Attorney General of Oklahoma: Wikis

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Office of the Attorney General of Oklahoma
Oklahomastateseal.png
Great Seal of Oklahoma
Agency overview
Formed November 17, 1907
Preceding agency Office of the Territorial Attorney General
Headquarters 313 NE 21 Street
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Employees 197 unclassified
Annual budget $29 million
Agency executive Drew Edmondson, Attorney General
Website
www.oag.ok.gov

The Attorney General of Oklahoma is the State Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma. The Attorney General serves as the chief legal and law enforcement officer of the State of Oklahoma. The Attorney General is responsible for advising the various agencies and departments of the executive branch, legislative branch and judicial branch of the state government. The office is also responsible for the prosecution of offenses to Oklahoma State Statutes and advocate the basic rights of Oklahoman residents.

The 16th and current Attorney General of Oklahoma is Drew Edmondson. Edmondson is currently serving a record-breaking fourth consecutive term in office, having been elected in 1994, and subsequently reelected in 1998, 2002, and 2006.

Contents

Constitutional Requirements

As with all offices established by the Oklahoma Constitution in Article V, any person running for the office of Attorney General of Oklahoma must be citizen of the State of Oklahoma, at least thirty-one years of age and a resident of the United States for ten years.

Election

Elections for the Attorney General are held on a four year concurrent basis with the election of the Governor. After all votes are collected, the Legislature of Oklahoma shall convene in the hall of the House of Representatives and the Speaker of the House of Representatives announce the results of the elections in the presence of a majority of each branch of the Legislature. The persons having the highest number of votes for the office of the Attorney General shall be declared duly elected. However, in case two or more shall have an equal and the highest number of votes for the office of Attorney General, the Legislature shall, by joint ballot, choose one of the said persons having an equal and the highest number of votes for the office of Attorney General.

Term(s) of Office

Oklahoma

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
Oklahoma



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The Attorney General’s four year term begins on the first Monday in January following the general election. The Constitution of Oklahoma places no limit to the number of terms a candidate may serve in succession or in total. Drew Edmondson, the current Attorney General, is serving his fourth consecutive term, having won reelection in 2006.

Powers and Responsibilities

The Attorney General is the chief legal officer of Oklahoma. As such, the primary responsibility of the Attorney General is appearing before the Oklahoma Supreme Court or the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and prosecute or defend all actions and proceedings, civil or criminal, in which the state is a party. This duty extends to representing the state in any United States federal court as well. The Attorney General may also prosecute or defend the state or the people of the state when their interests are before any state commission, board or office. It is also the duty of the Attorney General to institute civil actions against members of any state board, commission, or office for failure to perform their legal duties as well as to prosecute members of any state board, commission, or office for violation of the criminal laws when such violations have occurred in connection with the performance of their official duties.

Another primary role of the Attorney General is to provide a legal opinion upon all questions of law submitted to the Attorney General. Such questions may be submitted by the Legislature (or either branch thereof) or by any state officer, board, commission or department. However, the Attorney General may only provide a legal opinion on matter related to the official duties of the officers that submitted the question and may not act a private attorney. However, members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Oklahoma Senate may ask the Attorney General for a legal opinion upon any subject. Private citizens may not ask for legal opinions of the Attorney General.

A chief concern of the Attorney General is monitoring the proper application of state funds appropriated by the Legislature and to prosecute breaches of trust in the administration of such funds. At the request of the Governor, Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector, Oklahoma State Treasurer, or either branch of the Legislature, the Attorney General may prosecute for any violation of any contract in which the state is interested. When requested to do so by any state officer, board or commission, the office must also prepare proper drafts for contracts, forms and other writing which may be wanted for the use of the state. If funds are illegally expended, upon the request of the Governor or the Legislature, it is the Attorney General who is responsible for instituting actions to recover such funds. This duty also extends to recovering state property and to preventing the illegal use of any state property. After collecting money owed to the state, the Attorney General must deposit all funds into the State Treasury immediately.

The Attorney General has to power to convene multi-county grand juries.

At any time, the Legislature, or either chamber thereof, may require the Attorney General to submit a report on any business relating to the duties of the Attorney General's office.

Relationship with the Governor

Though both the Governor of Oklahoma and Attorney General are elected at the same time, they are elected independently of each other. This makes determining the exact relationship between the offices difficult as it is primarily based on those individuals who hold the offices. With Governor Brad Henry and Attorney General Drew Edmondson in office, Oklahoma has a Governor and an Attorney General of the same party since 2003 since both Henry and Edmondson are of the Democratic Party.

The event of having a Governor and an Attorney General of different parties has become more frequent ever since Republicans had made gains in state wide elections. Democratic Attorney General Charles Nesbitt and Republican Governor Henry Bellmon in 1963 was the first instance of this occurrence. Since then this has happened only two more times: in 1987 with Republican Governor Henry Bellmon and Democratic Attorney General Robert Harlan Henry, in 1995 with Republican Governor Frank Keating and Democratic Attorney General Drew Edmondson.

When a Governor and Attorney General are of the same party, the relations becomes more colligate. However, when the Governor and Attorney General are of different parties, the relation can become some what adversarial. This was demonstrated when, in 2001, Governor Keating and Attorney General Edmondson were the plantiff and defendant in the Oklahoma Supreme Court case Keating v. Edmondson.

When different parties control the offices, it is difficult to determine which officer has more control over the other. Governor, as the chief executive of the State, determines the budget for the entire State Government (including the Attorney General's Office). Additionaly, any power or funcation of the Attorney General must be exercised at the direction of the Governor. Should the Attorney General refuse, the Governor has the power to employ Special Counsel to exercise the Attorney General's power for him. On the otherhand, legal opinions issued by the Attorney General are binding on the Governor until overturned by a court of law.

Relations with District Attorneys

Though the Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer of the State, the State's several District Attorneys (which are the primary local prosecutors of the State) are not under the control or serve at the direction of the Attorney General.

The State is divided into 27 judicial districts, each with one District Attorney. The main purpose of the District Attorney is the prosecution of all criminal actions that occur in their district as well as representing the State in all civil actions arising out of their district. Each District Attorney is an independently elected official in their district and, as such, answer directly to the electorate they serve and not the Attorney General. The Attorney General does not have the power to , stop, prevent or otherwise interfere with a District Attorney choosing to prosecute an individual or not. The primary relations between the Attorney General and the District Attorneys is that in cases appealed from the Trial Court level, the Attorney General represents the State at the Appeal Court level instead of the District Attorney.

While the Attorney General does not control local District Attorneys, he does have the power to require the aid and assistance of any District Attorney (in their respective District) on matters related to the Attorney General funcations or case brought to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma or the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals from their respective District. Likewise, any District Attorney may request the assitance of the Attorney General in any matter related to the District Attorney's funcations. Such request must be submitted to the Governor of Oklahoma, and, should he approve, the Governor will direct the Attorney General to assist the requesting District Attorney. There is no appeal of the Governor's decision on this matter.

Divisions

The office of the Attorney General is divided into several divisions:

  • Consumer Protection Unit - Provides mediation services to consumers to help resolve complaints against businesses. The Division can also provide information about complaints that have been filed against businesses, and provide publications to help you make good decisions in the marketplace. The Division also brings law enforcement actions against businesses that harm large numbers of Oklahoma consumers through unfair and deceptive practices.
  • Criminal Appeals Unit - As in civil matter, the Attorney General represents the state in the criminal appeals process to ensure that the decisions rendered by judges and juries are upheld in the appellate courts. The unit works to uphold the convictions of the guilty and ensures that the punishment imposed by judges and juries are carried out. Unit attorneys provide quality responses that aid the court in ruling on issues of law and in the development of new legal precedents.
  • Environmental Protection Unit - Division active in every area of environmental and natural resources law. Unit personnel protect the state's air, land, water and natural resources from pollution by investigating allegations of pollution and aggressively seeking remedies in both criminal and civil courts. The unit also provides legal advice and representation to state environmental agencies and chairs the Environmental Crimes Task Force, a collection of state, federal and local agencies united for the purpose of coordinating investigations and assuring efficient use of resources.
  • General Counsel Unit - A major function of the Attorney General is to assists public officials in the performance of their duties, seeking to provide the best legal advice possible for the good of the State and its citizens. Most Attorney General Opinions are written by members of the General Counsel Unit. These opinions are binding on state agencies unless overturned by a ruling from a court of competent jurisdiction. General Counsel Attorneys review Interlocal Agreements and examine and pass on any security issued by a county, municipality, township or other political subdivision. General Counsel Attorneys assist their clients in interpreting and following the Open Records Act and the Open Meeting Act and may assist in investigating and presenting a case against a particular professional licensee, or act as a hearing advisor to the licensure board during discipline proceedings. In addition to several specialized duties, the General Counsel Unit provides day-to-day legal advice for state agencies, boards and commissions. For many entities, the assistant attorney general is the sole provider of legal advice and services. For others, the assistant attorney general is a liaison available in addition to the agency's in-house counsel.
  • Litigation Unit - The civil trial division for the Office of the Attorney General and main function of the office. This section defends and prosecutes civil matters for the state and its agencies, officers and employees. Litigation on behalf of the state is supported in every county, the Oklahoma Supreme Court, every federal district court in the state, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the U. S. Supreme Court and in other states and foreign jurisdictions. The Office of the Attorney General defends state employees when sued for civil rights actions taken during their official duties. A majority of the more complicated and costly trials come from allegations surrounding the hiring, firing and promotion of state employees. The Litigation Section also has the responsibility to handle and direct the major class action litigation filed against institutions, including the challenges to the juvenile justice system. The unit represents state judicial officers, District Attorneys, Legislators, and the executive branch of state government when sued in both their official and individual capacities. The Litigation Section is also responsible for tracking the hiring of private attorneys by other state agencies and reporting the costs to state agencies for services provided by private attorneys.
  • Multicounty Grand Jury Unit - The Multicounty Grand Jury Unit investigates and prosecutes cases ranging from homicide to narcotics violations. The unit also administers all aspects of the Multicounty Grand Jury.
  • Workers' Compensation and Insurance Fraud Unit - Section charged with controlling fraud in worker’s compensation by: holding claimants accountable for providing truthful information; holding doctors accountable for accurately and completely documenting evidence supporting diagnoses; holding attorneys accountable as officers of the Court to expedite valid claims and prevent and report fraudulent clams or activities; holding insurance companies accountable for reporting suspected fraud, for paying claims without investigation, and for paying fraudulent claims; and holding the Workers' Compensation Court accountable for ensuring the legality and fairness of the disposition of claims. This mission shall be accomplished by identification and aggressive investigation and prosecution of violations of criminal statutes; by continuous interaction with the public, employers, insurance professionals and other law enforcement officers by providing education and training about workers' compensation fraud; and by analyzing the workers' compensation system in order to make recommendations for amendments and new legislation.
  • Public Utilities Unit - Unit represents and protects the interests of the state’s utility customers in rate-related proceedings. The unit also participates in utility-related task forces.
  • Victim Services Unit - Section that keeps family members informed of the status of capital cases.

Oath of Office

"I, ........., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma, and that I will not, knowingly, receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing, for the performance or nonperformance of any act or duty pertaining to my office, other than the compensation allowed by law; I further swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge my duties as Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma to the best of my ability."

Office-Holders

Name Party Term
Charles West Democrat 1907-1915
S.P. Freeling Democrat 1915-1923
George Short Democrat 1923-1927
Ed Dabney Democrat 1927-1931
J. Berry King Democrat 1931-1935
Mac Q. Williamson Democrat 1935-1943
Randell S. Cobb Democrat 1943-1946
Mac Q. Williamson Democrat 1946-1963
Charles Nesbitt Democrat 1963-1967
G. T. Blankenship Republican 1967-1971
Larry Derryberry Democrat 1971-1979
Jan Eric Cartwright Democrat 1979-1983
Mike Turpen Democrat 1983-1987
Robert Harlan Henry Democrat 1987-1991
Susan B. Loving Democrat 1991-1995
Drew Edmondson Democrat 1995-current

See also

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