James Tierney (attorney)

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James E. Tierney
51st Maine Attorney General
In office
January 6, 1981 – January 6, 1991
Preceded by Richard S. Cohen
Succeeded by Michael E. Carpenter
Personal details
Born (1947-04-12) April 12, 1947 (age 71)
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Maine, Orono (B.A., 1969)
University of Maine School of Law (J.D., 1975) [1]
Profession Professor, Attorney

James E. Tierney (born April 12, 1947) is an American attorney, lecturer in law,[1] and founding director of State AG, an educational resource on the office of state attorney general.[2] He served as Attorney General of Maine from 1980 until 1990.

At 25, Tierney was elected to the Maine House of Representatives as a Democrat from Lisbon, Maine.[3] After eight years in the Maine Legislature, where he was elected Majority Leader at the age of 29,[4] Tierney became the Maine Attorney General. He served in that capacity for ten years during which time he was active on a wide variety of state and national issues. After leaving office in 1990, he began a career as a consultant to attorneys general. In December 1992 he was named as special attorney general to investigate misconduct allegations on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.[5] Tierney has been characterized by state attorneys general and the media as "America's 51st Attorney General." [6]

From 2000 to 2016, Tierney was the Director of the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School.[7] In 2006, Columbia students recognized him as the Public Interest Law Professor of the Year.[8] Since 2016, he has been a lecturer in law at Harvard Law School where he teaches on the role of state attorneys general while directing the Harvard Attorney General clinic.[1] He has written extensively on a wide range of topics, such as the often volatile relationship between state AGs and their governors.[3]

Tierney is quoted widely on the operations of the office of state attorney general. He is a frequent speaker at meetings of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). Tierney has been a regular commentator on Court TV (TruTV) since its founding in 1991. In that capacity, he has commented on a wide range of trials from the celebrated cases of the early 1990s to the recent military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay.

Tierney may be best known as one of the key strategists in the state cases against the tobacco industry in reclaiming Medicaid payments paid out for tobacco-related disease.[9]

Tierney also has advised officials in Eastern Europe's emerging democracies, has supervised national elections in Bulgaria, Cameroon, Croatia and Albania, and was special counsel in the investigation of alleged corruption within the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Tierney, a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law, married author and fellow Maine native Elizabeth Strout in 2011.[10]


  1. ^ a b c "Harvard Law School Faculty Directory: James Tierney", Harvard Law School
  2. ^ "StateAG.org: About the Team
  3. ^ a b Anderson, Jenny (2002). "The Maine Man". Institutional Investor. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  4. ^ "Past Leaders of the Maine House of Representatives". Maine House of Representatives. 2007. Archived from the original on December 13, 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-21. 
  5. ^ Brennan, Lisa (2 February 1993). "The Maine man; special investigator of Supreme Court seeks cooperation". The Legal Intelligence. 209: 2. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Schwartz, John (1998-11-17). "Fighting Smoke With Fire in the Legal Fight Against Tobacco". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-03-28. 
  7. ^ "Columbia Law School Faculty Directory: James Tierney"
  8. ^ "Jim Tierney Awarded The Public Interest Professor of the Year Award". Columbia Law School. 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-21. 
  9. ^ Helm, Hunt (1997-06-11). "Strategist of Smoking Assault Calls Shots from Maine Farm". Louisville Courier-Journal. Retrieved 2018-03-28. ,
  10. ^ "Pulitzer-Winning Fiction Writer, Former AG Plan UMaine Visits". University of Maine. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
Legal offices
Preceded by
Richard S. Cohen
Maine Attorney General
Succeeded by
Michael E. Carpenter