The Role of State Attorneys General

State Attorneys General, the chief legal officers of their jurisdictions, have enormous power and responsibility. Their work affects the daily lives of the citizens of their states, the businesses they regulate, and the state governments they serve. Their unique position, which intersects law, politics and public policy, is often not well understood by the public or the voters.   While their individual powers and duties vary from state to state, AGs confront similar problems and their actions dramatically affect the resolution.  AGs are visible key players, both within their states and nationally.

This is the third program in a series designed to raise awareness about the role and responsibilities of state AGs. In this program, speakers on two panels will focus on assault on college campus and domestic violence. A light lunch will kick off the program at noon and a reception will follow at 5 pm.


Noon - 12:45 pm: Light Lunch

12:45 - 1 pm: Welcome and Introductions

  • Lee Paddock, Associate Dean for Environment, GW Law
  • Lynne Ross, Former Executive Director, National Association of Attorneys General

1 - 2:45 pm: Panel 1 - Assault on College Campuses

The AGs' role in addressing assault on campus varies depending on their powers and duties. The scope of discussion may include gun violence, sexual assault (e.g., date rape), stalking, terrorism, and civil rights, among other areas. In the few states where the AGs have full criminal jurisdiction (e.g., Alaska, Delaware, and Rhode Island), the AGs have a prosecutorial role. In other states, the AGs may represent college and university systems and may advise on policies related to campus violence. In still other states where the AGs have little to no criminal jurisdiction or do not represent the colleges and universities, AG roles may encompass criminal justice policy, proposed legislation, community outreach and public information, coordination of state investigative resources, and liaison with state, local and federal law enforcement. In all of these situations the AG is typically the most visible law enforcement official in the state and will be looked to for leadership. This panel will discuss the diverse roles AGs play when campus assault occurs and initiatives they have undertaken to keep students safe.


  • Peter Harvey, former AG New Jersey, Moderator and Panelist
  • John Farmer, former AG, New Jersey; former Dean, Rutgers Law School, and General Counsel, Rutgers University
  • Ed Burbach, former Deputy Attorney General in charge of Civil Litigation, Texas AG Office
  • Shannon Freeman, Programs & Outreach Division, Office of Virginia AG Mark Herring

2:45 - 3 pm: Break

3 - 4:45 pm: Panel 2 - Domestic Violence

As former President Obama stated in his Sept 30,  2016 proclamation in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October), "[t]oo many individuals, regardless of age, ability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, circumstance, or race, face the pain and fear of domestic violence….Nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have suffered from domestic violence by an intimate partner." What role do AGs play in addressing domestic violence and what tools do they have? With the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, known as VAWA, many AGs took on this functional responsibility, dedicating staff and resources to this initiative (thanks to federal funding and state assistance). VAWA-authorized grant programs have enabled research on elder abuse, violence on campus, and violence against native Americans, thus expanding a potential role for AGs.  This panel will discuss what AGs are doing to help in this area.


  • Bonnie Campbell, former Iowa Attorney General, Moderator
  • Frankie Sue Del Papa, former AG, Nevada (and GW Law alum)
  • Janese Bechtol, Chief Domestic Violence Section, Office of Attorney General Karl Racine, District of Columbia
  • Lisa Furr, Manager, Va. AG Lethality Assessment (LAP) Project (tentative)
  • Melissa McMenemy, Statewide Coordinator of Family Violence Services, Virginia AG Mark Herring’s Office

4:45 - 5 pm: Wrap-up questions from the audience

5 - 5:45 pm: Reception (Light fare) in the Tasher Great Room