Legislative Director and Special Assistant to the Executive DirectorNational Association of Attorneys General
Attorneys General Continue Fight Against Hate with Presidential Summit
At the end of this month, attorneys general from around the country will gather in the District of Columbia for the 2021 NAAG Presidential Summit. This year’s theme, the People v. Hate: Standing Up for Humanity, is focused on bringing together attorneys general from all political parties, geographical, and personal backgrounds to collaborate on ways they can use their position to combat hate.
Role of Attorneys General Combatting Hate
Attorneys general partnering together to fight hate is not a new concept. During the Supreme Court’s 1992 session, in what was described by the New York Times as “unusual show of state unanimity,” forty-nine attorneys general threw their support behind the Wisconsin attorney general by filing an amicus brief in Wisconsin v. Mitchell, in which the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld a Wisconsin statute that permitted enhanced sentences for racially motivated crimes. The ruling set a precedent that allowed other states to expand law enforcement’s toolkit in combatting hate crimes by allowing for more stringent sentences when victims are targeted because of their race, religion, disability, or other categories defined within a state’s bias or hate crime statutes.
Individually, many attorney general offices have expanded their role related to combatting hate in recent years. In December 2019, the New Hampshire Department of Justice established a new protocol for all law enforcement agencies in the state for identifying, investigating, and reporting hate crimes and civil rights violations. This historic change directed every police department in the state to name a civil rights designee to collaborate with the state attorney general and local county attorney on any enforcement actions related to a hate crime or civil rights violation.
On the west coast, both the California and Oregon Departments of Justice have been directed by their legislatures to improve the collection of hate crime data within the state. Though the federal government also collects hate crime data, the information gathered is not considered reliable since reporting is voluntary. To address the gap in reporting, the California state legislature has passed several laws, including a mandate for the state attorney general to issue an annual Hate Crime in California report using data reported by law enforcement agencies across the state. This effort has led to California having one of the most complete hate crime datasets of any state. In 2019, Oregon’s legislature took similar steps to empower the attorney general and improve the collection of hate crime data in the state by passing legislation that created a new hotline managed by the Oregon Department of Justice for reporting bias incidents and required all law enforcement to refer victims of bias incidents to the hotline.
Continuing the Fight Against Hate
State attorneys general are leading the fight in combatting hate. This year’s Presidential Summit will serve as the culmination of virtual programming that has been offered to attorneys general, their staff, and partner organizations throughout the year. Attendees at the summit will hear from experts, experienced practitioners, and survivors in the fight against hate as NAAG continues its efforts to support attorneys general in their efforts.
The 2021 NAAG Presidential Summit is open to attorneys general, their staff, and members of the public. View the registration information.