« Ind. Gov't. - "Medical care in Indiana prisons draws scrutiny" by en banc CA 7 | Main | Ind. Decisions - "Appeals court says video 'indisputably contradicts' South Bend police testimony" »

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - "State AGs Are Increasingly Powerful -- and Partisan"

Alan Greenblatt writes in the September issue of Governing in an article subheaded: "The controversy surrounding Trump University showcases some of the sticky political situations that many attorneys general have been getting themselves in." A few quotes from the long story:

State attorneys general may be the freest actors in the American political system. Their broad discretion gives them enormous power, but it can also open them up to political and legal attacks. * * *

Last year, The New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its report on companies willing to wine and dine AGs and contribute heavily to their campaign accounts, in hopes of avoiding investigations and settlements. * * *

Attorneys general, most of whom are elected independently, are often described as the chief law enforcement officers in their states. That’s really a misnomer. Criminal cases are nearly always handled by district attorneys at the county level. AGs can get involved in criminal matters, but most of their focus is on consumer protection and other civil issues.

Indeed, they have become de facto national regulators of various industries, demanding that banks or other businesses change their ways as part of legal settlements. Given their status as free agents, they can turn those pressures off as easily as they can turn them on. “AGs have found a way to transform the office, so it’s not just rote law enforcement but really important in terms of making policy,” says Paul Nolette, author of a recent book about state AGs.

Which cases they choose to pursue is pretty much up to them. That has allowed Republicans to challenge the Obama administration on fronts ranging from health care to environmental regulation. Conversely, Democratic attorneys general opted not to defend state laws banning same-sex marriage.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 8, 2016 12:45 PM
Posted to Indiana Government