Everything You Need to Know About Attorney Generals

Since Inauguration Day, the position of the United States Attorney General has been a rotating door. Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch held the position up until Inauguration Day, then Sally Yates came in as Acting Attorney General until President Trump made his formal pick. Yates was fired 10 days into the new administration for insubordination and was replaced with Acting Attorney General Dana Boente. This was only until Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for the position, got approved by the full Senate.

You’re probably wondering: Who are these people? And what do they do as attorney generals? This blog will help you find out.

What Is the Role of the Attorney General?

Attorney generals are essentially the middlemen between the government and the public. As a legal representative of the government and the public, the attorney general protects the rights of both the government and the public in a fair and just manner. They’re counselors to their government agencies by holding the power of attorney when representing their government in legal matters, but also act as a “people’s lawyer” for the public by representing their rights.

There are two types of attorney generals: One for each of the 50 U.S. states and territories and one for the overarching national government.

The State Attorney General

The state attorney general is the chief legal advisor and chief law enforcement officer to the state or territory’s government and keeps the public’s interest in mind while performing their duties. State attorney generals are elected into office via state elections.

The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), a professional attorneys general association that serves as liaison to the state and federal government, lists the typical duties of a state attorney general:

  • State attorney generals have the authority to issue formal opinions to state agencies
  • State attorney generals act as public advocates for issues such as child support enforcement, consumer protections, and antitrust and utility regulation
  • State attorney generals can propose state legislation
  • State attorney generals can enforce federal and state environmental laws
  • State attorney generals represent the state and state agencies before the state and federal courts

The U.S. Attorney General

The U.S. Attorney General is the chief officer of the Department of Justice and is nominated by the sitting president. Before taking office, the Attorney General nominee must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Although the Attorney General serves in the Presidential Cabinet, they do not have terms and can be appointed or removed from office at any time.

The typical duties of the Attorney General include:

  • Enforcing federal laws and examines alleged violations of federal laws
  • Provide legal counsel in federal cases
  • Interprets the laws that govern executive departments
  • Heads federal jails
  • Gives advice to the president and heads of the executive departments when needed


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