Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Attorney General

The Texas Attorney General (AG) is the chief lawyer for the state government and is elected to a four-year term. Unlike the office's counterpart at the national level, the Attorney General's legal role is primarily civil rather than criminal. Any time a suit is filed against or by the state, the AG's office handles the related legal activities.

Though candidates for Attorney General usually emphasize crime issues to bonify their law and order credentials when they campaign for office, most law enforcement and criminal matters are handled at the city and county level. The Attorney General's role is limited to providing support and advice to these officials and promoting public awareness on crime and safety issues. The Attorney General may also assist in a particular criminal case at the request of local prosecutors if the case involves a state interest.

The Attorney General can have a significant impact on public policy when he or she issues opinions on the legality or constitutionality of proposed or enacted laws or on the actions or policies of government agencies. Any state or local government office can request a legal opinion from the Attorney General, and the resulting opinion has the effect of law unless it is altered or overturned by the legislature or a court. Opinions thus have an impact on existing law and can become a powerful public platform for the Attorney General to further his or her political ambition. Many opinions, though, are largely technical and mundane.

The Attorney General can become involved in a wide range of high-profile public policy issues, which often puts the office in the public eye. Among the issues various office holders have promoted in recent years are environmental issues, health protection, civil rights, and consumer issues such as product safety, deceptive advertising, election fraud and commercial fraud protection. In most of these cases, action on particular issues reflected the priorities of specific officeholders.

Because the office also defends the state against suits, attorneys general are not able to choose all of their battles and can find themselves defending policies they would not otherwise choose to defend. Recent attorneys general have been involved in defending state law and policies on public school financing, Texas's method of selecting judges, the constitutionality of the state prison system, and state redistricting plans.

Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) was elected to the office in 2002, succeeding fellow Republican John Cornyn, who successfully ran for the U.S. Senate in the same election after being elected AG in 1998. Abbot was reelected in 2006 with 59.5 percent of the vote.

No comments:

Post a Comment