ATTORNEY GENERAL

ORIGIN & FUNCTIONS


[color photograph of 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, Maryland] In Maryland, the office of Attorney General was established by the Constitution of 1776 (sec. 48). The office was abolished by Constitutional amendment in 1817, (Chapter 247, Acts of 1816, ratified 1817). The General Assembly in 1818 recreated the office by statute (Chapter 146, Acts of 1817). By 1851, the Attorney General's duties were fulfilled by a state's attorney in each county and in Baltimore City (Const. 1851, Art. V, sec. 3). The office of Attorney General was reestablished by the Constitution of 1864 (Art. V, sec. 1).

200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, Maryland, January 2001. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


The Attorney General heads the Office of the Attorney General (formerly known as the State Law Department) which was established in 1916 (Chapter 560, Acts of 1916). The Attorney General serves as legal counsel to the Governor, the General Assembly, the Judiciary, and to all State agencies, except the State Ethics Commission, which appoints its own counsel; and the Commission on Human Relations and the Public Service Commission, whose counsel are appointed by the Governor. The Attorney General may render an opinion on any legal subject or matter upon the request of the Governor, the General Assembly (or either house thereof), or a State agency.

In all matters in which interests of the State of Maryland are involved, the Attorney General and assistant attorneys general represent the State. This includes litigation in the Court of Appeals, the Court of Special Appeals, the Circuit Courts, the District Court of Maryland, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Circuit Courts, and the United States District Courts. Administrative rules and regulations promulgated by a State officer or agency must be submitted to the Attorney General for review before they may become effective.

Clerks of court, registers of wills, sheriffs, and state's attorneys of the counties and Baltimore City also are represented by the Attorney General's Office. Yet, the Office does not represent boards or officials of the counties or Baltimore City that employ their own counsel, such as boards of education, or boards of elections (except in Baltimore City).

The Attorney General co-chairs the Family Violence Council. The Attorney General also is a member of the Board of State Canvassers; the Cabinet Council on Criminal and Juvenile Justice; the Commission on Correctional Standards; the Police Training Commission; the Correctional Training Commission; the Criminal Justice Information Advisory Board; the State Board of Victim Services; the State Prosecutor Selection and Disabilities Commission; and the Maryland State Employees Surety Bond Committee. In addition, the Attorney General serves on the Maryland Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission; the Commission on Juvenile Justice Jurisdiction; the State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy; the Safe Schools Interagency Steering Committee; and the Task Force on Gasoline Zone-Pricing in Maryland.

The Attorney General is elected by the voters to a four-year term (Const., Art. V, sec. 1). The number of consecutive terms which an Attorney General may serve is not limited. The Attorney General must be a citizen of the State and a qualified voter who has resided and practiced law in Maryland for at least ten years prior to election. Though not specified by law, the Attorney General by custom takes office on December 20 following the election.


DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Deputy Attorney General oversees administration, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and five divisions: Antitrust; Civil Litigation; Consumer Protection; Criminal Appeals; and Criminal Investigations. The Deputy Attorney General also is responsible for assistant attorneys general assigned to certain State government agencies.

ANTITRUST DIVISION

The Antitrust Division was created in 1972 (Chapter 357, Acts of 1972). The Division enforces the Maryland Antitrust Act which governs restraints of trade, unfair competition, monopolies, and other acts or practices that restrain or tend to restrain trade and commerce within the State. The Act calls for both civil and criminal enforcement of its provisions and permits the Attorney General to cooperate with officials of the federal government and the several states in enforcing antitrust laws (Code Commercial Law Article, secs. 11-201 through 11-213).

CIVIL LITIGATION DIVISION

Formed in 1986 from the Criminal Appeals Division, the Civil Litigation Division represents Maryland State government and State employees in major federal and State civil lawsuits. By advising or acting as co-counsel, Division attorneys help agency counsel involved in or contemplating litigation. The Division reviews civil complaints for potential suits to be filed by the State, and all federal and State civil appellate briefs. The Division also approves the payment of all settlements and judgments.

CORRECTIONAL LITIGATION UNIT
Within the Civil Litigation Division, the Correctional Litigation Unit is responsible for the representation of state's attorneys in any lawsuit challenging their official actions, and of sheriffs where the matter involves correctional matters. The Unit also represents State officials and employees who are sued in State or federal courts by prisoners for violations of their constitutional rights in Maryland prisons.

DIVISION OF CONSUMER PROTECTION

Organized in 1967, the Division of Consumer Protection oversees the control and regulation of unfair and deceptive trade practices (Chapter 338, Acts of 1967). Through court litigation, administrative hearings, complaint mediation, and arbitration, it enforces civil remedies. The Division also recommends legislation to the Governor and the General Assembly to protect the public from fraudulent schemes and promotions.

Information about violations of laws affecting consumers is reported by the Division to other law enforcement authorities. Publishing educational materials for the public, the Division encourages business and industry to maintain high standards of honesty, fair business practices, and public responsibility in the production, promotion, and sale of consumer goods and services (Code Commercial Law Article, secs. 13-101 through 13-501).

The Division oversees six units: Arbitration; Education; Health Club Registration; Health Education and Advocacy; Investigative; and Mediation.

HEALTH CLUB REGISTRATION UNIT
The Health Club Registration Unit started under the Division of Consumer Protection in 1986. The Unit registers Maryland health clubs and ensures that they are properly bonded (Code Commercial Law Article, secs. 14-12B-01 through 14-12B-08).

HEALTH EDUCATION & ADVOCACY UNIT
Within the Division of Consumer Protection, the Health Education and Advocacy Unit began in 1986 (Chapters 296 and 565, Acts of 1986). The Unit implements an educational and advocacy program enabling citizens to make informed choices in the health marketplace and participate in decisions concerning their health care.

The Unit helps people understand their health-care bills and third-party coverage, identify improper billing or coverage determinations, and report such problems to appropriate agencies, insurers, or providers. The Unit may refer concerns raised about health care to professional, licensing or disciplinary bodies. To government officers and agencies, the Unit also may recommend measures for promoting the interests of consumers in the health marketplace.

INVESTIGATIVE UNIT
The Investigative Unit investigates all actions of unfair or deceptive trade practices.

MEDIATION UNIT
The Mediation Unit was created from the merger of the Arbitration Unit and the Complaint Handling Unit in 1997. The Unit resolves disputes between consumers and businesses (Code Commercial Law Article, sec. 13-404). Both parties must agree to submit the dispute to arbitration. Neither party is charged for this service.

The Unit also receives and conciliates consumer complaints (Code Commercial Law Article, secs. 13-401, 13-402). Three telephone "hotlines" give consumers prepurchase advice, business complaint histories, and instructions on how to file a complaint.

CRIMINAL APPEALS DIVISION

The Criminal Appeals Division commenced in 1965 as the Criminal Division. By 1978, it reorganized as the Criminal Appeals and Correctional Litigation Division. It became the Criminal Appeals Division in 1986.

The Division represents State government in suits involving the criminal justice system. Advocating the State's position in written briefs and at oral argument, the Division handles all appeals in criminal cases in the Court of Special Appeals, the Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. The Division also advises state's attorneys and other law enforcement personnel on legal matters.

In federal court, the Division represents the State on collateral review of State criminal convictions. Collateral review occurs when a convicted person seeks to overturn a conviction not through the direct review process of appeal, but by petitioning for a writ of habeas corpus.

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS DIVISION

Formed in 1982, the Criminal Investigations Division is authorized by the Governor to investigate and prosecute a broad range of criminal acts (Const., Art. V, sec. 3). The Division focuses on crimes by State employees, fraud against the State, multicounty frauds, public corruption, and criminal violations of State tax laws. The Division assists state's attorneys when they need additional resources or special expertise in a complex criminal investigation.

MEDICAID FRAUD CONTROL UNIT

The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit organized in 1978. The Unit investigates and, where appropriate, prosecutes allegations of fraud by physicians, dentists, nursing homes, hospitals, pharmacies, and other health care providers receiving funds from the Maryland Medical Assistance Program (Medicaid). The Unit also investigates and prosecutes the abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults residing in Medicaid-funded facilities. Seventy-five percent of the operating funds of the Unit come from federal sources.


DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Deputy Attorney General oversees the Legislative Office, and three divisions: Contract Litigation; Educational Affairs; and Securities. The Deputy Attorney General also oversees assistant attorneys general assigned to certain State government agencies.

CONTRACT LITIGATION DIVISION

The Contract Litigation Division formed in 1983. The Division represents State agencies, particularly the Department of General Services, the Department of Transportation, and the University System of Maryland in litigation over disputes relating to State contracts and the award of State contracts under the State General Procurement Law. The Division advises agencies on procurement issues, such as the structuring of procurement solicitations, drafting of contract provisions and procurement regulations, the proper formulation of State claims, and State response to contractor claims.

EDUCATIONAL AFFAIRS DIVISION

In 1979, the Educational Affairs Division began as the Educational Affairs Section. It reorganized as a division in 1984. The Division represents all State educational agencies, institutions, boards, and commissions, including the State Department of Education, the University System of Maryland, the Maryland Higher Education Commission, Morgan State University, St. Mary's College of Maryland, Baltimore City Community College, and the Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission. As counsel to these schools and agencies, Division attorneys conduct court litigation and administrative proceedings, and provide advice and preventive law counseling.

LEGISLATIVE OFFICE

90 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401

Created in 1976, the Legislative Office provides prompt and authoritative legal advice to legislators, General Assembly support units, and the Governor's legislative office. The Legislative Office reviews for constitutionality and legal sufficiency all bills passed by the General Assembly and defends them in court when necessary. The Office also participates in significant constitutional and civil rights litigation.

DIVISION OF SECURITIES

The Division of Securities was established in 1962 (Chapter 1, Acts of 1962). The principal executive officer of the Division is the Securities Commissioner, who is appointed by the Attorney General.

The Securities Commissioner and the Division administer and enforce three Maryland laws: the Maryland Securities Act (Code Corporations and Associations Article, secs. 11-101 through 11-805); the Franchise Registration and Disclosure Law (Code 1957, Art. 56, secs. 345-365D); and the Business Opportunities Sales Act (Code 1957, Art. 56, secs. 401-415). Administration of these acts involves a substantive scheme of regulation imposed by statute and by rule requiring the registration of investment opportunities prior to their offer and sale to the public. In addition, under the Securities Act, a licensing requirement (subject to annual renewals) is imposed on persons engaged in the sale of securities. The Division enforces these laws through a comprehensive statutory framework imposing administrative, civil and criminal standards. The Division uses investigatory powers, administrative hearings and administrative orders, litigation in State and federal courts, and cooperative efforts with state's attorneys and assistant attorneys general in criminal matters.

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 Maryland Manual On-Line, 2001

April 1, 2001   
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