Twenty-seven of 50 states currently have Democratic attorneys general, and under the Trump administration, they’re making noise. They’ve filed lawsuits against the president for his immigration policies and plans to put a citizenship question on the U.S. Census, and they’re also going after private companies for everything from the opioid crisis to data breaches.
WilmerHale partner Jamie Gorelick, former U.S. deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton, sat down with Law Week on Thursday to talk about what stands out to her about the level of activity the U.S. is seeing from state attorneys general. She was in Denver last week for an event for women in general counsel.
LAW WEEK: I want to contextualize the activity we’ve seen from state AGs lately over different regulatory matters, whether it’s the opioid crisis or any number of things against the Trump administration you could possibly name. In your experience, does this seem to be an unusually high amount of activity?
JAMIE GORELICK: This is an extraordinary moment you have identified; one of the most extraordinary things that’s happened in the last couple of years. The Democratic state AGs have announced themselves as the “not Trump.” And their view is that the Trump administration does not properly enforce the law, and that they have significant authorities to do that, and that they are going to do it.
If you look at how many Democratic state AGs there are, there are now 27 out of the 50 states, which is a higher number of Democratic state AGs than there are governors. Which means that they are a potent force in and of themselves, and they have discovered their collective strength.
Now you have here in Colorado — you have Phil Weiser, whom I’ve known for forever. His deputy, Natalie Hanlon-Leh, came from WilmerHale. And when you have people of that caliber, you are going to get some very fine lawyering. Now, am I going to agree with him on everything they’re doing? No. But do I love the fact that people who are that smart and that dedicated and that principled are seeking those jobs, giving up law firm partnerships to take those jobs? I love it.
For private clients, it creates a whole new set of challenges, because you’re dealing both with the federal government and state governments with overlapping authorities. And navigating through that is a challenge.
As a macro observation, your observation is exactly correct, that they have become a force to be reckoned with. And as a Colorado-based observation, you have a very dynamic state AG’s office.
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