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|Attorney General of Virginia|
Seal of the Attorney General of Virginia
|Type||Elected constitutional position|
|Term length||Four years|
|First holder||Edmund Randolph|
The Attorney General of Virginia is an elected constitutional position that holds an executive office in the government of Virginia. Attorneys General are elected for a four-year term in the year following a presidential election (2005, 2009, 2013, etc.). There are no term limits restricting the number of terms someone can serve as Attorney General.
The position of Attorney General is established by Article V, Section 15 of the Constitution of Virginia, and they are elected for the same time and term as the governor. To stand for Attorney General, a person must be at least thirty years old, be a citizen of the United States, and have the same qualifications required of a Virginia Circuit Court judge.
The Attorney General heads the Office of the Attorney General, also known as the Department of Law. The Attorney General and their Office have several duties and powers granted by state law. These include:
- Providing legal advice and representation in court for the Governor and the state government in general
- Providing legal advice, official opinions, to members of the Virginia General Assembly and local government officials
- Defending the state in cases of criminal appeals and suits against the state
- Defending the constitutionality of state laws
- Collecting money owed to various state institutions
In order to fulfill these responsibilities, the Attorney General oversees one of the largest law firms in Virginia. The full-time staff includes a chief deputy attorney general, five deputy attorneys general and about 150 assistant attorneys general, 40 additional full-time lawyers appointed as special counsel to particular agencies, and 140 legal assistants, legal secretaries and other professional support staff. The Office of the Attorney General is structured very much like a private law firm, with sections devoted to legal specialties.
The Attorney General is second in the line of gubernatorial succession. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Governor of Virginia, the Governor is replaced by the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. However, if there is also a vacancy in the office of Lieutenant Governor, then the Attorney General becomes Governor.
Stepping stone to higher office
Because it is one of only three statewide elected offices in the state government, the post of Attorney General is seen as a stepping-stone to higher office, especially Governor of Virginia. Along with the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, the Attorney General is seen as one of two candidates in contention to replace the sitting Governor, who is constitutionally barred from running for re-election. Following the 2001 election of Governor Mark Warner, it was widely believed that the 2005 election would be between then-Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine and then-Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, which is precisely what occurred, with Kaine winning and becoming Virginia's 70th Governor. A similar scenario occurred in 1981, when then-Lieutenant Governor Chuck Robb defeated then-Attorney General Marshall Coleman and again in 1997 when then-Attorney General Jim Gilmore defeated then-Lieutenant Governor Don Beyer.
When separate parties capture the Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor's offices, these officeholders are seen as the clear frontrunners for their parties' nominations in the next gubernatorial election. When the same party captures both offices, intraparty rivalries and rifts can develop around which person should be the next gubernatorial nominee. For example, in 2001, there was a bitter intraparty battle in the Republican party between Attorney General Mark Earley, who was strongly backed by social conservatives, and Lieutenant Governor John H. Hager, who was backed by other factions of the party. Earley prevailed, but Hager and many of his supporters gave only perfunctory endorsements of Earley or openly supported the successful Democratic nominee Mark Warner. A comparable intramural battle occurred in 2013, when social conservatives and Tea Party Virginians backed Ken Cuccinelli, with more moderate conservatives backing Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. The Virginia Republican Party, led by backers of Cuccinelli, changed the nomination procedure from a statewide primary to a nomination by convention. Cuccinelli won the nomination in 2013. When one party captures neither office, it is left without a frontrunner for the next gubernatorial election. However, this allowed two of the most popular recent governors, Warner and George Allen, to win their parties' nominations and the subsequent elections without having held statewide office.
It is a Virginia tradition that Attorneys General who are running for Governor resign from office before the conclusion of the four-year term for which they are elected. This has provided political fodder for their opponents, with Mark Earley criticized early in 2001 for not resigning (though he would resign in June of that year), with critics saying he could not campaign and serve effectively as Attorney General simultaneously, while Jerry Kilgore was criticized for resigning when he did so in February 2005, with critics saying he was abandoning his responsibilities to campaign. Similarly, in February 2009, then Attorney General Bob McDonnell resigned to focus primarily on his campaign for governor. Some Attorneys General have not resigned, including Marshall Coleman in 1981 and Ken Cuccinelli in 2013. When an Attorney General resigns, it is the responsibility of the Virginia General Assembly to elect a replacement to finish the term of office. Often the Chief Deputy Attorney General is chosen, as in the case of Judith Jagdmann.
List of Attorneys General
Attorneys General of colonial Virginia
Records of this period are sparse. The attorney general was appointed by the King, a combination of the governor and council, or the governor or acting governor. There was no term of office, and the office may have been vacant for extended periods.
|Richard Lee||October 12, 1643 - ?||Appointed by Governor William Berkeley and Council|
|(Office not in use?)||1652–1660||Office apparently vacant during the Interregnum|
|Peter Jenings||Before June 25, 1670 - c. October 12, 1670||Reappointed by Charles II of England on September 15, 1670|
|George Jordan||October 12, 1670 - at least October 3, 1672||Appointed by Governor William Berkeley and Council|
|Robert Beverley||March 10, 1676 (appointed)||Appointed by Governor William Berkeley and Council|
|George Jordan||Acting on May 20, 1677|
|William Sherwood||Early March 1677 - at least until November 25, 1678|
|Edmund Jenings||1680 - before November 16, 1686|
|George Brent||Before November 16, 1686 - before May 1, 1688||Acting|
|Edmund Jenings||c. May 1, 1688 - June 10, 1691|
|Edward Chilton||October 20, 1691 (sworn) - April 1694||Appointed by Governor Francis Nicholson. Resigned.|
|William Randolph||April 1694 (sworn) - October 29, 1698||Appointed by Governor Francis Nicholson. Resigned.|
|Bartholomew Fowler||October 29, 1698 - September 4, 1700||Appointed by Governor Francis Nicholson. Resigned.|
|Benjamin Harrison III||October 17, 1700 - c. 1702||Appointed by Governor Francis Nicholson and Council.|
|Stevens Thomson||March 2, 1704 (sworn) - February 1714||Privy Council approved appointment July 30, 1703. Died in office.|
|John Clayton||1714 - November 18, 1737||Appointed by Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood, given leave to England|
|John Randolph||April 22, 1726 - late 1727 or early 1728||Appointed acting by Lieutenant Governor William Gooch in Clayton's absence|
|John Clayton||late 1727 or early 1728 - November 18, 1737||Reappointed by royal warrant after February 29, 1728. Died in office|
|Edward Barradall||Acting between November 17 and 25, 1737 - June 19, 1743||Appointed acting by Lieutenant Governor William Gooch, followed by warrant March 7, 1738, died in office|
|Thomas Nelson||Between June 19 and 27, 1743 - summer 1744||Appointed acting by Lieutenant Governor William Gooch|
|Peyton Randolph||May 7, 1744 (warrant) - sometime before January 29, 1754||Office declared forfeit on June 20, 1754|
|Peyton Randolph||May 13, 1755 (warrant) - sometime soon after November 22, 1766||Resigned|
|George Wythe||c. January 29, 1754 - between January 20 and February 10, 1755||Appointed acing by Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie|
|George Wythe||c. after November 22, 1766 - between June 4 and 11, 1767||Appointed acing by Lieutenant Governor Francis Fauquier|
|John Randolph||Between June 4 and 11, 1767 to early September 1775 (fled)||Fled Virginia in September 1775|
Attorneys General, 1776–1857
From 1776 to 1851, the attorney general was elected by the General Assembly, or, in case of vacancy, appointed by the governor for an undefined term. The Virginia Constitution of 1851 introduced popular election and four-year terms. After the 1851 constitution, vacancies would be filled by the General Assembly, if they were in session, or by the governor.
|Edmund Randolph||early July 1776 - November 30, 1786||Elected by convention|
|James Innes||November 30, 1786 - November 13, 1796||Resigned|
|John Marshall||mid-October 1794 until late March 1795||Acting|
|Robert Brooke||mid-November 1796–February 27, 1800||Democratic-Republican||Died in office|
|Philip Norborne Nicholas||March 15, 1800 – January 7, 1819||Democratic-Republican||Appointed by Governor James Monroe, elected by General Assembly, resigned|
|John Robertson||January 21, 1819 – mid-October 1834||Democratic||Resigned|
|Sidney Smith Baxter||December 11, 1834 – January 1, 1852||Democratic|
|Willis Perry Bocock||January 1, 1852 – May 15, 1857||Democratic||Resigned|
Attorneys General during the Civil War and Reconstruction
Tucker served as the attorney general of Confederate Virginia throughout the Civil War. Wheat and Bowden served as the attorney generals for Restored Government of Virginia. From 1865 to 1870, the commanding general of the military district of Virginia appointed the office.
|John Randolph Tucker||June 13, 1857 – May 9, 1865||Democratic||Confederate Attorney General throughout war. Left office when government abandoned Richmond.|
|James S. Wheat||June 21, 1861 – December 7, 1863||Republican||Elected at the Wheeling Convention and then in a May 1862 election for the Restored Government of Virginia in Wheeling.|
|Thomas Russell Bowden||December 7, 1863 – August 1, 1869||Unionist/Republican||Attorney general for the Restored Government of Virginia in Wheeling, then Alexandria, after West Virginia separated, and in post-war Reconstruction Virginia.|
|Charles Whittlesey||September 10, 1869 – January 19, 1870||Republican||Appointed and removed by Brigadier General Edward Richard Sprigg Canby|
|James Craig Taylor||January 19, 1870 - January 1, 1874||Conservative Party of Virginia||Appointed by Brigadier General Canby after winning election (moving forward swearing-in date)|
Attorneys General, 1874–present
|Raleigh Travers Daniel||January 1, 1874 – August 16, 1877||Conservative Party of Virginia||Died in office|
|James Gavin Field||August 29, 1877 – January 1, 1882||Conservative Party of Virginia||Appointed and then elected|
|Francis Simpson Blair||January 1, 1882 – January 1, 1886||Readjuster Party|
|Rufus A. Ayers||January 1, 1886 – January 1, 1890||Democratic|
|R. Taylor Scott||January 1, 1890 – August 5, 1897||Democratic||Died in office|
|Richard Carter Scott||August 11, 1897 – January 1, 1898||Democratic||appointed by Governor Charles T. O'Ferrall|
|Andrew Jackson Montague||January 1, 1898 – January 1, 1902||Democratic||Became governor January 1, 1902|
|William Alexander Anderson||January 1, 1902 – February 1, 1910||Democratic|
|Samuel Walker Williams||February 1, 1910 – February 2, 1914||Democratic|
|John Garland Pollard||February 2, 1914 – January 5, 1918||Democratic||Resigned.|
|Josiah Dickenson Hank, Jr.||January 5, 1918 - February 1, 1918||Democratic||Appointed by Governor Henry C. Stuart|
|John R. Saunders||February 1, 1918 – March 17, 1934||Democratic||Died in office|
|Abram Penn Staples||March 22, 1934 – October 6, 1947||Democratic||Resigned to become judge of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals|
|Harvey Black Apperson||October 7, 1947 – February 2, 1948||Democratic||Appointed by Governor; Died in office|
|James Lindsay Almond||February 11, 1948 – September 16, 1957||Democratic||Resigned to run for Governor|
|Kenneth Cartwright Patty||September 1957 – January 1958||Democratic||Appointed by Governor|
|Albertis Sydney Harrison||January 1958 – April 1961||Democratic||Resigned to run for Governor|
|Frederick Thomas Gray||May 1961 – January 1962||Democratic||Appointed by Governor|
|Robert Young Button||January 1962 – January 1970||Democratic|||
|Andrew Pickens Miller||January 1970 – January 1977||Democratic||Resigned to run for Governor|
|Anthony Francis Troy||January 1977 – January 1978||Democratic|
|J. Marshall Coleman||January 14, 1978 – January 16, 1982||Republican|
|Gerald Baliles||January 16, 1982 – June 30, 1985||Democratic||Resigned to run for Governor|
|William Broaddus||July 1, 1985 – January 11, 1986||Democratic|
|Mary Sue Terry||January 11, 1986 – January 28, 1993||Democratic||Resigned to run for Governor|
|Stephen D. Rosenthal||January 29, 1993 – January 15, 1994||Democratic|
|Jim Gilmore||January 15, 1994 – June 11, 1997||Republican||Resigned to run for Governor|
|Richard Cullen||June 11, 1997 – January 17, 1998||Republican|
|Mark Earley||January 17, 1998 – June 4, 2001||Republican||Resigned to run for Governor|
|Randolph A. Beales||July 11, 2001 – January 12, 2002||Republican|
|Jerry Kilgore||January 12, 2002 – February 1, 2005||Republican||Resigned to run for Governor|
|Judith Jagdmann||February 1, 2005 – January 14, 2006||Republican|
|Bob McDonnell||January 14, 2006 – February 20, 2009||Republican||Resigned to run for Governor|
|Bill Mims||February 20, 2009 – January 16, 2010||Republican|
|Ken Cuccinelli||January 16, 2010 – January 11, 2014||Republican|
|Mark Herring||January 11, 2014 – present||Democratic|
- "Constitutional and Statutory Provisions For Number of Consecutive Terms of Elected State Officials", National Governors Association. Retrieved on 2008-05-21.
- "Constitution of Virginia". Virginia's Legislative Information System. Archived from the original on 6 November 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
- Robinson, Kelvin (14 July 2009). "Virginia AG Resigns to Focus on Gubernatorial Campaign". NBC4 Washington. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
- Walker, Julian (2 December 2011). "Cuccinelli to staff: I am running for Va. governor". Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
- "Attorneys General of Virginia". www.encyclopediavirginia.org. Retrieved 2019-08-30.
- Evans, Emory g. "Robert Beverley (bap. 1635–1687)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
- Tate, Thad W. "Edward Chilton (1658–1707)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
- Tarter, Brent. "John Clayton (ca. 1666–1737)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
- Tarter, Brent. "Raleigh Travers Daniel (1805–1877)". Encyclopedia Virginia/Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
- Tarter, Brent. "Francis Simpson Blair (1839–1899)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
- Bugg, J. L. "Robert Young Button (1899–1977)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- Virginia Attorney General official website
- Virginia Attorney General articles at Legal Newsline Legal Journal
- Virginia Attorney General articles at ABA Journal
- News and Commentary at FindLaw
- Code of Virginia at Law.Justia.com
- U.S. Supreme Court Opinions - "Cases with title containing: State of Virginia" at FindLaw
- The Virginia Bar Association
- Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring profile at National Association of Attorneys General
- Press releases at Virginia Attorney General