Established by Section 91 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Attorney General is a statewide elected official. The Attorney General is elected for a term of four years, must be thirty years of age and must have been a resident of Kentucky for two years. Additionally, per Section 92 of the Constitution, the Attorney General must have been a practicing lawyer for eight years before his election.
What are the Attorney General's responsibilities?
Section 91 of the Constitution states that the duties of the Attorney General "shall be such as may be prescribed by law". Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) Chapter 15 created the Department of Law, placed the Attorney General as its head, and created the various divisions within the Department.
KRS 15.020 lays out the statutory role of the Attorney General. It reads:
The Attorney General is the chief law officer of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and all of its departments, commissions, agencies, and political subdivisions, and the legal adviser of all state officers, departments, commissions, and agencies, and when requested in writing shall furnish to them his written opinion touching any of their official duties, and shall prepare proper drafts of all instruments of writing required for public use, and shall exercise all common law duties and authority pertaining to the office of the Attorney General under the common law, except when modified by statutory enactment. He shall communicate with the Legislative Research Commission as required by
KRS 418.075. Except as otherwise provided in
KRS 48.005 and
2000 Ky. Acts ch. 483, sec. 8, he shall appear for the Commonwealth in all cases in the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals wherein the Commonwealth is interested, and shall also commence all actions or enter his appearance in all cases, hearings, and proceedings in and before all other courts, tribunals, or commissions in or out of the state, and attend to all litigation and legal business in or out of the state required of him by law, or in which the Commonwealth has an interest, and any litigation or legal business that any state officer, department, commission, or agency may have in connection with, or growing out of, his or its official duties, except where it is made the duty of the Commonwealth's attorney or county attorney to represent the Commonwealth. When any attorney is employed for any said agency, the same shall have the approval of such agency before such employment. If any funds of any kind or nature whatsoever are recovered by or on behalf of the Commonwealth, in any action, including an ex rel. action where the Attorney General has entered an appearance or is a party according to statutory or common law authority, those funds shall be handled under
The Kentucky Supreme Court has firmly established that the Attorney General’s primary obligation is to the people and their Commonwealth – not any branch of government. In 2016, the Supreme Court recognized the Attorney General’s common-law obligation to protect public rights and interests by ensuring that our government acts legally and constitutionally, in
Beshear v. Bevin, 498 S.W.3d 355. The Court wrote that “It is certainly in ‘the interest of all the people’ that there be no unconstitutional or illegal governmental conduct.” The Court analyzed the supremacy of the Attorney General as the chief law officer of the Commonwealth, and found that he has broad authority to sue for declaratory and injunctive relief against state actors, including the Governor, whose actions he believes are illegal or unconstitutional.