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Attorney General of California

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California Attorney General
General information
Office Type:  Partisan
Office website:  Official Link
2012-2013 FY Budget:  $741,778,000
Term limits:  2 terms
Length of term:   4 years
Authority:  California Constitution, Article 5, Section 11
Selection Method:  Elected
Current Officeholder

Kamala Harris.jpg
Name:  Kamala D. Harris
Officeholder Party:  Democratic
Assumed office:  January 2011
Compensation:  $151,127
Next election:  November 4, 2014
Last election:  November 2, 2010
Other California Executive Offices
GovernorLieutenant GovernorSecretary of StateAttorney GeneralTreasurerAuditorControllerSuperintendent of Public InstructionAgriculture SecretaryInsurance CommissionerNatural Resources SecretaryIndustrial Relations DirectorPublic Utilities Commission
The Attorney General of California is the chief law officer of California and the state's primary legal counsel. The attorney general "[sees] that the laws of the State are uniformly and adequately enforced" and prosecutes violations of state law through the California Department of Justice, which he oversees.

The officeholder also represents state agencies and officers in legal matters and provides legal advice on request. Further, the attorney general plays a direct role in law enforcement efforts and "coordinates statewide narcotics enforcement efforts, participates in criminal investigations and provides forensic science services, identification and information services and telecommunication support."[1]

Additionally, attorneys general play a prominent policymaking role by "[establishing] and [operating] projects and programs to protect Californians from fraudulent, unfair, and illegal activities that victimize consumers or threaten public safety."[1]

Current officeholder

The current attorney general is Democrat Kamala D. Harris, who was first elected in November 2010 and assumed office on January 1, 2011. Harris will come up for re-election in November 2014 and is running for a second term.

Before becoming attorney general, Harris served two terms as district attorney for San Francisco. Prior to that, she was head of the San Francisco city attorney's Division on Families. Her first position in San Francisco law enforcement was as head of the San Francisco district attorney's Career Criminal Unit. Before coming to San Francisco, she was a deputy district attorney for neighboring Alameda County, where she specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault. Harris attended Hastings College of the Law at the University of California, and earned her bachelor's from Howard University in Washington, D.C.


The office of attorney general is established by the California Constitution.[2]

California Constitution, Article 5, Section 11

The Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Controller, Secretary of State, and Treasurer shall be elected at the same time and places and for the same term as the Governor.


State law requires that the attorney general be admitted to practice before the California Supreme Court for five years before election.[3]

California Government Code, Section 12503

No person shall be eligible to the office of Attorney General unless he shall have been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the state for a period of at least five years immediately preceding his election or appointment to such office.

Additionally, each candidate for attorney general must:[4]

  • Be a registered voter
  • Be registered with their party for at least three months
    • Not have been registered with a different political party in the last 12 months
  • Not have been previously term-limited out


California state government organizational chart

Attorneys general are elected on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in federal midterm election years, e.g. 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018.[5] Like all constitutional state officers, the attorney general assumes office on the first Monday in the new year following the election. Thus, January 3, 2011 and January 5, 2015 are inaugural days.[2]

California Constitution, Article 5, Section 11

The Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Controller, and Treasurer shall be elected at the same time and places and for the same term as the Governor. No Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Controller, Secretary of State, or Treasurer may serve in the same office for more than 2 terms.

Term limits

Attorneys general, like all state constitutional officers, face an absolute limit of two terms in office.[2]


The vacancy procedure for the office of attorney general is determined by the Constitution. When a vacancy occurs, the governor nominates a replacement to serve the remainder of the term under the next election. The appointee must be confirmed by a majority of both house of the California legislature. Until the replacement is approved, the former officeholder's chief deputy exercises the office.[6]

California Constitution, Article 5, Section 5b

Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer, or Attorney General, or on the State Board of Equalization, the Governor shall nominate a person to fill the vacancy who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority of the membership of the Senate and a majority of the membership of the Assembly and who shall hold office for the balance of the unexpired term. In the event the nominee is neither confirmed nor refused confirmation by both the Senate and the Assembly within 90 days of the submission of the nomination, the nominee shall take office as if he or she had been confirmed by a majority of the Senate and Assembly; provided, that if such 90-day period ends during a recess of the Legislature, the period shall be extended until the sixth day following the day on which the Legislature reconvenes.


The attorney general acts as the state's chief law officer and oversees the California Department of Justice. He or she supervises the state's district and city attorneys, as well as its law enforcement officers. The attorney general may personally prosecute any case that would normally be handled by a district or city attorney, and represents the state in all cases before the California Supreme Court. Additionally, the attorney general is responsible for issuing formal legal advice to state agencies and officers.

The attorney general also has a policymaking role in state law enforcement, and "establishes and operates projects and programs to protect Californians from fraudulent, unfair, and illegal activities that victimize consumers or threaten public safety." Examples include the Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse, Megan's Law (sex offenses), California's Most Wanted and Campaign Against Marijuana Planting programs.

He or she also fulfills a number of administrative duties, including preparing an annual report for the Governor of California on the state of his department, calling meetings of state law enforcement officers, and disposes of property forfeited to the state by court judgments.


Note: Ballotpedia's state executive officials project researches state official websites for information that describes the divisions (if any exist) of a state executive office. That information for the Attorney General of California has not yet been added. After extensive research we were unable to identify any relevant information on state official websites. If you have any additional information about this office for inclusion on this section and/or page, please email us.

State budget

The budget for the attorney general-led Department of Justice in the 2012-2013 Fiscal Year was $741,778,000.[7]



In 2013, the attorney general received a salary of $151,127. This figure comes from the Council of State Governments.[8]


In 2010, the attorney general received compensation in the amount of $151,127.[9] The attorney general's salary, like that of all other state elected officials, is determined by the California Citizens Compensation Commission on an annual basis. The last time the attorney general's compensation was changed was 2009, when the office's salary and benefits were cut by 18 percent.

Electoral history


See also: California Attorney General election, 2010
2010 Race for Attorney General - Democratic Primary[10]
Candidates Percentage
Green check mark.jpg Kamala Harris (D) 33.1%
Chris Kelly (D) 15.9%
Alberto Torrico (D) 14.9%
Ted Lieu (D) 10.5%
Rocky Delgadillo (D) 10.1%
Pedro Nava (D) 9.9%
Mike Schmier (D) 5.6%
Total votes 1,676,360
2010 Race for Secretary of State - Republican Primary[11]
Candidates Percentage
Green check mark.jpg Steve Cooley (R) 47.3%
John Eastman (R) 34.2%
Tom Harman (R) 18.5%
Total votes 1,555,709


2006 Race for Attorney General - Democratic Primary[12]
Candidates Percentage
Green check mark.jpg Jerry Brown (D) 63.3%
Rocky Delgadillo (D) 36.7%
Total votes 2,456,498
2006 Race for Attorney General - General Election[13]
Candidates Percentage
Green check mark.jpg Jerry Brown (D) 56.3%
Chuck Poochigian (R) 38.2%
Michael S. Wyman (Green) 2.3%
Kenneth A. Weissman (Libertarian) 2.1%
Jack Harrison (PF) 1.1%
Total votes 8,450,009

Historical officeholders

Recent news

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Contact Information

Physical address:
Attorney General's Office
California Department of Justice
Attention: Public Inquiry Unit
Post Office Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

Phone: 916-322-3360
Fax: 916-323-5341

See also

External links