North Carolina Attorney General
|Attorney General of North Carolina|
Seal of the Attorney General
|Member of||Council of State|
|Term length||Four years|
|Inaugural holder||Waightstill Avery|
The Attorney General of North Carolina is the elected head of the state's Department of Justice. The North Carolina Constitution provides for the election of the Attorney General to serve a four-year term. There is no limit on the number of terms a person may serve in the office.
Attorney General's duties include providing legal representation and advice to all state agencies.
The parameters of that duty have been the subject of some debate, when, for example, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder suggested that state Attorneys General should not squander their state's resources in defense of laws they know to be unconstitutional. By statute, in defense of the public interest, the Attorney General may initiate legal action or intervene in proceedings before any courts, regulatory officers, agencies or bodies — either state or federal — on behalf of the state's agencies and citizens. The Attorney General also renders legal opinions, either formally or informally, upon all questions of law submitted by the General Assembly, the Governor, or any other state officer. Attorney General opinions may be viewed online.
The title "Attorney General" was used in colonial North Carolina as early as 1677, when George Durant was appointed by Governor John Jenkins. In theory, colonial Attorneys General represented the British Attorney General, who represented the Crown.
The first North Carolina Constitution (1776) established the office of state Attorney General. Like the state Governor, the Attorney General was at that time elected by the legislature, the North Carolina General Assembly. The first Attorney General for the independent state of North Carolina was Waightstill Avery, who served from 1777 to 1779. Two of Avery's successors, James Iredell and Alfred Moore, both served on the United States Supreme Court. Since 1868, the Attorney General has been elected by the people. At the same time, the Attorney General became a voting member of the Council of State, rather than the legal advisor to the council.
The North Carolina Department of Justice was created by the legislature in the early 1970s.
Occupants of the office often run for Governor of North Carolina or U.S. Senator, some of them successfully, such as former Governor Mike Easley, former Senator Robert B. Morgan, and the current Governor, Roy Cooper.
List of Attorneys General
- Waightstill Avery, 1777–1779
- James Iredell, 1779–1782
- Alfred Moore, 1782–1791
- John Haywood, 1792–1795
- Blake Baker, 1795–1803
- Henry Seawell, 1803–1808
- Oliver Fitts, 1808–1810
- William Miller, 1810
- Hutchins Gordon Burton, 1810–1816
- William P. Drew, 1816–1824
- James F. Taylor, 1825–1828
- Robert H. Jones, 1828
- Romulus Mitchell Saunders, 1828–1834
- John Reeves Jones Daniel, 1835–1841
- Hugh McQueen, 1841–1842
- Spier Whitaker, 1842–1846
- Edward Stanly, 1846–1848
- Bartholomew F. Moore, 1848–1851
- William Eaton, Jr., 1851–1852
- Matt Whitaker Ransom, 1853–1855
- Joseph B. Batchelor, 1855–1856
- William H. Bailey, 1857
- William A. Jenkins, 1857–1862
- Sion Hart Rogers, 1863–1868
- William M. Coleman, 1868–1869
- Lewis P. Olds, 1869–1870
- William M. Shipp, 1870–1873
- Tazewell L. Hargrove, 1873–1877
- Thomas S. Kenan, 1877–1885
- Theodore F. Davidson, 1885–1893
- Frank I. Osborne, 1893–1897 (Democratic)
- Zeb V. Walser, 1897–1900 (Republican)
- Robert Dick Douglas, 1900–1901 (Republican)
- Robert D. Gilmer, 1901–1909 (Democratic)
- Thomas Walter Bickett, 1909–1917 (Democratic)
- James S. Manning, 1917–1925 (Democratic)
- Dennis G. Brummitt, 1925–1935 (Democratic)
- Aaron A. F. Seawell, 1935–1938 (Democratic)
- Harry McMullan, 1938–1955 (Democratic)
- William B. Rodman, Jr., 1955–1956 (Democratic)
- George B. Patton, 1956–1958 (Democratic)
- Malcolm B. Seawell, 1958–1960 (Democratic)
- T. Wade Bruton, 1960–1969 (Democratic)
- Robert Burren Morgan, 1969–1974 (Democratic)
- James H. Carson, Jr., 1974–1975 (Republican)
- Rufus L. Edmisten, 1975–1985 (Democratic)
- Lacy Thornburg, 1985–1993 (Democratic)
- Mike Easley, 1993–2001 (Democratic)
- Roy Cooper, 2001–2017 (Democratic)
- Josh Stein, 2017–present (Democratic)
- "Article III: Executive"
- Doran, Will (1 January 2017). "Josh Stein sworn in as North Carolina attorney general". The News & Observer. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
- "Chapter 114: Department of Justice"
- Nunn, Sharon (2014-06-05). "U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder: State attorneys should question laws". The Daily Tar Heel. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
- "Legal Opinions", North Carolina Department of Justice
- North Carolina Attorney General official website
- North Carolina Attorney General articles at Legal Newsline Legal Journal
- North Carolina Attorney General articles at ABA Journal
- News and Commentary at FindLaw
- North Carolina General Statutes at Law.Justia.com
- U.S. Supreme Court Opinions - "Cases with title containing: State of North Carolina" at FindLaw
- North Carolina Bar Association
- North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper profile at National Association of Attorneys General
- Press releases at North Carolina Attorney General