National Association of Attorneys General
NAAG Welcomes New Attorneys General
NAAG is welcoming a class of 20 new Attorneys General in 2011. The number of new Attorneys General is the largest in recent memory. Of the 20, 14 were popularly elected, one was elected by the state legislature (Maine), and five were newly appointed (Alaska, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming). The class includes individuals with a very broad range of distinguished service in other offices. The 2011 class includes those who have served as a U.S. senator, U.S. congressmen, U.S. Attorney, appellate judge, a state superintendent of public instruction, state senators and representatives including two as majority leaders, district attorneys, general counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, military officers, assistant attorneys general, assistant district attorneys, and many other notable positions. Photos and bios of all the new Attorneys General are found here.
The Office of Attorney General is created in the state constitution in 44 states, and the method of Attorney General selection is specified by 42 state constitutions. The Attorney General is popularly elected in 43 states and Guam, and is appointed by the governor in five states (Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Wyoming) and in the jurisdictions of American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In Maine, the Attorney General is selected by secret ballot of the legislature, and in Tennessee, by the state supreme court. In the District of Columbia, the mayor appoints the Attorney General, although DC voters approved the ballot initiative to make the DC Attorney General an elected position starting with the 2014 election, pending congressional review.
Specific qualifications for office are included in state constitutions in only 23 states. The most common qualifications mentioned are minimum age and state residency. Most states prohibit the private practice of law by Attorneys General or their staff, and most states require that the Attorney General be an attorney and member of the bar.
Length of Term
Forty-six states presently provide a four-year term for the Attorney General. Maine and Vermont have a two-year term. Tennessee sets the term at eight years, while in Alaska, the Attorney General serves at the pleasure of the governor.
Powers and Duties
The specific functions of the Attorney General office vary greatly from state to state, as do the priorities. However, new or incumbent, the Attorneys General will work collectively and individually on a wide range of legal and law enforcement issues.
New state and federal legislation as well as new conceptions of the office have dramatically expanded the powers and duties of state Attorneys General. There is a wide variety among the states, commonwealths, and territories in the constitutional or statutory structures conferring powers and responsibilities upon the Attorney General. Each office of Attorney General has a relationship with the state legislature and governors, and unique power and restrictions have resulted from court decisions of each state.
The national trend is toward the centralization and consolidation of state legal services within the office of Attorney General. That trend has been accompanied by an increased delegation of authority and new powers to the Attorney General by legislative assemblies in the states. As the legislatures have adopted new laws and programs in response to perceived needs identified by the legislatures, Attorneys General have become active to a degree never before envisioned. Current areas of interest include consumer protection, particularly fighting financial fraud, antitrust, cyberspace law, bankruptcy, child support enforcement, and energy and environment, among others.