Public Interest Advocacy and State Attorney General – 6821

Spring 2023

NOTE: This course is being taught remotely in Spring 2023.

State Attorney Generals are a fixture of American jurisprudence. All 13 American colonies had an Attorney General, and today all 50 States and the District of Columbia 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. State attorneys general are currently leading the national response to the opioid crisis, nicotine-related health issues, immigration, health care and a multitude of other critical issues. Students will learn about the broad and diverse work of state AGs. The course will cover the day-to-day challenges that state Attorneys General face, which includes 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 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 that State Attorneys General address similar challenges and issues across the various state. The course will show how decisions that Attorneys General make often reflect the independence of the Office. This independence is most often revealed when Governors, legislatures, other elected officials, state agencies or the federal government exceed their constitutional or statutory authority. The course considers also the unique ethics issues that Attorneys General and their staff must confront.