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The Legal & Political Importance of State Attorneys General - UCLA Law School - Fall 2022
First published Nov 2021 and updated Nov 2022

Jeff Modisett is the former Attorney General of Indiana and a Lecturer at UCLA Law School where he teaches a course on the role of state attorneys general while maintaining an AG-centric law practice.

Jeff Modisett

Mr. Modisett has been an Asst. U.S. Attorney (C.D. - CA), an Executive Asst. to a governor, and the District Attorney for Indianapolis, IN, in addition to previous roles as Sr. Counsel at Dentons US LLP (founder of State Attorney General Practice Group), the founder & CEO of Nextlaw Referral Network LLC (, and the former Co-Chair of Democratic Attorneys General Assn. He was also Co-Chair of TechNet, a Silicon Valley policy group.

During his tenure as Attorney General of Indiana, Mr. Modisett played an active role in the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). He was a member of the negotiating team for the landmark tobacco settlement and a leader in the investigations of sweepstakes companies. He has guest taught or lectured at the Yale Law School and the University of Michigan Law School. 

Note: Syllabus is subject to change depending on developing issues and occasional scheduling issues.


The roots of the Office of State Attorney General run deep in American jurisprudence. All 13 American colonies had an Attorney General and today all 50 States and the District of Columbia have opted to provide legal services through an Office of State Attorney General.

Each office possesses broad jurisdiction and -- to varying degrees -- is independent from the executive and the legislative branch of state government. Attorneys General in 43 states are elected statewide on a partisan basis. The combination of sweeping jurisdiction and constitutional independence has given rise to a unique American legal institution of growing importance.

The course will cover the day-to-day challenges faced by Attorneys General and their staffs in delivering the legal advice that will guide state government in a constitutional and ethical manner. The course will also cover the relationship of Attorneys General with governors, state legislatures and agencies, the federal government, the private bar, and a myriad of advocacy organizations. It will focus on both day-to-day responsibilities, as well as on some of the most controversial legal issues affecting society today. Although Attorneys General are often in the news -- litigating both in favor and in opposition to Presidential policies -- the focus of this class is not on suing or defending the President.

Although each State is unique, the course will demonstrate the remarkable congruence that exists among State Attorneys General when addressing similar challenges and issues. The course is weighted toward those decisions by Attorneys General that reflect their independent status, which is most often revealed when Governors, legislatures, other elected officials, state agencies or the federal government exceed their constitutional or statutory authority. The course also considers the unique ethical issues that Attorneys General and their staff must confront. Finally, the Office of Attorney General of today is facing increasing political pressures that -- in some states -- are impacting the balance of law, public policy and politics.

I anticipate a couple of guest speakers, who will most likely participate remotely. However, this will be an interactive class and I will be present for teaching and Q & A every week.

The Syllabus contains federal and state statutes and case law, law review and descriptive articles from a variety of sources, and hypotheticals that describe the nature and function of the Office of State Attorney General. The hypotheticals are drawn from actual cases which, because of their nature, have not been studied or, in most cases, even made public. All materials have been collected from 40 years of studying and participating in the decision making of Attorneys General and their staffs, working with

Students will be evaluated based upon both class participation and a research paper (which may qualify for SAW). Readings that are marked “supplemental reading,” or "further research" or "for reference" are trusted resources that enable you to take a deeper dive into specific topics.

Students can improve their grades based upon class participation and all students are expected to participate in some fashion each week in class. Because many, if not most, of the decisions of Attorneys General and their staff are based upon judgment, and thus are not obviously right nor wrong, the class will create an atmosphere where students of differing political perspectives will feel comfortable contributing diverse viewpoints to the class discussion. While not a requirement, each student is strongly encouraged to schedule at least one meeting with the professor within the first month of instruction. Office hours are on Tuesday, but a Zoom meeting can be scheduled on any day I am available.

UCLA School of Law has a long history of supporting equal access to education for students with disabilities, in collaboration with the UCLA Center for Accessible Education (CAE). See

In anticipation of the first class, in addition to the readings in Part One, all students are required to watch this video ( A Brief Introduction to the World of State Attorneys General by James Tierney, former Attorney General of Maine and Director of, who teaches a similar course at Harvard Law. You may prefer to read a transcript of the video, found in Section 1.1.