What Does a State's Attorney General Do?

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  • Written By: R. Kimball
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 17 December 2014
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A state’s attorney general is responsible for enforcing the law in the state where he or she was elected. The attorney general is the chief legal representative for the state and serves as general counsel for most of the state’s government agencies. Each state’s attorney general manages all legal representation of the state in civil and criminal matters on a state and federal level. Most attorneys general manage specific assistance programs throughout the state.

As the chief legal representative of the state, the attorney general runs an office that provides legal counsel to the state and its agencies. It is the attorney general’s responsibility to enforce the laws of the state evenly and fairly across the entire citizenship. As such, the attorney general’s office works with the different levels of state law enforcement, state judiciary, federal law enforcement, and judiciary as well as international law enforcement to assist in legal interpretation and coordination efforts.

The state’s attorney general provides a variety of core services to different state agencies. These core services range from forensic sciences to telecommunications. The specific services provided by an attorney general’s office vary by state. Some states' attorney general offices also include peace officers charged with pursuing special types of cases for the state.


Any time the state or a state agency is sued, the state’s attorney general represents the state or its agency in the case. These cases might be criminal or civil, depending upon the issue in the suit. In certain states, the state’s attorney general is responsible for representing the state penal system in an appeal to a federal court. The attorney general himself or herself cannot be present in court for each of these incidences, but a member of the attorney general’s legal staff always represents the state or its agency.

Coordination efforts among state, federal, and international law enforcement within a given state make up one of the larger responsibilities managed by the state’s attorney general. These efforts include narcotics investigations as well as many other criminal investigations that cross enforcement areas. Managing the data associated with these investigations is also the responsibility of the attorney general’s office.

The state’s attorney general manages the child support process in some states. The office may run programs specifically to increase public safety or reduce unfair or fraudulent activities. In some states, this office is the guardian of the state’s natural resources through law enforcement.


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