Ultra Vires: Challenging Municipal Actions and Contracts, Defensive Uses of Doctrine

A live 90-minute CLE webinar with interactive Q&A

Thursday, October 31, 2019

1:00pm-2:30pm EDT, 10:00am-11:30am PDT

Early Registration Discount Deadline, Friday, October 4, 2019

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE webinar will provide municipal counsel with detailed knowledge of the uses and dangers of the ultra vires doctrine, which can be used to nullify the actions of municipalities that exceed the bounds of their authority. Private citizens and government employees can assert ultra vires against cities and by the local government itself as a defense to obligations.


Municipalities often face accusations of engaging in activities that are ultra vires (literally, "outside of powers"). This legal concept could result in overturning municipal actions if the local government lacked the power to take those actions. On the other hand, the fact that an act is ultra vires can be a defense to municipal liability.

A claim of ultra vires action occurs in situations where the validity of municipal action is challenged. State law authorizes and restricts a municipality's power. Rival municipal officials may raise ultra vires to limit each other's authority.

The ultra vires doctrine can also benefit the municipality. The classic case is one in which the city faces a lawsuit to collect a debt or for breach of contract and the city defends by claiming the officials involved lacked the authority to enter into a contract on the city's behalf. Sometimes, even if the original act was outside a party's or entity's authority, the agreement or action may still be enforced.

Listen as our panel of attorneys well-versed in municipal obligations discusses the varying instances in which the ultra vires doctrine is applied. The panel will further go into how the doctrine can be asserted and the limitations of ultra vires arguments.



  1. Ultra vires doctrine
    1. Source of municipal power
    2. Consequences of exceeding the power
  2. Offensive uses of the doctrine
    1. By citizens against government
    2. Assertions by government officials
  3. Municipal assertions
    1. Contract avoidance
    2. Exceptions


The panel will review these and other essential matters:

  • The background of the doctrine of ultra vires
  • Ultra vires asserted by citizens
  • Ultra vires asserted by government officials
  • Ultra vires asserted defensively by a municipality


Shaunessy, Michael
Michael A. Shaunessy

McGinnis Lochridge

Mr. Shaunessy represents plaintiffs and defendants in commercial litigation, employment litigation, as well as suing...  |  Read More

Additional faculty
to be announced.

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Strafford will process CLE credit for one person on each recording. All formats include program handouts. To find out which recorded format will provide the best CLE option, select your state:

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