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NAAG Expresses Concern over West Virginia Bill Limiting the Attorney General’s Powers

March 10, 2014

Washington, DC---The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent a March 7 letter to West Virginia lawmakers expressing concern about a state bill under consideration, HB 4490, that would impose strict new standards on the Office of the West Virginia Attorney General.

“As fellow state attorneys general from across the country and of both political parties, we write simply to ensure that you move forward with your deliberations fully aware of the unprecedented nature of the proposed bill,” reads the NAAG letter signed by 36 state and territorial attorneys general.

The letter specifically highlights the section of the bill that requires the attorney general to withdraw from any matter in which the office holder or member of his or her immediate family received economic compensation and appoint outside counsel to instead handle the case.

“We are not aware of any statute that imposes such a broadly sweeping prohibition on an attorney general’s office—at the state or federal levels,” reads the NAAG letter.

It also expresses concern about language that would prohibit the entire Attorney General’s Office from ever representing a state agency, official, or political subdivision if the attorney general asserts any legal position that is contrary to the legal opinion ever taken by a state agency, official or political subdivision the Office represents.

“It is well-recognized across the country that a state attorney general is uniquely permitted to represent state agencies, officials and subdivisions with conflicting viewpoints—even in the same litigation,” the NAAG letter reads. “As many courts have explained, this dual representation must be permitted because of the uniqueness of the Attorney General’s Office and its responsibility as the constitutional legal officer of the state to represent various and sometimes conflicting interests of numerous government agencies.”

The NAAG letter can be found here: http://www.naag.org/sign-on_archive.php.

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The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), www.naag.org, was founded in 1907 to help Attorneys General fulfill the responsibilities of their office and to assist in the delivery of high quality legal services to the states and territorial jurisdictions.

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