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Attorney General of Tennessee

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Tennessee Attorney General
General information
Office Type:  Partisan
Office website:  Official Link
2011-2012 FY Budget:  $30,758,400
Term limits:  None
Length of term:   8 years
Authority:  Tennessee Constitution, Article VI, Section 5
Selection Method:  Appointed by Tennessee Supreme Court
Current Officeholder

Robert Cooper.jpg
Name:  Robert E. Cooper, Jr.
Officeholder Party:  Democratic
Assumed office:  November 1, 2006
Compensation:  $167,976
Other Tennessee Executive Offices
GovernorLieutenant GovernorSecretary of StateAttorney GeneralComptrollerTreasurerSuperintendent of EducationAgriculture CommissionerInsurance CommissionerNatural Resources CommissionerLabor CommissionerPublic Service Commission
The Attorney General of Tennessee an appointed position in the Tennessee state government. The attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer and lawyer for the state.

Tennessee is unique in that the attorney general is appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court, rather than by the governor.

Current officeholder

The current officeholder is Robert E. Cooper, Jr..


The office attorney general is established in Article VI, Section 5 of the state constitution.

Article VI, Section 5:

An attorney general and reporter for the state, shall be appointed by the judges of the Supreme Court and shall hold his office for a term of eight years. An attorney for the state for any circuit or district, for which a judge having criminal jurisdiction shall be provided by law, shall be elected by the qualified voters of such circuit or district, and shall hold his office for a term of eight years, and shall have been a resident of the state five years, and of the circuit or district one year. In all cases where the attorney for any district fails or refuses to attend and prosecute according to law, the court shall have power to appoint an attorney pro tempore.


Title 8, Chapter 6, Part 1 of the Tennessee state code stipulates that the attorney general is appointed by the justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court to serve an eight-year-term.[1]

Legislature seeks changes

In 2013 state Sen. Mark Green (R) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 196, a measure with the aim of giving legislators the power to appoint the attorney general. On April 17, 2013 it passed the Senate by a 22-9 vote and went to the House. In order to change the appointing authority the state Constitution has to be amended. SJR 196 is the first step in the process that would, if successful, ultimately place a referendum before voters in 2018.[2]


The attorney general is the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer in the state. The office's specific duties are outlined in Title 8, Chapter 6, Section 109 of the Tennessee state code:[3]

  1. The trial and direction of all civil litigated matters and administrative proceedings in which the state of Tennessee or any officer, department, agency, board, commission or instrumentality of the state may be interested;
  2. To attend to all business of the state, both civil and criminal in the court of appeals, the court of criminal appeals and the supreme court;
  3. To attend to all legal business connected with the management of the state treasury, or debts due and owing to the state, or debts and liabilities claimed against the treasury of the state, or suits brought against the comptroller of the treasury before any court where such litigation may be pending;
  4. To attend to any other legal duty which the comptroller of the treasury and the state treasurer may require the attorney general and reporter or such assistants to perform, connected with the state treasury;
  5. To give the governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, comptroller of the treasury, members of the general assembly and other state officials, when called upon, any legal advice required in the discharge of their official duties;
  6. To give the governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, comptroller of the treasury, members of the general assembly and other state officials, when called upon, written legal opinions on all matters submitted by them in the discharge of their official duties. Written opinions issued pursuant hereto shall be made available for public inspection. It is the legislative intent that when a request for a written legal opinion is from a member of the general assembly and concerns pending legislation, such request shall be replied to as expeditiously as possible;
  7. To report the decisions of the court of appeals, the court of criminal appeals and the supreme court of Tennessee in the manner prescribed by law;
  8. To examine and certify all bills of cost in the appellate courts of the state in which the state of Tennessee is interested before they are ordered to be paid by the state;
  9. To defend the constitutionality and validity of all legislation of statewide applicability, except as provided in subdivision (b)(10), enacted by the general assembly, except in those instances where the attorney general and reporter is of the opinion that such legislation is not constitutional, in which event the attorney general and reporter shall so certify to the speaker of each house of the general assembly;
  10. To exercise discretion to defend the constitutionality and validity of all private acts and general laws of local application enacted by the general assembly and of administrative rules or regulations of this state. However, a sufficient adversary relationship must exist before the discretion not to defend the constitutionality of all legislation of local application may be exercised. If such discretion not to defend is exercised, such decision shall be certified to the speaker of each house of the general assembly, in the same manner as provided in subdivision (b)(9);
  11. To notify the director of the fiscal review committee of any lawsuit filed in state or federal court, in which the state is a named party and the attorney general and reporter or assistants are representing the state, which contains as part of the pleadings an allegation which would raise an issue:
    • (A) Of insufficient funding of a law as enacted or amended, including any regulation authorized by such act; or
    • (B) That the implementation by a department, agency, or governmental entity of a law as enacted or amended, including any regulation authorized by such act, was accomplished in a manner which resulted in insufficient funding; which lawsuit, if adjudicated in the plaintiff's favor, would result in a mandated increase in state expenditures;
  12. To confer with the speaker of each house of the general assembly upon notification by the director of the fiscal review committee under § 3-7-109;
  13. To defend local education agencies and/or their present or past superintendents, board members, teachers, or nonprofessional staff members, hereinafter referred to as employees, upon the formal request in writing of any such employee in any case involving a claim of injury or damage alleged to have been proximately caused by acts or omissions of such employees within their scope of employment with the local education agency in detecting, managing or removing asbestos from any building or structure owned or controlled by the local education agency when the local education agency has complied with the United States environmental protection agency regulations relative to asbestos in schools. In the event that the attorney general and reporter determines that the best interest of the state or employee requires private counsel, the employee shall be notified, and shall have the right to file for reimbursement of defense cost in accordance with chapter 42 of this title in the same manner as state employees;
  14. To bring suit upon behalf of the state, local government units or local education agencies to recover public funds from entities financed by the funds and their directors or officers when the funds through the improper actions of the directors or officers have been used for unauthorized purposes, misapplied or misappropriated; and
  15. To attend to any other duty which may devolve upon, or be imposed upon, the attorney general and reporter by law.


There are 17 divisions within the department:[4]

  • Administrative Division: handles administrative, fiscal, and purchasing matters for the office.
  • Bankruptcy Division: includes all agencies of state government with claims against debtors in bankruptcy.
  • Civil Litigation and State Services Division: represents the state's various educational agencies and institutions, the departments of General Services, Personnel, the Civil Service Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the State Building Commission. It is also responsible for reviewing state contracts and representing the state in employment and construction litigation.
  • Civil Rights and Claims Division: defends tort and workers' compensation actions filed against all departments and agencies of state government. The division also defends state employees of various departments sued in civil rights actions for money damages.
  • Consumer Advocate and Protection Division: may intervene to represent the public interest in matters pending before the Tennessee Regulatory Authority. It also represents the Division of Consumer Affairs in investigations and litigation and the Charitable Solicitations Division of the Secretary of State's Office. It handles unauthorized practice of law.
  • Criminal Justice Division: handles all appeals from state criminal convictions and habeas corpus actions filed on behalf of inmates and interstate rendition.
  • Environmental Division: enforces environmental protection laws regarding clean air, clean water, hazardous waste and other areas.
  • Financial Division: handles issues of government financing and represents the departments of Financial Institutions, Finance and Administration and Commerce and Insurance.
  • General Civil Division: represents the departments of Human Services, Mental Health and Mental Retardation, Labor, Agriculture and Employment Security. It also represents the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, the Fire Marshal's Office and the Department of Military.
  • Health Care Division: represents the Department of Health, TennCare and Health Related Boards.
  • Law Enforcement and Special Prosecutions Division: is responsible for the prosecution of civil and criminal enforcement cases in the areas of securities fraud, environmental law, official corruption and related white collar fraud. The division represents the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Comptroller's Office, Commerce and Insurance, District Attorneys General Conference, Financial Institutions, Environment and Conservation, Safety and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
  • Medicaid Fraud and Integrity Division: works with TennCare, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of Inspector General in combating medical provider fraud in the TennCare/Medicaid program.
  • Public Interest Division: carries out the office's statutory duty to oversee the operation of nonprofit entities on behalf of Tennesseans. The division also handles charitable oversight and charitable solicitations as well as issues involving open meetings, public records, and campaigns and elections.
  • Real Property and Transportation Division: represents the Department of Transportation generally, and represents the state of Tennessee in land acquisition for all purposes.
  • Special Litigation Division: handles special litigation or assists other divisions in litigation matters. The Collections unit enforces the collection of penalties assessed by other state departments and agencies.
  • Tax Division: represents the Department of Revenue, the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System and the regulatory boards of the Department of Commerce and Insurance.
  • Tobacco Enforcement Division: enforces the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement and handles tobacco related matters such as the escrow statute.

State budget

The budget for the Attorney General's office in Fiscal Year 2011-2012 was $30,758,400.[5]


See also: Compensation of state executive officers

In 2012, the Attorney General of Tennessee was paid an estimated $167,976 according to the Council of State Governments.

Title 8, Chapter 6, Part 1 of the Tennessee state code sets the salary of the attorney general equal to an associate justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Contact information

Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 20207
Nashville, TN 37202-0207

Phone: 615-741-3491

See also

External links

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