What are the responsibilities of state attorneys general?

The office of attorney general exists in all 50 states. The attorney general is directly elected in 43 states, appointed by the governor in five states, appointed by the legislature in Maine, and by the state supreme court in Tennessee.

Forty-five state constitutions explicitly establish the office of attorney general, while Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon, Vermont, and Wyoming formally established the position by statute.

State attorneys general serve as chief legal advisers to state governments and citizens residing within their state. Nearly every state’s attorney general has the power to prosecute violations of state law and represent the state in legal disputes. They also influence a state’s approach to law enforcement, setting particular law enforcement priorities and focusing resources on those issues.

Of America’s 50 state attorneys general:
• 41 have unlimited power to represent their state in criminal appeals.
• 22 can independently initiate prosecution at the local level.
• 14 can take over a case handled by a local prosecutor without instruction from the governor or legislature.

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Additional reading
Attorney General (state executive office)
State executive offices




About the author

James McAllister

James McAllister is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at james.mcallister@ballotpedia.org

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