All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have an attorney general who serves as the chief legal officer in their jurisdiction, counsels its government agencies and legislatures, and is a representative of the public interest. 

Attorneys general represent their state and its residents. They do not represent or provide legal advice to individuals.   

Learn more about all 56 attorneys general

What attorneys general do

The specific functions of an attorney general’s office vary from one jurisdiction to the next due to statutory and constitutional mandates. However, the most common and most important functions are 

  • Acting as the chief legal officer of the state 
  • Control of litigation concerning the state 
  • Providing formal opinions to clarify the law 
  • Public advocacy 
  • Criminal law enforcement, primarily on the appellate level 
  • Law reform and legislative advocacy 
  • Investigative authority 

Explore the responsibilities of attorneys general.

What issues attorneys general focus on

Attorneys general occupy the intersection of law and public policy, dealing with very diverse areas of the law. Some important areas of focus include: 

  • Antitrust 
  • Charities 
  • Consumer protection 
  • Criminal law 
  • Elder justice
  • Human trafficking 
  • Public health
  • Tobacco enforcement 

Explore more issues important to attorneys general

How attorneys general get their positions

The attorney general is popularly elected in 

  • 43 states 
  • District of Columbia 
  • Guam 
  • Northern Mariana Islands 

The attorney general is appointed by the governor in: 

  • Alaska 
  • American Samoa 
  • Hawaii 
  • New Hampshire 
  • New Jersey 
  • Puerto Rico  
  • U.S. Virgin Islands 
  • Wyoming 

The attorney general is selected by secret ballot of the legislature in: 

  • Maine  

The attorney general is selected by the state Supreme Court in:  

  • Tennessee 

Find out about upcoming attorney general elections.