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Volume 108, Issue 2


Politicization of State Attorneys General: How Partisanship is Changing the Role for the Worse

Marissa A. Smith

J.D. Cornell Law School; B.S. University of Texas at Austin.

26 Apr 2023

The position of State AG has long been said to stand for ‘Aspiring Governor’ rather than Attorney General. It is remarkable how the significance of that joke has changed as the role has become one of the most influential in the country.2 What began as insolent mockery is now a fearsome truth. State attorneys general (SAGs) have leaned into our nation’s divisive partisanship – often as an integral part of a quest for higher office – and used their traditional roles and powers to grandstand and showcase their party loyalty on a national stage. While this partisanship may garner national attention and party approval for SAGs, it comes at the expense of their states and constituents, particularly those constituents that fall outside their voter block.

In this Note, I will look at how increasing polarization in our country’s politics has impacted the SAG position for the worse. In Part I, I will provide a brief overview of the history of SAGs as well as discuss their broad powers, significant discretion, and the few checks on their authority. I will also show how SAGs’ powers have been used for good through bipartisan efforts in healthcare. In Part II, I will look more directly at the impact of politicization on the SAG role, specifically on SAGs’ duty to defend, involvement in multistate litigation, and participation in amicus curiae briefs before the Supreme Court. Finally, I provide a brief overview of the political impacts of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) and the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) on SAGs through partisanship, campaigning, and lobbying.

To read this Note, please click here: Politicization of State Attorneys General: How Partisanship is Changing the Role for the Worse