "shall be the legal advisor of the council and of the officers of the city and shall, under the direction of the council, prosecute all suits for, and defend all suits brought against, the city, and shall prosecute all persons accused of any violation of city ordinance."