The state attorney general in each of the 50 U.S states and territories is the chief legal advisor to the state government and the state's chief law enforcement officer. In some states, the attorney general serves as the head of a state department of justice, with responsibilities similar to those of the United States Department of Justice. Attorneys general are elected statewide in 43 states; 5 are appointed by their state's governor; one by the legislature (Maine), and one by Supreme Court (Tennessee).
The duties and responsibilities of these individuals will vary from state to state. However, there are some common themes:
- It is generally the duty of the Attorney General to see that the laws of the state are uniformly and adequately enforced
- The Attorney General represents the people of the state in civil and criminal matters before trial, appellate and the supreme courts of their states and the United States.
- The Attorney General also serves as legal counsel to state officers and, with few exceptions, to state agencies, boards and commissions.
- The Attorney General also assists district attorneys, local law enforcement, and federal and international criminal justice agencies in the administration of justice. To support their state’s law enforcement community, the Attorney General generally coordinates statewide narcotics enforcement efforts, participates in criminal investigations and provides forensic science services, identification and information services and telecommunication support.
- In addition, it is common for the Attorney General to establish and operate projects and programs to protect state residents from fraudulent, unfair, and illegal activities that victimize consumers or threaten public safety, and enforces laws that safeguard the environment and natural resources.