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The Role of the State Attorney General-Harvard Law School-Spring. 2022

What’s Your Opinion? Opinion Hypotheticals

What’s Your Opinion?


1.                  With the election just a few weeks away, an emergency bill has just passed both houses that would require all political action committees to disclose their donors if they contribute more than $1000 to any state legislative race. The Governor of the State of Hampton has said that she will sign the bill if it is constitutional. The Governor’s counsel calls you for an opinion on the constitutionality of the bill, and says she needs a response immediately in light of the emergency nature of the bill. What is your response?


2.                  The Hampton Constitution has a strict separation of powers provision, which prohibits people from serving in two branches of government. A part–time, popularly elected, probate judge, whose term runs until next year, is running this year for the State Senate. His opponent, the incumbent State Senator, asks you for an opinion on whether it is constitutional to run for two offices at the same time. What is your response?


3.                  Long before you became Attorney General, the State of Hampton entered into a consent decree to settle a civil rights lawsuit concerning the State’s largest mental health hospital. Due to progress made under the consent decree, there is no longer a special master overseeing the hospital and there is no longer active federal court supervision, even though the case remains on the docket. Advocacy groups have gone to the press with evidence that the State is not providing certain services they believe are required under the consent order. A State Representative who is employed by one of the advocacy groups asks you for an opinion on whether the State should provide these services. What is your response?


4.                  A small town in a rural part of the State of Hampton would like to hold a block party for the town’s 150th anniversary and close off the only street that runs through the town for a Saturday night. The street is also a lightly traveled state highway. The Department of Transportation got wind of this plan, and told the town that they can’t block a state highway. The Mayor asks you for an opinion on whether they can hold their block party and close the street for four hours. What is your response?


5.                  Last year the Hampton Legislature passed a statute requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at the local hospital. Planned Parenthood and several doctors filed suit, and your office is defending the suit. In light of a ruling from the Fourteenth Circuit upholding a preliminary injunction against a similar statute in a neighboring state, the Governor has asked you whether the State’s statute should be enforced. Lawyers from National Right to Life, who have litigated this


issue in many states, immediately offer you a comprehensive, and well written, draft opinion. What is your response?


6.                  Funeral homes are regulated by the State Board of Funeral Homes. In an effort to generate a little extra cash, a local monastery started making and selling plain wooden caskets that are substantially cheaper than caskets available from licensed funeral homes. The State Board of Funeral Homes has asked you for an opinion whether it is legal for the unlicensed monastery to sell cut–rate caskets. What is your response?


7.                  The State of Hampton has an open meetings law, which requires that government meetings generally be open to the public and that decisions be made at such open meetings. Your office represents the State Board of Environmental Protection. At a very contentious hearing that resulted in the denial of a permit for a wind project, it became clear that the citizen members of the Board had talked among themselves about the project before the hearing, which came as a surprise to the Assistant Attorney General who represents the Board and was attending the hearing. Afterwards, a State Representative asks you for an opinion whether the Board’s denial was void because the Board violated the open meetings law. What is your response?