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Washington, DC - Wisconsin State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen participated in a panel discussion today on the appropriate role of State Attorneys General. Today's discussion took place at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Van Hollen was joined on the panel by current State Attorneys General Bob McDonnell (Virginia) and John Suthers (Colorado), as well as former Nebraska Attorney General Donald Stenberg.
Van Hollen's remarks stressed the need for State Attorneys General to focus their efforts on law enforcement and public safety duties, as well as applying legislatively enacted policies by faithfully carrying out their statutory duties as the state's lawyer. Van Hollen said state Attorneys General should resist the temptation to improperly use the Office of Attorney General to create new policy through litigation or the threat of litigation or participate in national or multi-state litigation where the state's interest is remote or non-existent.
"In recent years, there has been a trend in Wisconsin (as elsewhere) for Attorneys General to use their litigation powers (or, more often, the mere threat of litigation) as a means of achieving policy goals unrelated to the duties of the Attorney General's office," Van Hollen said. "There is a great tendency in government to at times do something,' often ignoring whether the problem can (or should) be solved by government and, as importantly, which branch or offices of government should do the solving.'"
Instead, Attorneys General should be faithful to their powers and cognizant of their role in the constitutional system. "I believe that the Office of Attorney General, as the chief legal office of the state, has a special obligation to ensure that the rule of law is respected and advanced," Van Hollen said.
The panel discussion was sponsored by the Federalist Society Attorney General Project.