What are the duties of the Attorney General?
The Attorney General is a constitutional officer whose duties and powers are prescribed in Title 36, Chapter 15,
of the Code of Alabama (1975). As the state's attorney, he provides legal representation for the state of Alabama,
its officers, departments, and agencies. The Attorney General defends the state in all lawsuits in which the
state is named as a defendant. He represents the state in all court proceedings wherein the constitutionality
of a state statute is challenged. In addition to defending the state, the Attorney General may initiate court
action, both civil and criminal, to protect the state's interests or to enforce state law. The Attorney General
represents the state in all criminal actions in the appellate courts of the State of Alabama and in habeas corpus
proceedings in the federal courts. He has the authority to superintend and direct the prosecution of any state
criminal case. The Attorney General issues legal advice through formal or informal written opinions to authorized
public officials and agencies.
History of the Attorney General's Office
The Office of the Attorney General of Alabama dates from 1807. In that year, the territorial legislature appointed
an Attorney General for the Mississippi Territory, which included present day Alabama.
In 1818, the territory was divided into three sections, Attorneys General were appointed for each section, and each received a
salary of $450 per year. The following year Alabama gained statehood, and the Office of the Attorney General was
included in the state’s Constitution. The Attorney General was to be elected by the Legislature to a four-year
term. In 1876, the state’s Constitution was amended to require the Attorney General be elected by the people of Alabama.
The Office was classified under the judicial branch until 1868 when the Attorney General was made an executive officer of the
state. Also, in that year, the term of office was reduced from four years to two years. However, in 1901 the term
was changed back to four years, and the term still remains at four years. Alabama's Attorney General was allowed no
clerical assistance until 1896 when the Attorney General was authorized to hire a
clerk. Eleven years later, the first Assistant Attorney General was provided for with a salary of $1,500 per
year. In 1911, another Assistant Attorney General was employed. In 1915, the Attorney General was given
discretionary permission to hire as he felt necessary. The Attorney General was also given the ability to set the
employees' salaries with the approval of the governor. In 1939, the Alabama Merit System Act was passed and employees
of the Attorney General's Office became subject to the rules of the State Personnel Board. Today, the Attorney General's
staff includes more than 170 employees with diversified skills and training in law, public administration, investigation,
consumer affairs, utility regulation, paralegal studies, and other disciplines.
Constitutional Basis & Qualifications for the Attorney General
Basis for the Attorney General
Article V, Section 112, established the position of the Attorney General. Article V, Section 116, states the Attorney
General shall be elected every four years. Amendment 282 permits him/her to succeed himself/herself for one additional
term in office. Article V, Section 137, says the Attorney General's duties shall be prescribed by law.
Article V, Section 132, states that the Attorney General shall have been a citizen of the United States for at least
seven years, an Alabama resident for at least five years immediately preceding his/her election, and at least 25
years old at the time elected.