State Attorneys General

For the past twenty years, state attorneys general have played an increasingly prominent role in enforcing laws and regulations affecting the business community.  While often appropriate, state AG enforcement can also lead to inconsistent, duplicative and politically motivated enforcement of key laws and regulations. In addition, many state AGs hire outside plaintiffs’ lawyers for these cases, raising questions about conflicts of interest and political favoritism. Read More...

Modern state AG litigation began with the lawsuits filed against tobacco companies in the 1990s. These generated billions in state revenue, favorable publicity for state AGs and huge profits for certain plaintiffs’ firms hired by state AGs to conduct the litigation. 

The success of the tobacco litigation has led many AGs to target additional business sectors, particularly in the pharmaceutical and financial services areas. While some cases may be legally appropriate, other state AG actions appear more about enhancing a state AG’s political standing. In addition, businesses face the danger of inconsistent and duplicative enforcement by each of the fifty state AGs as well as numerous federal regulators. This is particularly true in the financial services context, where the Dodd-Frank law grants state AGs the power to enforce regulations issued by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Also problematic is the use of outside contingency fee counsel by many state AGs. This involves state AGs awarding secret, no-bid contingency fee contracts to outside plaintiffs’ lawyers to represent their states in litigation.  As plaintiffs’ lawyers are awarded large contingency fees from successful lawsuits, money may be funneled back into campaign contributions to the AGs.  These alliances raise significant concerns about conflict of interest, favoritism, the use of a public entity for personal gain, and fairness in prosecutions. 

Twenty-one states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin—have passed "sunshine" legislation to create an open process of hiring outside contingency fee counsel. These measures vary, but more recent laws require state attorneys general to disclose their contingency fee contracts, ensure that they maintain control of the litigation and impose reasonable limitations on fee awards to private attorneys. Other attorneys general have adopted office policies that implement many of these reforms. Companies are also fighting back against AGs hiring outside counsel in court. 

 

 

Suggested Resources

Research

All Results for State Attorneys General

  1. In the News Today - Mach 14, 2019

    March 14, 2019 | News

    Virginia doesn't want one of Bloomberg's environmental prosecutors sent to its AG's office... Read More

  2. Mitigating Municipality Litigation: Scope and Solutions

    March 06, 2019 | Research

    Municipalities are testing the boundaries of their litigation authority, claiming damages for wide-ranging matters of public policy including opioid abuse, climate change, and data privacy breaches. This paper is the first to document how and why municipalities and contingency fee lawyers are undermining legislators and state AGs with these lawsuits, the problems this trend is causing, and what states can do about it. ... Read More

  3. Waking the Litigation Monster: The Misuse of Public Nuisance

    March 06, 2019 | Research

    Local governments are increasingly teaming up with contingency fee lawyers to influence public policy issues through litigation, largely through attempts to expand the public nuisance doctrine. ILR's research outlines the origins and development of public nuisance litigation, shows the ongoing efforts of activists and attorneys to morph this theory into an all-purpose cause of action, and calls on courts to reject expanding judicial authority inappropriately into the legislative and executive branches. ... Read More

  4. "Leave Opioid Lawsuits to State Attorneys General"

    March 04, 2019 | News

    In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and former Connecticut Deputy Attorney General Perry Zinn Rowthorn called on local and municipal governments to drop their lawsuits, and instead work with attorneys general to achieve a final resolution in opioid litigation across the country.... Read More

  5. A Look At How State AGs are Becoming "1st Round Draft Picks" of American Politics

    November 06, 2018 | News

    On Election Day, a senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College looks at how state attorneys general "should be the group everyone is watching" in politics.... Read More

  6. Is a New York Law School Implanting Activists in Attorneys General Offices?

    October 10, 2018 | News

    A RealClearInvestigations report shows that a New York University School of Law program may be sending agenda-driven lawyers to attorneys general offices around the country. ... Read More

  7. Law Firm Hosting Fundraiser For Kentucky AG Who Hired Them

    October 01, 2018 | News

    National plaintiffs' firm Morgan and Morgan will host a fundraiser for Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, Legal Newsline reports. The firm landed a contract from his office to represent the state in litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors. ... Read More

  8. "ILR at 20": ILR President Rickard Sits Down With Corporate Counsel

    June 26, 2018 | News

    This week, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) is celebrating its 20th anniversary. ILR President Lisa A. Rickard sat for a question-and-answer discussion with Corporate Counsel on the development of the legal landscape during the first 20 years of ILR.... Read More

  9. Missouri Furthers Legal Reform Progress with Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting

    June 07, 2018 | Blogs

    In an important victory for the integrity of Missouri's civil justice system, embattled former Gov. Eric Greitens signed one of the strongest Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting (TIPAC) bills in the nation on his last day in office.... Read More

  10. ILR's Quigley: Private Lawyer-Led Contingency Fee Lawsuits from Localities Create In-State "Tension"

    March 22, 2018 | News

    U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform executive Bryan Quigley said the rise of contingency fee lawsuits being filed by private lawyers on behalf of counties and cities will create "tension" between localities and state attorneys general.... Read More