With Schneiderman Out, Environmental Fight Loses a Prominent Voice

In the wake of scandal, the shock to staff members is keenly felt, but ‘after a day, the assistant A. G.s will get back to work,’ Mr. Tierney said. In fact, he said, cases might proceed more smoothly without Mr. Schneiderman, whose tendency to garner publicity for himself could be a distraction.

John Schwartz, "With Schneiderman Out, Environmental Fight Loses a Prominent Voice," New York Times, May 9, 2018.

With Eric Schneiderman out as NY attorney general, who will lead the Trump resistance?

‘All of the work they were doing yesterday they’re doing today,’ Tierney told NBC News, adding that the New York attorney general’s office has a talented staff. ‘This isn’t about any individual, this is about our Constitution and our laws. We’ve got a lot of professional prosecutors who are working while we’re talking.’

‘Nothing Changes’: NY AG Will Remain Check On Trump Without Schneiderman

‘Absolutely nothing changes,’ James Tierney, former director of the National State Attorney General Program and lecturer at Harvard University, told TPM.

’He’s got a great staff,’ Tierney continued. ‘Nothing is going to change. There’s no legal difference.’

Allegra Kirkland, "‘Nothing Changes’: NY AG Will Remain Check On Trump Without Schneiderman," Talking Points Memo, May 8, 2018.

Vice News Interview: Are opioids the new Big Tobacco?

A number of Attorneys General began investigating the marketing practices of the opioid industry using a tobacco model. Now the judge could do several things. He’s got to figure out a way to sort through these law suits and to settle them in a way that money goes to public health and doesn’t just waste it the way they did much of the tobacco dollars. We should use it to address the huge issue at the moment which is the inability of addicts, 2.2 million addicts, to get appropriate care.

Cassandra Giraldo, Here’s why Big Pharma won’t pay for opioid deaths like Big Tobacco pays for cancer, Vice News, Apr 23, 2018.

For the full interview, "Are opioids the new Big Tobacco?," see the April 16, 2018 episode of Vice News Tonight, available on HBO.

Activist state attorneys-general take on Trump and Facebook

Today all 50 states and the District of Columbia have an officer with the title of attorney-general. All but a handful are elected in partisan elections, and all reflect the core philosophy of their respective political parties. And most importantly, each one has the extraordinary power to go to court to challenge the decisions of the US president or anyone else that affect their home turf.
— James Tierney

James Tierney, "Activist state attorneys-general take on Trump and Facebook," Financial Times, March 27, 2018.

NOTE: Access to this article by direct URL requires a subscription to the FT. But if you Google the title, at the time of this writing, the link generated behind the scenes by Google will route around the firewall and take you to the article. We can't use that link here as it would violate the FT's terms of service.

From Opioids to Guns: Cities, Counties Step Up Civil Suits

‘Attorneys general are … in a much better strategic position [than cities and counties] to decide when to sue opioid manufacturers, and what claims to make, because they have the authority to issue civil investigative demands to companies,’ Tierney said.

…’What we have with the opioid crisis is a national issue that should be resolved nationally through the attorneys general, whether through use of contingency fee counsel or not,’ Tierney said.

Peter Hayes and Steven M. Sellers, "From Opioids to Guns: Cities, Counties Step Up Civil Suits," Bloomberg BNA, March 15, 2018.

How Supreme Court's Internet Tax Case Was Built 'From the Ground Up'

‘It happens all the time,’ said former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, now a Harvard Law School lecturer who advises state attorneys general. Tierney did not want to comment on the Wayfair case specifically, but said that in general, it is not uncommon for states to pass laws they know would be tested at the Supreme Court. State laws on abortion rights and immigration, for example, have been passed in defiance of court precedents, Tierney noted.

But Tierney said that in recent years, he has detected more of ‘a defiance, a roughness in the air’ in cases brought to the Supreme Court aimed at busting precedents. ‘People are getting more feisty, more interested in challenging all this,’ he said. ‘You have these large interest groups that say, ‘We don’t care, let’s push it.’’

Tony Mauro, "How Supreme Court's Internet Tax Case Was Built 'From the Ground Up,'" The National Law Journal, March 16, 2018.

Illinois Attorney General race a battle over independence

The attorney general acts as the state’s chief prosecutor in Rhode Island, Alaska and Delaware, according to Harvard lecturer and former Maine Attorney General James Tierney. He adds that attorneys general are in a unique position to prosecute cases as they have more resources and are independent officials….

Sarah Zimmerman, "Illinois Attorney General race a battle over independence," The News & Observer, March 10, 2018.

Trump officials look to Southern attorneys general to fill court vacancies

When the Trump administration wanted to fill out court vacancies in the South, it turned to the Republican attorneys general in many of those states, tapping their talent to build the army of conservative judges GOP activists were hoping for.…

James Tierney, who served as attorney general of Maine from 1980 to 1990, said it’s a natural place to look, since those offices stockpiled conservative talent during the Obama administration. And given how much GOP-led states battled the Obama administration, those lawyers were involved in the big fights of the day.

‘They come predisposed toward looking at national issues, and you see, AGs are involved in many national issues,’ Mr. Tierney said.

Alex Swoyer, "Trump officials look to Southern attorneys general to fill court vacancies," The Washington Times, February 22, 2018.

Illinois Attorney General Candidates Detail Plans For Police Oversight

‘You can’t be an attorney general … without paying serious attention to the quality of criminal justice in your state. It’s probably your prime responsibility,’ said former Maine attorney general James Tierney, a Harvard Law School lecturer.

Patrick Smith, "Illinois Attorney General Candidates Detail Plans For Police Oversight," BGA (Better Government Association), Feb 5, 2018.

After Defeat in New York, State AGs Are Next to Test Emoluments Challenge

‘I think the AGs are the only plaintiffs who have a shot at standing,’ said James Tierney, a former Democratic attorney general from Maine, and a lecturer at Harvard Law School.

That’s because, he explained, states have unique standing to challenge the federal government. Tierney said there is no wording in the emoluments clauses about how they should be enforced, and the state would be a “natural enforcer” of the clauses because of its interest in preserving its constitutional rights.

Cogan Schneier, “After Defeat in New York, State AGs Are Next to Test Emoluments Challenge,” The National Law Journal, January 24, 2018.

BuzzFeed: We Took On Big Tobacco. It's Time To Take On Big Opioid.

We need to start discussing the contours of an opioid settlement today, and to demand that public health principles be front and center. Without that discussion, and the priorities that emerge from it, we are destined to repeat past mistakes that must not be repeated.
— James Tierney

James E. Tierney, "It's Time To Take On Big Opioid Like We Did With Big Tobacco," BuzzFeed News, January 10, 2018.

Related Reading

For California attorney general, suing Trump again and again is a team sport

Former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, for one, says Becerra has demonstrated national leadership “even in cases where his name is not in the headlines.’ The skills that he developed in the House, building consensus and holding a caucus together, seem to have served Becerra in building ties with attorneys general in other states, said Tierney, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who teaches a class on the role of attorneys general. ‘He knew from his congressional experience that everybody counts.’

Ben Christopher, “For California attorney general, suing Trump again and again is a team sport,Los Angeles Daily News, November 30, 2017.

Legislator Targets Tech Perks in Baltimore County District

‘Anything that involves trips to fancy hotels should be looked at pretty closely by school boards,’ said James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine who is a lecturer at Harvard Law School, ‘and they should decide whether the ultimate users — kids — are getting the right products.’

Natasha Singer And Danielle Ivory, "Legislator Targets Tech Perks in Baltimore County District," New York Times, Nov. 9, 2017.

Several Probes Target Insulin Drug Pricing

James Tierney, former attorney general of Maine and a lecturer at Harvard Law School, said the civil investigative demands are not uncommon and the companies ‘may be totally innocent.’

It’s difficult to know exactly what the state and federal prosecutors are looking for, though, Tierney said. The investigations are often sealed from the public, revealed primarily when public companies acknowledge receiving them in their financial filings.

Sarah Jane Tribble, Kaiser Health News, "Several Probes Target Insulin Drug Pricing," NBC News, Oct. 28 2017.

State Attorneys General Lead the Charge Against President Donald Trump

“My long-term concern is that the AGs become seen as one more lawyer, one more politician on the make, and that undercuts the credibility of the office itself,’ says Tierney, the lecturer at Harvard Law who served as Maine’s AG from 1980 to 1990.

What’s more, while AGs are the most prominent members of their offices, the vast majority of employees who work there are civil servants, not political appointees.

’They come in every day, they do a hard job, they don’t care who the president of the United States is. For 90 percent of them, there’s probably no change,’ Tierney says.

Silicon Valley Courts Brand-Name Teachers, Raising Ethics Issues

‘Any time you are paying a public employee to promote a product in the public classroom without transparency, then that’s problematic,’ said James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine who is a lecturer at Harvard Law School. ‘Should attorneys general be concerned about this practice? The answer is yes.’

67 Former State Attorneys General Have a Message: Condemn Hate Bluntly

‘We’re politicians; we do what we have to do to get elected, but, you know, we draw the line. And Bill drew the line,’ Mr. Tierney said. ‘We wanted to give his courageous act voice at a time when the country needs to hear that there are courageous voices.’

What Happens When the Attorney General Refuses to Defend a Law?

When he was Maine’s attorney general back in the 1990s, Tierney refused to defend a state law he felt was without merit. The state Supreme Court upheld his authority to exercise judgment about which state laws to defend and which ones to leave alone. It may seem problematic to have AGs decide on their own which state laws can stand up to scrutiny, but ultimately someone has to make the call. The American system of governance is all about splitting power. When it comes to legal matters, the attorney general is most often going to be the one who has the final word.