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

The Structure of the Office of the Attorney General: January 31, 2022

State Attorneys General have never fit easily into the existing framework of state government. All but two states (Alaska and Wyoming) have rejected the federal model in which the Attorney General serves at the pleasure of the Chief Executive, and this “divided executive” approach results in numerous possible conflicts as the attorney general attempts to represent the “client,” which could be the Governor, the state agency, the state legislature or the "public interest." as defined by the attorney general.

This Chapter explores the independence inherent in the office of a modern Attorney General.  It contains readings that make clear the underlying rationale for its common law authority and the need for an attorney general to represent all of the people of the state - the public interest - when a "client" state agency acts in ways inconsistent with its responsibilities.  It also introduces the concept of parens patriae to the discussion of attorney general authority and the affirmative duty for an attorney general to create consistency in appellate advocacy even if varying state stakeholders disagree.

This Chapter includes a generic organizational chart the merits in depth attention.  It describes the actual functionality of offices of an attorney general in a manner that suggests how inthernal decision making can be accomplished.  It also includes an interactive, role playing hypothetical that explores how these difficult decisions are actually made.