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25 Law & Pol'y 425 (2003)
The Politics of Litigation by State Attorneys General: Introduction to Mini-Symposium

handle is hein.journals/lawpol25 and id is 433 raw text is: The Politics of Litigation by State Attorneys
General: Introduction to Mini-Symposium*
State attorneys general have been making headlines for their dramatic and
controversial lawsuits against corporate interests such as Microsoft, tobacco
and gun manufacturers, and drug companies. And in litigation before the
U.S. Supreme Court, state attorneys general are the second-most frequently
appearing party (after the federal government). They also have been central
players in what is arguably the most important constitutional debate before
the Court today, the conflict over federalism. Yet until the 1990s, scholars
paid scant attention to the activities and decision making of state attorneys
general. This Mini-Symposium builds on recent scholarship with two new
contributions that explore the politics of litigation by state attorneys general.
As the chief law enforcement officials for each state, attorneys general are
important legal actors. But, at the same time, they are political actors, since in
most states they are selected by popular election. They must please the voters
of their states in order to stay in office or, as is common for state attorneys
general, to ascend to governor or other higher state office. Although their
exact duties and responsibilities vary by state jurisdiction, most state attorneys
general assist in local criminal prosecutions, initiate civil suits, represent
their state in any court case, issue advisory opinions to state officers, draft
legislative proposals, and provide information about legal issues. They also
lobby Congress and federal regulatory agencies, write enforcement guide-
lines, issue policy statements, and participate in litigation whether as direct
parties or as amicus curiae (Clayton 1994; Zimmerman 1998). Interestingly,
in the last few decades, state attorneys general have expanded their work to
focus more on national policy issues and to broaden their scope from criminal
law enforcement to economic and civil rights issues (Ray & Spill 2002).
Along with their shift in issue focus, state attorneys general have increased
their participation in federal litigation. Before 1970 states typically appeared
in federal court as respondents to defend their laws or procedures, whereas
* Address correspondence to Lynn Mather, Director, Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy,
University at Buffalo Law School, 511 O'Brian Hall, Buffalo, NY 14260. Telephone: (716) 645-
5541/2102; e-mail: Lmather@buffalo.edu.
LAW & POLICY, Vol. 25, No. 4, October 2003                ISSN 0265-8240
© Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2003, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK,
and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

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