In 2000, James E. Tierney developed a seminar course at Columbia Law School on the Role of the State Attorney General. Professor Tierney continues to teach variations of this seminar and is currently offering it at Harvard Law School with former Maine Solicitor General, Peter Brann.
The syllabus below is for Professor Tierney's Fall 2018 course at Harvard Law School, available online (below and to the right) and as PDF download (below).
Syllabus — Fall 2018
Role of the State Attorney General
Harvard Law School, Griswold Hall Room 110
Professor James E. Tierney
Lecturer-in-Law, Harvard Law School
Former Director of the National State Attorney General Program at Columbia Law School
Attorney General of Maine (1980 - 1990)
Professor Peter Brann
Lecturer in Law, Harvard Law School
Former Lecturer in Law, Columbia Law School
Solicitor General and Assistant Attorney General in Maine (1981 – 1999)
Note: Syllabus is subject to change depending on developing issues and the schedules of visiting speakers
This Syllabus contains federal and state statutes and case law, law review and descriptive articles from a variety of sources, and hypotheticals that describe the nature and function of the Office of State Attorney General. There is no text for the course and all materials have been collected from over thirty five years of studying and participating in the decision making of attorneys general and their staffs.
The roots of the Office of State Attorney General run deep in American jurisprudence. All thirteen American colonies had an attorney general and today all fifty states and the District of Columbia have opted for providing legal services through an office of state attorney general.
Each office possesses extraordinarily broad jurisdiction and to varying degrees is independent from the executive branch of state government. Attorneys general in forty three states are elected statewide on a partisan basis. The combination of sweeping jurisdiction and constitutional independence has given rise to a unique American legal institution of growing importance.
The course will cover the day to day challenges faced by attorneys general and their staffs in delivering the high quality legal advice that will guide state government in a constitutional and ethical manner. The course will also cover the relationship of attorneys general with the federal government, the private bar and a myriad of advocacy organizations. It will focus on some of the most controversial of legal issues - consumer protection, political corruption and criminal justice reform to name just three.
Although each state is unique, the course will demonstrate the remarkable congruence that exists among state attorneys general when addressing similar challenges and issues. Unlike private and other government lawyers, who work subject to ethical rules that defer decision making to agency “clients,” for the 13,000 men and women it is the representing the "public interest" that is the day-to-day reality of their professional lives.
The course is weighted toward those decisions by attorneys general that reflect their independent status that is most often revealed when legislatures, other elected officials, state agencies or the federal government exceed their constitutional or statutory authority.
The Syllabus also focuses on those parts of the Model Rules of Professional Responsibility and various articles and statutes that govern representation by attorneys general. It also contains numerous hypotheticals, almost all of which have been drafted by Professor Brann, that are drawn from actual cases but because of their nature have not been studied or, in most cases, ever been made public.
Professors Brann and Tierney will hold office hours each Monday during the semester and Professor Tierney will hold office hours on Monday afternoons and Tuesday mornings.
In anticipation of the first class, we urge students to watch this video:
In 2018, Professor Tierney is teaching at Harvard Law School.
In the Spring of 2019, he will teach a course on the role of attorneys general at Yale Law School.
Spring 2018 Syllabus Online
Week 1: The Authority and the Culture of the Role of the Attorney General
September 10, 2018
Week 2: The Structure of the Office of the Attorney General
September 17, 2018
Week 3: The Ethics of Client Representation
September 24, 2018
Week 4: AGs and U.S. Supreme Court Practice
October 1, 2018
Week 5: Consumer Protection
October 15, 2018
Week 6: Multistate Advocacy & Private Counsel
October 22, 2018
Week 7: Relationship with Federal Government
October 29, 2018
Week 8: Negotiation Exercise
November 5, 2018
Week 9: Attorneys General, Criminal Jurisdiction, Justice Reform and Corruption
November 12, 2018
Week 10: AGs and the Issuance of AG Opinions
November 19, 2018
Week 11: The Role of Attorneys General on Immigration and Diversity
November 26, 2018
Week 12: The Role of State Attorneys General in Non-Profit Governance
December 3, 2018