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What Are the Duties of a Deputy Attorney General?

by Andrine Redsteer , studioD

Each state has an attorney general who acts as the primary legal advisor to her state's legislature and various government agencies. State attorneys general offices are divided into various divisions -- each division handles legal matters within its area of expertise. Deputy attorneys general -- serving under the state attorney general -- are responsible for litigation. They conduct legal research, file complaints, write briefs and present cases in court. Deputy attorneys general must be law school graduates and members of their state's bar association. This means they must complete four years of undergraduate study, three years of law school and pass their state's bar exam.

Consumer Complaints

One of the primary functions of any state attorney general office is to act as consumer watchdog. Attorneys general often receive consumer complaints by state residents concerning unfair business practices or deceptive advertising. Deputy attorneys general who work in the consumer affairs division investigate consumer complaints. If a complaint appears valid, these attorneys may file a lawsuit against an offending business. Monetary damages may be awarded and distributed to consumers who have suffered financial loss.

Criminal Trials

Although district attorneys are generally charged with prosecuting criminal defendants on behalf of the state, deputy attorneys general often step in during the appeals phase of capital criminal cases. In other words, deputy attorneys general handle criminal appeals involving the death penalty. Deputy attorneys general may assist district attorneys' offices during the trial phase of a death penalty case if assistance is necessary. If a criminal defendant in a capital case is granted an appeal, a deputy attorney general from the state's criminal division argues against the defendant on behalf of the state.

Natural Resources

Deputy attorneys general provide legal advice and representation to state environmental agencies. These agencies are in charge of enforcing standards concerning air pollution, water pollution, protection of endangered species and pesticide use, among many other things. Occasionally, these agencies are sued by corporations, citizens and tribes. When this occurs, deputy attorneys general are responsible for defending state environmental agencies in state and federal court. Deputy attorneys general in the natural resources division are responsible for all trial preparation, as well as presenting arguments in court.

Patient and Elder Abuse

Many state attorneys general offices have patient and elder abuse divisions. The deputy attorney general in these divisions investigates claims of abuse -- often involving physical neglect -- and files lawsuits against the alleged abusers. These cases may involve allegations of systematic abuse on the part of residences for the mentally ill, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The attorney general's office in Utah, for example, investigates and prosecutes cases of patient exploitation or neglect in health care facilities that receive Medicaid funding.

About the Author

Andrine Redsteer's writing on tribal gaming has been published in "The Guardian" and she continues to write about reservation economic development. Redsteer holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Washington, a Master of Arts in Native American studies from Montana State University and a Juris Doctor from Seattle University School of Law.

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