Tagattorney general

John Formella confirmed as New Hampshire attorney general

John Formella was confirmed as New Hampshire’s next attorney general by the Executive Council of New Hampshire on March 24 by a vote of 4 to 1. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) nominated Formella to the position on March 3. Formella has served as legal counsel in Gov. Sununu’s office since 2017. 

WMUR reported that Sununu congratulated Formella, saying “John’s work ethic is unmatched, and I have no doubt he will make an exceptional Attorney General and advance the best interests of Granite Staters. I look forward to working with him and the Department of Justice in the years ahead.”

Formella succeeds Gordon MacDonald, who left office earlier this year due to his nomination as chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Deputy Attorney General Jane Young assumed the duties of the attorney general’s office when MacDonald stepped down. According to the governor’s office, Formella will take office after “an appropriate transition period.”

Prior to becoming legal counsel to Gov. Sununu, Formella worked for the New England law firm Pierce Atwood LLP. He was first hired as a summer associate in 2011 and was promoted to a full-time attorney in 2012.

The New Hampshire attorney general serves as head of the Department of Justice. The office’s primary responsibilities include acting as attorney for the state in criminal and civil cases in the supreme court, prosecuting crimes, enforcing the state’s criminal laws, and collecting unpaid debts to the state.

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Former N.H. Attorney General Gordon MacDonald sworn in as chief justice of state Supreme Court

Former Attorney General Gordon MacDonald was sworn in to the New Hampshire Supreme Court on March 4. He was nominated by Gov. Chris Sununu (R) on Jan. 7 to succeed Robert Lynn, and the New Hampshire Executive Council voted 4-1 to confirm his nomination on Jan. 22. All four Republican members of the executive council voted to confirm. The only vote against confirmation was from Cinde Warmington (D).

The New Hampshire Executive Council is a five-member state executive board that oversees the state budget and approves gubernatorial appointments. Following the 2020 elections, the executive council switched from Democratic to Republican control. 

Gov. Sununu previously nominated MacDonald to succeed Robert Lynn as chief justice in June 2019, when the executive council was still under Democratic control. However, the council voted 3-2 along party lines to reject MacDonald’s nomination.

Robert Lynn was the chief justice of the Supreme Court from Feb. 6, 2018, until his retirement on Aug. 23, 2019. His seat on the court remained vacant until MacDonald joined the court.

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Sniffen resigns as acting Alaska attorney general

On Jan. 29, acting Alaska Attorney General Ed Sniffen announced his resignation and withdrew his name from consideration for attorney general due to an allegation of sexual misconduct. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) had appointed Sniffen as attorney general on Jan. 18, but he had not yet been confirmed by the Alaska Legislature. 

Nikki Dougherty White, a former member of a high school mock trial team coached by Sniffen, recently went public with an allegation that she and Sniffen had had a sexual relationship when she was 17 years old. At the request of the governor, the Alaska Department of Law has launched an investigation into possible criminal misconduct by Sniffen.

Sniffen is the second Alaska attorney general to resign in the past year due to allegations of misconduct. He took office in an acting capacity in August 2020 when his predecessor, Kevin Clarkson, resigned after an investigation revealed that he had sent hundreds of unwanted text messages to a junior employee.

Gov. Dunleavy has appointed Treg Taylor as Sniffen’s replacement. Prior to his appointment, Taylor served as deputy attorney general of the civil division at the Alaska Department of Law. He ran in an unsuccessful bid for the Anchorage Assembly in 2016. Taylor will serve in an acting capacity until he has been confirmed.

The attorney general of Alaska is the principal executive officer of the Alaska Department of Law. While the attorney general is an elected position in 43 states and the District of Columbia, it is appointed by the governor in five states, including Alaska. In Alaska, the governor’s nominee must be confirmed by a majority of the members of the legislature in a joint session.

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Michigan board approves circulation of recall petition against state attorney general

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers on October 15 approved the petition language for a recall against Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D). The board previously rejected five recall petitions against Nessel in 2020. Supporters of the recall effort need to submit 1,046,006 signatures within a 60-day period to require a recall election. The 60 days begin on the first day that signatures are collected. The recall petition must be submitted to the office of the Michigan Secretary of State no later than 180 days after it was approved by the board.

The recall petition was submitted by Chad Baase on September 25. Michigan laws state that the reason for recall must be deemed factual and clear by the Board of State Canvassers before the recall petition can be placed in circulation. The board does not document a rationale for their determination, only the judgment of rejected or approved.

The recall petition criticizes Nessel over her announced plans of ramping up efforts to enforce Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) Executive Order 2020-148. The executive order provided enhanced protections for residents and staff of long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, Baase has filed 12 recall petitions against four statewide officials. Five have been approved for circulation, five were rejected in clarity hearings, and two were withdrawn.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, four statewide officials in Michigan have seen recall petitions submitted against them. In total, 31 recall petitions have targeted the four officials. In comparison, Ballotpedia tracked no recall efforts against any Michigan statewide official in 2019.

This year, Whitmer has had 20 recall petitions submitted against her. Nine of those petitions have been approved for circulation, 10 efforts were rejected, and one effort was withdrawn by the petitioner. Two recall petitions have been introduced against Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist (D). One petition has been approved for circulation, and the other was rejected. Three recall petitions have also been introduced against Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D). One effort has been approved for circulation, one effort was withdrawn by the petitioner, and the other was rejected.

Michigan is under a divided government. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 22-16 margin and the state House by a 58-51 margin with one vacancy. Whitmer was elected as Michigan’s governor in 2018 with 53.3% of the vote.

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