Georgia Government 101: What does the state Attorney General do?

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In November, Georgians will elect a state attorney general. If you don’t know what the attorney general does, you certainly aren’t alone. Here is everything you need to know about this vital position in state government.

What is the role of the Attorney General?: The attorney general is the top legal advisor in the state. The attorney general serves the chief legal advisor to the governor, prepares all legal contracts the state enters into, prosecutes cases in which the state is the plaintiff and defends the state in cases where Georgia is the defendant. The position represents Georgia in all civil cases and in Supreme Court cases that involve Georgia.

The attorney general also has the authority to conduct investigations into the affairs of all state agencies and boards or any person who has dealings with the state.

Origin: The attorney general’s position has been a staple of the state of Georgia since it was a British colony. The first attorney general was William Clifton in 1754. The first attorney general after the Revolutionary War was Matthew McAllister. Recent attorney generals include such big names in Georgia politics as Sam Olens, Thurbert Baker and Mike Bowers.

How is the Attorney General chosen?: This is an elected office. Voters select the attorney general at the same time as they vote for Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

How long is the term of office?: The attorney general serves a 4 year term.

Qualifications: The attorney general must have been a citizen of the United States for at least 10 years and a Georgia resident for at least four years prior to election. Candidates must also be at least 25 years old and must have served as an active member of the State Bar of Georgia for at least seven years. While you can serve as governor with no political experience, you can’t be attorney general if you have no legal experience.

Who is the current Attorney General?: Republican Chris Carr is the current Attorney General.

How Influential is the Attorney General: Obviously, the Governor’s top legal advisor is going to have some sway in the governor’s decisions, but aside from that, the attorney general has broad and almost unlimited powers to investigate state agencies. An attorney general can decide to fight corruption or ignore it.

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