Mission: The National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School is a legal research, education, and policy center that examines the implications of the jurisprudence of state attorneys general. Working closely with attorneys general, academics, and other members of the legal community, the program is active in the development and dissemination of legal information used by state prosecutors in carrying out their civil and criminal responsibilities.
Each year, attorneys general, their staffs, federal officials, advocacy representatives and academics visit Columbia Law School to share their ideas and vision for high quality, state-based law enforcement and thereby contribute greatly to the Law School's commitment to serving the public interest.
Former Indiana Attorney General Jeff Modisett visits Columbia Law School, reflects on his time as AG
During a recent visit to Columbia Law School (March 31, 2015), Jeff Modisett former attorney general of Indiana (1996-2000), sat down with Program Director James Tierney to discuss the political tenor when he was Attorney General, and to share his perspective on the tobacco negotiations.
In discussing the tobacco case, Modisett said “It was a watershed moment for the AGs, in realizing that individually they can do a lot for their state, but working together they could actually do an awful lot for the country.”
Elected statewide in forty-three states, attorneys general are independent state constitutional officers vested with extraordinary prosecutorial discretion. The decisions of a single state attorney general often reverberate nationally and impact citizens across state lines.
As a consequence of their wide-ranging impact, state attorneys general have not been immune to the onslaught of special-interest lobbying. Media outlets, such as the New York Times, have called into question the independence of attorneys general in the face of concerted and sustained lobbying efforts by corporations and trial lawyers. Furthermore, in a post-Citizen United world, large campaign contributions from known and unknown donors have overwhelmed the election coffers of many state attorneys general, thus further eroding the perception of independence.
In light of these realities, what are the ethical duties and considerations for today's state attorneys general? Does the need of elected prosecutors to raise campaign funds affect their independence? Does the lobbbying of state attorneys general create undue influence? And are regulatory changes needed to ensure that state attorneys general continue to faithfully represent the communities they serve?
The discussion featured former Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler and former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey, '82. The discussion was moderated by National State Attorneys General Program Director James Tierney.
In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission 51 former state attorneys general including Program Director Tierney, strongly urged the FCC to establish reasonable rates for prisoner phone calls in an effort to help prisoners maintain connections with family members, a factor known to reduce recidivism.
Program Director James Tierney Lectures Newly Elected State Attorneys General on the Powers, Duties and Responsibilities of State Attorneys General
On December 1, 2014, at the invitation of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), Program Director Tierney met with the 15 newly elected state attorneys general, both Democrats and Republicans, and lectured on the duties and responsibilities of the office of state attorneys general. He also met privately with some of the new attorneys general, assisting them and their staffs with transition related issues.
Protecting Consumers Against Immigration Services Fraud – An Example of the Role State Attorneys General Play in Immigration
In the wake of President Obama’s executive action on immigration, state attorneys general are responding on multiple fronts. While thirteen state attorneys general filed suit against the Administration challenging the issuance of the President's order, a bipartisan coalition of eighteen attorneys general sent a letter to congressional leaders, urging them to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Other state attorneys general have used their consumer protection authority to issue consumer warnings and prepare for litigation to protect the immigrant community from a variety of consumer-related scams.
Below are representative samples of some of those consumer alerts:
In a radio interview just hours before leaving office as the 43rd Attorney General, Doug Gansler reflects on his eight years as Attorney General of Maryland. Gansler said the billion dollar multi-state mortgage settlement is among his biggest accomplishment and that he is proud of his advocacy on same sex marriage.
Listen to his radio interview on WBAL News Radio 1090 HERE
On October 30, 2014, 1011 TV of Lincoln, Nebraska ran an excellent special report that contains an insightful in depth interview with Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, in which he describes the functions of his office.
"This job didn't become any more partisan in my books, but it did in the minds of some people," said Van Hollen. "And whereas I could walk around in this town during my first term, and with very limited exceptions, people treated me with great respect because I was the Attorney General, I found myself being disparaged because I was the Republican Attorney General. That was unfortunate."
This monthly circulation that describes consumer protection activity announced by state attorneys general. This information was gathered solely from attorney general press releases. It makes no effort to prioritize or analyze the impact of any of these cases and initiatives.
The press releases are organized by state and multistate activity. In addition, certain Medicaid fraud cases that touch on consumer protection and advocacy initiatives have been included.
In a discussion with National State Attorney General Program’s Director James Tierney, General Suthers reflected on his career as a prosecutor , first as a District Attorney, then US Attorney and now in this tenth and final year as Attorney General. AG Suthers encouraged students to consider tenure in an Attorney General’s office. “Attorneys Generals office is a tremendous view of public law and presents all kinds opportunities…It’s just an amazing opportunity.”
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel returned to the National State Attorneys General Program on March 27, 2014. In a discussion with National State Attorney General Program Director James Tierney, General McDaniel highlighted issues facing both consumers and businesses, including the evolving mortgage fraud crisis and the Target data breach. He also discussed state and federal partnership, including his office’s partnership with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
When asked about the value of working in state government as opposed to working at the local and federal level, McDaniel said “I recommend public service at all levels.” McDaniel believes “As far as AGs are concerned, state government is where the rubber meets the road….and where so much good can be done.”
The Charities Regulation and Oversight Project ("Charities Project") is pleased to announce the publication, through Columbia University’s Academic Commons, of two dozen solicited papers addressing the future of state charities regulation. This collection of state-focused articles is the first of its kind in the literature, addressing regulation and enforcement in the charitable sector. The collection features articles from nationally recognized academics, regulators and practitioners who participated in the Charities Project’s unprecedented policy conference, which took place at Columbia Law School in 2013. These twenty-five articles are openly accessible and publicly searchable through Columbia University’s Academic Commons.
To access the complete list of conference topics and links to the papers, please clickHERE