A significant portion of the work of attorney general offices revolves around enforcement of civil violations that affect citizens of their respective states. However, state attorney general offices are also charged with defending the state in litigation. These lawsuits take a variety of forms, ranging from suits filed by prisoners, to employment discrimination suits, to school financing disputes.
Attorneys general may also need to represent the state in a wide range of more typical civil litigation issues, such as:
- Tort actions arising from accidents on state roads.
- Contract disputes over state construction projects.
- Problems with goods and services purchased by the state.
The range and proper disposition of such matters are of vital interest to the states, not only for the costs that may be imposed on the state’s taxpayers through such litigation, but also because of their potential impact on how the state carries out its legislative and administrative functions. Beyond the standard defenses that the state may assert like any other party, it may also have the specialized defenses of sovereign immunity and/or qualified immunity that it may assert on behalf of itself or its represented employees.
To support these efforts, most attorney general offices have created one or more units that specialize in representing the state in such litigation and asserting the various substantive and procedural defenses available to the state to ensure that it is best able to protect both the public and the policies it seeks to assert.