JULY 2017 CONFERENCE

Law at the Nexus of Public Debate:
Panel Discussion by Three Attorneys General

 Peter F. KilmartinAttorney General
Rhode Island
Sean D. ReyesAttorney General
Utah
George JepsenAttorney General
Connecticut

Law at the Nexus of Public Debate: Panel Discussion

The Forum was honored to host three Attorneys General, Peter F. Kilmartin, Rhode Island, Sean D. Reyes, Utah, and George Jepsen, Connecticut, who discussed the natural, appropriate, and healthy tension in government between States’ rights and Federal powers. They presented cases where Attorneys General (AGs) played important roles in balancing Federal and State powers to address key issues. They explained that the Attorneys General (AGs) play a non-partisan role in enforcing state laws, and also have significant authority act in service to the broad public interest. As a result, the States are able to craft better, stronger, more equitable laws with guidance from the State AGs, they said.

Presentation 1:

Peter F. Kilmartin, Attorney General, Rhode Island

Peter F. Kilmartin, Rhode Island Attorney General, reminded the Forum that the conflict between States’ rights and Federal authority is as old as the US Constitution. The original 13 States had just rejected the authority of a monarchy and wanted to protect their rights. “There is a natural, appropriate, and healthy tension in government between States’ rights and Federal powers,” he told the Forum, and the lines of authority are often shifting. “These dynamics are what make democracy great. It is important to get issues out on the table and listen to all sides to find common ground. This is a role Attorneys General play,” he added.

Mr. Kilmartin noted that, while the day-to-day responsibility of the Attorney General is to play a non-partisan role in enforcing state laws, AGs will collaborate to drive critical initiatives when the Federal government fails to act appropriately in the public interest.

He cited cases where State Attorneys General (AGs) drove initiatives, including the 1999 Tobacco Settlement. In 2011, during the mortgage and banking crisis, the Federal government did not act. Instead, the AGs from 49 States came together to hammer out banking regulations to avert future crises.

Each State AG advocates for what is best for their State. Some AGs have sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arguing that the EPA overstepped its bounds in some regulations. While, in other cases, State AGs advocated for more stringent Federal action, for example, to address the issue of coal dust from other States affecting Rhode Island’s air and water quality. Attorneys General will argue whether, for example, California has the right to make more stringent environmental laws than the Federal laws.

The State AGs mediate State and municipal conflicts. For example, in Rhode Island, a law legalizing marijuana might preempt local zoning unless this was explicitly defined in the law.

State AGs serve as a sounding board and information source where the legislative, judiciary, and executive branches of government can work together to find optimal solutions. “The more respectful government units are toward each other, the more work gets accomplished,” he added.

Presentation 2:

Sean D. Reyes, Attorney General, Utah

Sean D. Reyes, Utah’s Attorney General, praised the Senate Presidents’ Forum as an organization that fosters a safe and open environment where people of differing views can discuss their concerns and seek common ground.

Mr. Reyes  reiterated that the tension between the States and Federal government is a natural and necessary balancing act that provides the checks and balances to maintain stability in society. But, he warned, that balance can become unhealthy, for example, when Federal programs coercive by imposing a large disincentive if States do not participate in the program.

Federalism: The Bad

The goal is cooperative Federalism, Mr. Reyes said, and he provided good and bad examples. He cited a trip he made to Columbia to investigate human trafficking as part of an effort to stop the practice from reaching Utah. The intervention he was involved in rescued 121 little girls from what he called “monsters and sex slaves.” But he was called on the carpet by Federal officials who complained that he had not informed them of his mission. Had he violated a law? No. But he ruffled feathers. “That’s a good thing,” he responded. “As Attorney General, I will do what I need to do to protect my State if the Federal government is not doing it.’

Federalism: The Good

On the positive side of cooperative Federalism, he reported that Federal officials asked Utah to develop test case legislation on re-homing. Re-homing is the the illegal practice  of unauthorized transfer of custody of adopted children, where adoptive parents give their adopted children away to strangers without the usual home study or background checks performed to protect children. There is currently no law that addresses this vile practice. The Federal officials suggested that the law be educational rather than punitive, including involving adoption agencies to educate adoptive parents about the risks they could face and to provide access to resources if problems with an adopted child arise.

On the State Level

Mr. Reyes reported on three areas where Utah, the State Attorney General’s office and Federal agencies successfully cooperated to produce important outcomes: human trafficking, white collar fraud, and suicide prevention.

Human Trafficking

Utah developed a State-wide Task Force on human trafficking, which included Federal, state and local cooperation to raise awareness and work across jurisdictional boundaries to identify and shut down such operations. Twenty-five agencies cooperated in an operation that shut down 12 “massage parlors” with links to human trafficking.

White Collar Fraud

Cases of white collar fraud, such as Ponzi schemes and trust affinity fraud, have redirected millions of dollars out of the States and into the hands of scam artists. The Utah AG’s office has identified 27 mortgage fraud  techniques. Mr. Reyes pointed out that highly trained people and resources are needed to detect white collar fraud.  It requires diligence when investigating. Utah established a White Collar Fraud Registry, which lists 7 classes of crimes and second-degree felonies perpetrated by predators serially robbing from citizens.  One of the objectives is to educate citizens to make better financial decisions and become aware of fraudulent schemes. If perpetrators make restitution, they are removed from the registry. “If the Federal government chose to provide a White Collar Fraud Registry on a national level, the States have shown the way, Mr. Reyes observed.

Suicide Prevention

Suicide among teens happens more frequently than the next three causes of death combined. The AG’s Office developed a “Safe-to-Tell” app for Smart phones, a 911 for mental and behavioral health emergencies, where teens can submit texts and access world-class counselors on-line to seek help in a crisis, such as bullying, suicide, or addictions.  The service has received 40,000 texts in 1 year. Once again, a State-initiated practice that could be Federalized.

Issues for State/Federal Collaboration

Mr. Reyes said it will require State and Federal cooperation to address national issues such as the opioid crisis, cybercrimes, violence and sex crimes, and information protection. Today’s complex social demographics have created a national need for police training, in part to protect themselves, but also to de-escalate explosive situations, react with sensitivity to the cultural norms of different ethnicities and be aware of disabilities.

As technology advances, the evolution of the Internet, the Internet of Things, drones, and autonomous vehicles will create situations that challenge authorities to provide appropriate public safety safeguards. The States are laboratories of experimentation and innovation to address emerging needs, he concluded.

Presentation 3: Connecticut

George Jepsen, Attorney General, Connecticut

George Jepsen, Connecticut’s Attorney General, has  a long history of public service since 1982, having served in both the House and Senate of Connecticut and as Senate President.  The State AGs make the decisions about how to enforce the laws of the State, even if they do personally agree with them. Even during partisan debates, State AGs will work together to find solutions. Most importantly, AGs are empowered to act in service to the broad public interest. As a result, the states get better, stronger, more equitable laws from the State AGs, Mr. Jepsen said.

The Financial Crisis

Mr. Jepsen provided examples of where the States’ AGs Offices have been effective in advocating for the Common Good. He cited the clean-up of the financial crisis, which was driven by AGs. After 2008, 2,000 private party cases against mortgage manipulators were dismissed by the Courts, until the AGs stepped in. Eventually, their actions led to $26 billion in debt relief to help people keep their homes, and provided funding to the States to implement banking reforms.

Healthcare

The States are on the forefront of healthcare issues, Mr. Jepsen said. As the Federal government wrestles to find a pathway to healthcare reform, the State Attorneys General convened a summit to examine the economics of healthcare. They looked at the extensive mergers of hospital systems and vertical integration of healthcare services as potential monopolies. The main thrust of their meeting was fact-finding and bipartisan cooperation to  find optimal solutions for how their States can fund healthcare.

A 47-State coalition of AGs is working with the Justice department to investigate potentially illegal practices by drug companies, such as systematic price fixing and the manipulation of patent extensions to block generic drug development.

Other Issues on the AG Agenda

Mr. Jepsen observed that environmental issues tend to be more partisan, with Democratic AGs driving the EPA to meet its responsibilities to enforce the laws, while Republican AGs may wish to limit the power of the EPA.

Opioid overdose accounted for 300 deaths in Connecticut 8 years ago. In 2016, it skyrocketed to 1,000 deaths. Mr. Jepsen said the states AGs will need to get involved to develop strategies to address this growing crisis.

The States AGs are coordinating a bipartisan national drive to address key issues related to data privacy.

Conclusion

The States AGs provide an important forum for the branches of government to come together, seek legal advice, and explore bipartisan solutions to complex problems. Working together, the AGs from cooperating States can form coalitions to drive initiatives in the best interests of their States. In this way, the states get better, stronger, and more equitable laws with input from the State AGs, Mr. Jepsen concluded.

Discussion

Sen. Wayne Niederhauser (UT): It is troubling on a national level that the legislature or Congress will pass a law, but the executive branch, through the Attorney General, decides whether to enforce the law’s intent or to enforce it beyond legislative intent. If an AG does not like a law, the proper procedure is to go back to the legislature to amend or repeal it. When an AG chooses not to enforce a law or to enforce it more stringently than it is written, this violates the process of checks and balances, and the system will break down.

Mr. Reyes: AGs do have prosecutorial discretion and can make decisions about where to focus resources where they think it will be most beneficial to the State. Once a law, legislation or ballot issue is passed, the State AG is constitutionally required to defend the law, unless the US supreme Court has a precedent that changes the law’s interpretation. This requirement to uphold the law applies regardless of party issues or personal objections. Discretionary resource allocation must be managed judiciously or the people’s trust in the AG will be diminished.

Mr. Jepsen: AGs take seriously our responsibility to enforce the laws as written.  We defend State laws from Constitutional challenges. In some cases, I have defended laws that I would not have voted for, but I defend it as required by law. The State AGs’ most important asset is credibility, doing what is right, even if some stakeholders want me to act differently.

Mr. Kilmartin: Politics does not enter into the office of the AG. We are guided by the law. It is imperative to protect the integrity of the office. The AGs staff informs legislators if there is a constitutional issue with a law being drafted, or if it can be passed as written. The AG’s office does the legal analysis and ensures the ability to defend the law from Constitutional challenge. The legislature listens to the legal reasoning we present and this allows them to craft laws that are constitutionally sound. This is an essential function for the AG’s office.

There are areas where State AGs have found themselves in conflict with the law, for example, State AGs who refused to enforce gay marriage, because it conflicted with their personal beliefs, or those States that have legalized marijuana, while it is still a federally scheduled drug.  These situations can lead to haphazard law enforcement, which causes confusion and can compromise the integrity of the office. Immigration is another area where the lack of Federal action from Congress has left a void that State AGs are filling. States can be the leaders locally on key issues where the Federal government has not acted in the public interest.

Sen. Rich Wardner (ND): What can the State AGs do about intervening in the opioid crisis?

Mr. Jepsen: It appears that physicians did not have intent to harm when they over-prescribed opioids for chronic pain and other chronic conditions. But the pharmaceutical companies knew or should have known what the risks for addiction were. They understated these risks.

Mr. Kilmartin: Legislative bodies can influence the opioid crisis by reasonable restrictions on opioid prescribing, not to restrict appropriate medical practice, but rather, to limit initial prescription to 5 days, use Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs to monitor opioid use. Dentists also prescribe a lot of opioids. If the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not act to control the epidemic, then the States will need to do it.

Sen. Peter Courtney (OR): Just what does a State Attorney General do that isn’t covered by District Attorneys or other legal agents in the State?

Mr. Kilmartin: The AGs have different levels of authority, areas of jurisdictions, and roles in different States. In general, the AG defends the State, State agencies, and the police, whenever law suits are brought against them.

Mr. Jepsen: State AGs enforce the laws of the State and act as lawyers for the State. AGs are the only lawyers who can go before the Court to defend the States. Importantly, the AGs are also empowered to act in the public interest.

Mr. Reyes: It can take 7-10 years to have a case resolved by US Attorneys General. For State AGs, cases are resolved in 7 months. The bottom line is that State AGs help the States enact better, stronger laws for the public good.

Speaker Biographies

Peter F. Kilmartin

Peter Kilmartin was elected the 73rd Attorney General of Rhode Island on November 4, 2010. His promise to enhance the economic security of Rhode Island, protect the public safety of our communities and families and restore the public trust in state government resonated with the people of Rhode Island.

A native Rode Islander and former police officer, Peter Kilmartin has continued to focus on Rhode Islanders’ safety and security since being elected Attorney General. He has strongly advocated for longer prison sentences and stiffer penalties for criminals. He successfully changed the state’s “Good Time” law, prohibiting those who commit heinous crimes against children to earn time off for good behavior while incarcerated. He has advocated for stronger and stiffer sentences for people who illegally possess and use firearms, as well as those who engage in gang activity.

Attorney General Kilmartin has established specialized prosecution units that focus on specific crimes and victims. The office is active in the Veteran’s Court, with setting the goal of successfully rehabilitating veterans by diverting them from the traditional criminal justice system and providing them the tools they will need to lead a productive, law-abiding life. In addition, Attorney General Kilmartin established a Child Abuse Unit, led by prosecutors, victim advocates and support staff, all trained to handle the emotional and psychological effects associated with physical and sexual abuse of children. He led the way to bring greater transparency to government, and has filed multiple lawsuits against public bodies for violating the state’s public access laws.

He serves in several leadership positions with the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), including liaison to the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP), vice-chair for the Eastern Region, co-chair for NAAG’s Criminal Law Committee and serves on the Law Enforcement and Prosecutorial Relations Working Group and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Sean D. Reyes

Sean Reyes has been Utah Attorney General since his appointment on December 30, 2013, by Governor Gary R. Herbert. General Reyes was faced with the challenge of restoring public trust in the Utah Attorney General’s Office (AGO), where accusations of wrongdoing and abuse of power beset his two predecessors.

In the first months of his administration, he commissioned outside investigations and audits to shine a light on misconduct in the AGO, streamline budgets and expenditures, and improve infrastructure and client satisfaction. Reyes quickly reestablished credibility at the highest ranks of the office. He demonstrated his commitment to hire and promote based solely on merit, diffusing perceptions of cronyism or political favoritism.

Armed with a top-flight executive team largely recruited from the private sector, and committed leadership within the office, General Reyes has created renewed excitement among the lawyers and professionals of the AGO to match the increased trust of the public in his office. Reyes has been lauded by legislators from both sides of the aisle for his work ethic and legal acumen and won praise from the Governor and his Cabinet for increased excellence and transparency in the AGO.

At the time of his inauguration, several cases of national interest, including those regarding the definition of marriage, polygamy and immigration were awaiting his direction and leadership. While very emotional and potentially divisive in nature, Reyes has approached each case with the same sense of dignity, professionalism, duty and respect that won him numerous awards and recognitions throughout his legal career. Along with many upgrades to infrastructure, technology and efficiencies to make his legal teams even better, he has also organized a Constitutional Law Section to prepare the AGO for many critical issues facing and likely to face Utah in the near future.

George Jepsen

George Jepsen is the 24th Attorney General to serve Connecticut since the office was established in 1897. He took office in 2011 and was re-elected in 2014 to a second term.

Attorney General Jepsen has focused on reducing healthcare costs by increasing transparency and competition, and preventing and deterring healthcare fraud. He advocated for stronger consumer protections in Connecticut's competitive electricity market. Among other initiatives, Jepsen created a Privacy & Data Security department to focus on data breach and privacy concerns; simplified the process for data breach reporting; consolidated staff to create an Antitrust and Government Program Fraud department; and has vigorously pursued antitrust, environmental, health care, and consumer protection issues.

Attorney General Jepsen concluded his one-year term as president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) in June, 2017. He also was a member of the NAAG executive committee that negotiated a $25 billion federal-state settlement in 2012—the largest in history—with the nation's five largest banks over mortgage foreclosure abuses.

Among other notable cases, Connecticut played a prominent role in the e-book pricing investigation that produced $166 million in consumer refunds, and a successful federal suit against Apple for its role in the anti-competitive scheme that netted $400 million for consumers. Connecticut led an intensive, 20-state investigation of financial rating agency Standard & Poor's for allegedly misrepresenting its analysis of structured securities, resulting in a $1.375 billion federal-state settlement in February 2015. Connecticut was one of six lead states in a coalition of more than 40 attorneys general that investigated Volkswagon for violations of state laws prohibiting unfair or deceptive trade practices. The investigation led to a $570 million settlement in June, 2016.

General Jepsen’s legislative record reflects strong advocacy for consumers, civil rights, the environment, protecting women from domestic violence, public safety, and a fair and competitive business climate.

“There is a natural, appropriate, and healthy tension in government between States’ rights and Federal powers ... and the lines of authority are often shifting.”

— Peter F. Kilmartin

AGs will collaborate to drive critical initiatives when the Federal government fails to act appropriately in the public interest.

Each State AG advocates for what is best for their State.

“The more respectful government units are toward each other, the more work gets accomplished.”

— Peter F. Kilmartin

“If the Federal government chose to provide a White Collar Fraud Registry on a national level, the States have shown the way.”

— Sean D. Reyes

The AG’s Office developed a “Safe-to-Tell” app for Smart phones, a 911 for mental and behavioral health emergencies, where teens can submit texts and access world-class counselors on-line to seek help in a crisis.

The States are laboratories of experimentation and innovation to address emerging needs.

Most importantly, AGs are empowered to act in service to the broad public interest.

The State AGs’ most important asset is credibility.

Sen. Wayne Niederhauser (UT)

Sen. Rich Wardner (ND)

Sen. Peter Courtney (OR)

Peter F. Kilmartin

Sean D. Reyes

George Jepsen

CONTACT

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Tel: 914-693-1818

Copyright © 2018 Senate Presidents' Forum. All rights reserved.

JULY 2017 CONFERENCE

Law at the Nexus of Public Debate:
Panel Discussion by Three Attorneys General

Peter F. KilmartinAttorney General
Rhode Island
Sean D. ReyesAttorney General
Utah
George JepsenAttorney General
Connecticut

Law at the Nexus of Public Debate: Panel Discussion

The Forum was honored to host three Attorneys General, Peter F. Kilmartin, Rhode Island, Sean D. Reyes, Utah, and George Jepsen, Connecticut, who discussed the natural, appropriate, and healthy tension in government between States’ rights and Federal powers. They presented cases where Attorneys General (AGs) played important roles in balancing Federal and State powers to address key issues. They explained that the Attorneys General (AGs) play a non-partisan role in enforcing state laws, and also have significant authority act in service to the broad public interest. As a result, the States are able to craft better, stronger, more equitable laws with guidance from the State AGs, they said.

Presentation 1:

Peter F. Kilmartin, Attorney General, Rhode Island

Peter F. Kilmartin, Rhode Island Attorney General, reminded the Forum that the conflict between States’ rights and Federal authority is as old as the US Constitution. The original 13 States had just rejected the authority of a monarchy and wanted to protect their rights. “There is a natural, appropriate, and healthy tension in government between States’ rights and Federal powers,” he told the Forum, and the lines of authority are often shifting. “These dynamics are what make democracy great. It is important to get issues out on the table and listen to all sides to find common ground. This is a role Attorneys General play,” he added.

“There is a natural, appropriate, and healthy tension in government between States’ rights and Federal powers ... and the lines of authority are often shifting.”— Peter F. Kilmartin

Mr. Kilmartin noted that, while the day-to-day responsibility of the Attorney General is to play a non-partisan role in enforcing state laws, AGs will collaborate to drive critical initiatives when the Federal government fails to act appropriately in the public interest.

AGs will collaborate to drive critical initiatives when the Federal government fails to act appropriately in the public interest.

He cited cases where State Attorneys General (AGs) drove initiatives, including the 1999 Tobacco Settlement. In 2011, during the mortgage and banking crisis, the Federal government did not act. Instead, the AGs from 49 States came together to hammer out banking regulations to avert future crises.

Each State AG advocates for what is best for their State. Some AGs have sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arguing that the EPA overstepped its bounds in some regulations. While, in other cases, State AGs advocated for more stringent Federal action, for example, to address the issue of coal dust from other States affecting Rhode Island’s air and water quality. Attorneys General will argue whether, for example, California has the right to make more stringent environmental laws than the Federal laws.

Each State AG advocates for what is best for their State.

The State AGs mediate State and municipal conflicts. For example, in Rhode Island, a law legalizing marijuana might preempt local zoning unless this was explicitly defined in the law.

State AGs serve as a sounding board and information source where the legislative, judiciary, and executive branches of government can work together to find optimal solutions. “The more respectful government units are toward each other, the more work gets accomplished,” he added.

“The more respectful government units are toward each other, the more work gets accomplished.”— Peter F. Kilmartin

Presentation 2:

Sean D. Reyes, Attorney General, Utah

Sean D. Reyes, Utah’s Attorney General, praised the Senate Presidents’ Forum as an organization that fosters a safe and open environment where people of differing views can discuss their concerns and seek common ground.

Mr. Reyes  reiterated that the tension between the States and Federal government is a natural and necessary balancing act that provides the checks and balances to maintain stability in society. But, he warned, that balance can become unhealthy, for example, when Federal programs coercive by imposing a large disincentive if States do not participate in the program.

Federalism: The Bad

The goal is cooperative Federalism, Mr. Reyes said, and he provided good and bad examples. He cited a trip he made to Columbia to investigate human trafficking as part of an effort to stop the practice from reaching Utah. The intervention he was involved in rescued 121 little girls from what he called “monsters and sex slaves.” But he was called on the carpet by Federal officials who complained that he had not informed them of his mission. Had he violated a law? No. But he ruffled feathers. “That’s a good thing,” he responded. “As Attorney General, I will do what I need to do to protect my State if the Federal government is not doing it.’

Federalism: The Good

On the positive side of cooperative Federalism, he reported that Federal officials asked Utah to develop test case legislation on re-homing. Re-homing is the the illegal practice  of unauthorized transfer of custody of adopted children, where adoptive parents give their adopted children away to strangers without the usual home study or background checks performed to protect children. There is currently no law that addresses this vile practice. The Federal officials suggested that the law be educational rather than punitive, including involving adoption agencies to educate adoptive parents about the risks they could face and to provide access to resources if problems with an adopted child arise.

On the State Level

Mr. Reyes reported on three areas where Utah, the State Attorney General’s office and Federal agencies successfully cooperated to produce important outcomes: human trafficking, white collar fraud, and suicide prevention.

Human Trafficking

Utah developed a State-wide Task Force on human trafficking, which included Federal, state and local cooperation to raise awareness and work across jurisdictional boundaries to identify and shut down such operations. Twenty-five agencies cooperated in an operation that shut down 12 “massage parlors” with links to human trafficking.

White Collar Fraud

Cases of white collar fraud, such as Ponzi schemes and trust affinity fraud, have redirected millions of dollars out of the States and into the hands of scam artists. The Utah AG’s office has identified 27 mortgage fraud  techniques. Mr. Reyes pointed out that highly trained people and resources are needed to detect white collar fraud. It requires diligence when investigating. Utah established a White Collar Fraud Registry, which lists 7 classes of crimes and second-degree felonies perpetrated by predators serially robbing from citizens. One of the objectives is to educate citizens to make better financial decisions and become aware of fraudulent schemes. If perpetrators make restitution, they are removed from the registry. “If the Federal government chose to provide a White Collar Fraud Registry on a national level, the States have shown the way, Mr. Reyes observed.

“If the Federal government chose to provide a White Collar Fraud Registry on a national level, the States have shown the way.”— Sean D. Reyes

Suicide Prevention

Suicide among teens happens more frequently than the next three causes of death combined. The AG’s Office developed a “Safe-to-Tell” app for Smart phones, a 911 for mental and behavioral health emergencies, where teens can submit texts and access world-class counselors on-line to seek help in a crisis, such as bullying, suicide, or addictions.  The service has received 40,000 texts in 1 year. Once again, a State-initiated practice that could be Federalized.

The AG’s Office developed a “Safe-to-Tell” app for Smart phones, a 911 for mental and behavioral health emergencies, where teens can submit texts and access world-class counselors on-line to seek help in a crisis.

Issues for State/Federal Collaboration

Mr. Reyes said it will require State and Federal cooperation to address national issues such as the opioid crisis, cybercrimes, violence and sex crimes, and information protection. Today’s complex social demographics have created a national need for police training, in part to protect themselves, but also to de-escalate explosive situations, react with sensitivity to the cultural norms of different ethnicities and be aware of disabilities.

As technology advances, the evolution of the Internet, the Internet of Things, drones, and autonomous vehicles will create situations that challenge authorities to provide appropriate public safety safeguards. The States are laboratories of experimentation and innovation to address emerging needs, he concluded.

The States are laboratories of experimentation and innovation to address emerging needs.

Presentation 3: Connecticut

George Jepsen, Attorney General, Connecticut

George Jepsen, Connecticut’s Attorney General, has  a long history of public service since 1982, having served in both the House and Senate of Connecticut and as Senate President. The State AGs make the decisions about how to enforce the laws of the State, even if they do personally agree with them. Even during partisan debates, State AGs will work together to find solutions. Most importantly, AGs are empowered to act in service to the broad public interest. As a result, the states get better, stronger, more equitable laws from the State AGs, Mr. Jepsen said.

Most importantly, AGs are empowered to act in service to the broad public interest.

The Financial Crisis

Mr. Jepsen provided examples of where the States’ AGs Offices have been effective in advocating for the Common Good. He cited the clean-up of the financial crisis, which was driven by AGs. After 2008, 2,000 private party cases against mortgage manipulators were dismissed by the Courts, until the AGs stepped in. Eventually, their actions led to $26 billion in debt relief to help people keep their homes, and provided funding to the States to implement banking reforms.

Healthcare

The States are on the forefront of healthcare issues, Mr. Jepsen said. As the Federal government wrestles to find a pathway to healthcare reform, the State Attorneys General convened a summit to examine the economics of healthcare. They looked at the extensive mergers of hospital systems and vertical integration of healthcare services as potential monopolies. The main thrust of their meeting was fact-finding and bipartisan cooperation to  find optimal solutions for how their States can fund healthcare.

A 47-State coalition of AGs is working with the Justice department to investigate potentially illegal practices by drug companies, such as systematic price fixing and the manipulation of patent extensions to block generic drug development.

Other Issues on the AG Agenda

Mr. Jepsen observed that environmental issues tend to be more partisan, with Democratic AGs driving the EPA to meet its responsibilities to enforce the laws, while Republican AGs may wish to limit the power of the EPA.

Opioid overdose accounted for 300 deaths in Connecticut 8 years ago. In 2016, it skyrocketed to 1,000 deaths. Mr. Jepsen said the states AGs will need to get involved to develop strategies to address this growing crisis.

The States AGs are coordinating a bipartisan national drive to address key issues related to data privacy.

Conclusion

The States AGs provide an important forum for the branches of government to come together, seek legal advice, and explore bipartisan solutions to complex problems. Working together, the AGs from cooperating States can form coalitions to drive initiatives in the best interests of their States. In this way, the states get better, stronger, and more equitable laws with input from the State AGs, Mr. Jepsen concluded.

Discussion

Sen. Wayne Niederhauser (UT): It is troubling on a national level that the legislature or Congress will pass a law, but the executive branch, through the Attorney General, decides whether to enforce the law’s intent or to enforce it beyond legislative intent. If an AG does not like a law, the proper procedure is to go back to the legislature to amend or repeal it. When an AG chooses not to enforce a law or to enforce it more stringently than it is written, this violates the process of checks and balances, and the system will break down.

Mr. Reyes: AGs do have prosecutorial discretion and can make decisions about where to focus resources where they think it will be most beneficial to the State. Once a law, legislation or ballot issue is passed, the State AG is constitutionally required to defend the law, unless the US supreme Court has a precedent that changes the law’s interpretation. This requirement to uphold the law applies regardless of party issues or personal objections. Discretionary resource allocation must be managed judiciously or the people’s trust in the AG will be diminished.

Mr. Jepsen: AGs take seriously our responsibility to enforce the laws as written.  We defend State laws from Constitutional challenges. In some cases, I have defended laws that I would not have voted for, but I defend it as required by law. The State AGs’ most important asset is credibility, doing what is right, even if some stakeholders want me to act differently.

The State AGs’ most important asset is credibility.

Mr. Kilmartin: Politics does not enter into the office of the AG. We are guided by the law. It is imperative to protect the integrity of the office. The AGs staff informs legislators if there is a constitutional issue with a law being drafted, or if it can be passed as written. The AG’s office does the legal analysis and ensures the ability to defend the law from Constitutional challenge. The legislature listens to the legal reasoning we present and this allows them to craft laws that are constitutionally sound. This is an essential function for the AG’s office.

There are areas where State AGs have found themselves in conflict with the law, for example, State AGs who refused to enforce gay marriage, because it conflicted with their personal beliefs, or those States that have legalized marijuana, while it is still a federally scheduled drug.  These situations can lead to haphazard law enforcement, which causes confusion and can compromise the integrity of the office. Immigration is another area where the lack of Federal action from Congress has left a void that State AGs are filling. States can be the leaders locally on key issues where the Federal government has not acted in the public interest.

Sen. Rich Wardner (ND): What can the State AGs do about intervening in the opioid crisis?

Mr. Jepsen: It appears that physicians did not have intent to harm when they over-prescribed opioids for chronic pain and other chronic conditions. But the pharmaceutical companies knew or should have known what the risks for addiction were. They understated these risks.

Mr. Kilmartin: Legislative bodies can influence the opioid crisis by reasonable restrictions on opioid prescribing, not to restrict appropriate medical practice, but rather, to limit initial prescription to 5 days, use Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs to monitor opioid use. Dentists also prescribe a lot of opioids. If the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not act to control the epidemic, then the States will need to do it.

Sen. Peter Courtney (OR): Just what does a State Attorney General do that isn’t covered by District Attorneys or other legal agents in the State?

Mr. Kilmartin: The AGs have different levels of authority, areas of jurisdictions, and roles in different States. In general, the AG defends the State, State agencies, and the police, whenever law suits are brought against them.

Mr. Jepsen: State AGs enforce the laws of the State and act as lawyers for the State. AGs are the only lawyers who can go before the Court to defend the States. Importantly, the AGs are also empowered to act in the public interest.

Mr. Reyes: It can take 7-10 years to have a case resolved by US Attorneys General. For State AGs, cases are resolved in 7 months. The bottom line is that State AGs help the States enact better, stronger laws for the public good.

Speaker Biographies

Peter F. Kilmartin

Peter Kilmartin was elected the 73rd Attorney General of Rhode Island on November 4, 2010. His promise to enhance the economic security of Rhode Island, protect the public safety of our communities and families and restore the public trust in state government resonated with the people of Rhode Island.

A native Rode Islander and former police officer, Peter Kilmartin has continued to focus on Rhode Islanders’ safety and security since being elected Attorney General. He has strongly advocated for longer prison sentences and stiffer penalties for criminals. He successfully changed the state’s “Good Time” law, prohibiting those who commit heinous crimes against children to earn time off for good behavior while incarcerated. He has advocated for stronger and stiffer sentences for people who illegally possess and use firearms, as well as those who engage in gang activity.

Attorney General Kilmartin has established specialized prosecution units that focus on specific crimes and victims. The office is active in the Veteran’s Court, with setting the goal of successfully rehabilitating veterans by diverting them from the traditional criminal justice system and providing them the tools they will need to lead a productive, law-abiding life. In addition, Attorney General Kilmartin established a Child Abuse Unit, led by prosecutors, victim advocates and support staff, all trained to handle the emotional and psychological effects associated with physical and sexual abuse of children. He led the way to bring greater transparency to government, and has filed multiple lawsuits against public bodies for violating the state’s public access laws.

He serves in several leadership positions with the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), including liaison to the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP), vice-chair for the Eastern Region, co-chair for NAAG’s Criminal Law Committee and serves on the Law Enforcement and Prosecutorial Relations Working Group and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Sean D. Reyes

Sean Reyes has been Utah Attorney General since his appointment on December 30, 2013, by Governor Gary R. Herbert. General Reyes was faced with the challenge of restoring public trust in the Utah Attorney General’s Office (AGO), where accusations of wrongdoing and abuse of power beset his two predecessors.

In the first months of his administration, he commissioned outside investigations and audits to shine a light on misconduct in the AGO, streamline budgets and expenditures, and improve infrastructure and client satisfaction. Reyes quickly reestablished credibility at the highest ranks of the office. He demonstrated his commitment to hire and promote based solely on merit, diffusing perceptions of cronyism or political favoritism.

Armed with a top-flight executive team largely recruited from the private sector, and committed leadership within the office, General Reyes has created renewed excitement among the lawyers and professionals of the AGO to match the increased trust of the public in his office. Reyes has been lauded by legislators from both sides of the aisle for his work ethic and legal acumen and won praise from the Governor and his Cabinet for increased excellence and transparency in the AGO.

At the time of his inauguration, several cases of national interest, including those regarding the definition of marriage, polygamy and immigration were awaiting his direction and leadership. While very emotional and potentially divisive in nature, Reyes has approached each case with the same sense of dignity, professionalism, duty and respect that won him numerous awards and recognitions throughout his legal career. Along with many upgrades to infrastructure, technology and efficiencies to make his legal teams even better, he has also organized a Constitutional Law Section to prepare the AGO for many critical issues facing and likely to face Utah in the near future.

George Jepsen

George Jepsen is the 24th Attorney General to serve Connecticut since the office was established in 1897. He took office in 2011 and was re-elected in 2014 to a second term.

Attorney General Jepsen has focused on reducing healthcare costs by increasing transparency and competition, and preventing and deterring healthcare fraud. He advocated for stronger consumer protections in Connecticut's competitive electricity market. Among other initiatives, Jepsen created a Privacy & Data Security department to focus on data breach and privacy concerns; simplified the process for data breach reporting; consolidated staff to create an Antitrust and Government Program Fraud department; and has vigorously pursued antitrust, environmental, health care, and consumer protection issues.

Attorney General Jepsen concluded his one-year term as president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) in June, 2017. He also was a member of the NAAG executive committee that negotiated a $25 billion federal-state settlement in 2012—the largest in history—with the nation's five largest banks over mortgage foreclosure abuses.

Among other notable cases, Connecticut played a prominent role in the e-book pricing investigation that produced $166 million in consumer refunds, and a successful federal suit against Apple for its role in the anti-competitive scheme that netted $400 million for consumers. Connecticut led an intensive, 20-state investigation of financial rating agency Standard & Poor's for allegedly misrepresenting its analysis of structured securities, resulting in a $1.375 billion federal-state settlement in February 2015. Connecticut was one of six lead states in a coalition of more than 40 attorneys general that investigated Volkswagon for violations of state laws prohibiting unfair or deceptive trade practices. The investigation led to a $570 million settlement in June, 2016.

General Jepsen’s legislative record reflects strong advocacy for consumers, civil rights, the environment, protecting women from domestic violence, public safety, and a fair and competitive business climate.

JULY 2017 CONFERENCE

Law at the Nexus of Public Debate:
Panel Discussion by Three Attorneys General

Peter F. KilmartinAttorney General
Rhode Island
Sean D. ReyesAttorney General
Utah
George JepsenAttorney General
Connecticut

Law at the Nexus of Public Debate: Panel Discussion

The Forum was honored to host three Attorneys General, Peter F. Kilmartin, Rhode Island, Sean D. Reyes, Utah, and George Jepsen, Connecticut, who discussed the natural, appropriate, and healthy tension in government between States’ rights and Federal powers. They presented cases where Attorneys General (AGs) played important roles in balancing Federal and State powers to address key issues. They explained that the Attorneys General (AGs) play a non-partisan role in enforcing state laws, and also have significant authority act in service to the broad public interest. As a result, the States are able to craft better, stronger, more equitable laws with guidance from the State AGs, they said.

Presentation 1:

Peter F. Kilmartin, Attorney General, Rhode Island

Peter F. Kilmartin, Rhode Island Attorney General, reminded the Forum that the conflict between States’ rights and Federal authority is as old as the US Constitution. The original 13 States had just rejected the authority of a monarchy and wanted to protect their rights. “There is a natural, appropriate, and healthy tension in government between States’ rights and Federal powers,” he told the Forum, and the lines of authority are often shifting. “These dynamics are what make democracy great. It is important to get issues out on the table and listen to all sides to find common ground. This is a role Attorneys General play,” he added.

“There is a natural, appropriate, and healthy tension in government between States’ rights and Federal powers ... and the lines of authority are often shifting.”— Peter F. Kilmartin

Mr. Kilmartin noted that, while the day-to-day responsibility of the Attorney General is to play a non-partisan role in enforcing state laws, AGs will collaborate to drive critical initiatives when the Federal government fails to act appropriately in the public interest.

AGs will collaborate to drive critical initiatives when the Federal government fails to act appropriately in the public interest.

He cited cases where State Attorneys General (AGs) drove initiatives, including the 1999 Tobacco Settlement. In 2011, during the mortgage and banking crisis, the Federal government did not act. Instead, the AGs from 49 States came together to hammer out banking regulations to avert future crises.

Each State AG advocates for what is best for their State. Some AGs have sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arguing that the EPA overstepped its bounds in some regulations. While, in other cases, State AGs advocated for more stringent Federal action, for example, to address the issue of coal dust from other States affecting Rhode Island’s air and water quality. Attorneys General will argue whether, for example, California has the right to make more stringent environmental laws than the Federal laws.

Each State AG advocates for what is best for their State.

The State AGs mediate State and municipal conflicts. For example, in Rhode Island, a law legalizing marijuana might preempt local zoning unless this was explicitly defined in the law.

State AGs serve as a sounding board and information source where the legislative, judiciary, and executive branches of government can work together to find optimal solutions. “The more respectful government units are toward each other, the more work gets accomplished,” he added.

“The more respectful government units are toward each other, the more work gets accomplished.”— Peter F. Kilmartin

Presentation 2:

Sean D. Reyes, Attorney General, Utah

Sean D. Reyes, Utah’s Attorney General, praised the Senate Presidents’ Forum as an organization that fosters a safe and open environment where people of differing views can discuss their concerns and seek common ground.

Mr. Reyes  reiterated that the tension between the States and Federal government is a natural and necessary balancing act that provides the checks and balances to maintain stability in society. But, he warned, that balance can become unhealthy, for example, when Federal programs coercive by imposing a large disincentive if States do not participate in the program.

Federalism: The Bad

The goal is cooperative Federalism, Mr. Reyes said, and he provided good and bad examples. He cited a trip he made to Columbia to investigate human trafficking as part of an effort to stop the practice from reaching Utah. The intervention he was involved in rescued 121 little girls from what he called “monsters and sex slaves.” But he was called on the carpet by Federal officials who complained that he had not informed them of his mission. Had he violated a law? No. But he ruffled feathers. “That’s a good thing,” he responded. “As Attorney General, I will do what I need to do to protect my State if the Federal government is not doing it.’

Federalism: The Good

On the positive side of cooperative Federalism, he reported that Federal officials asked Utah to develop test case legislation on re-homing. Re-homing is the the illegal practice  of unauthorized transfer of custody of adopted children, where adoptive parents give their adopted children away to strangers without the usual home study or background checks performed to protect children. There is currently no law that addresses this vile practice. The Federal officials suggested that the law be educational rather than punitive, including involving adoption agencies to educate adoptive parents about the risks they could face and to provide access to resources if problems with an adopted child arise.

On the State Level

Mr. Reyes reported on three areas where Utah, the State Attorney General’s office and Federal agencies successfully cooperated to produce important outcomes: human trafficking, white collar fraud, and suicide prevention.

Human Trafficking

Utah developed a State-wide Task Force on human trafficking, which included Federal, state and local cooperation to raise awareness and work across jurisdictional boundaries to identify and shut down such operations. Twenty-five agencies cooperated in an operation that shut down 12 “massage parlors” with links to human trafficking.

White Collar Fraud

Cases of white collar fraud, such as Ponzi schemes and trust affinity fraud, have redirected millions of dollars out of the States and into the hands of scam artists. The Utah AG’s office has identified 27 mortgage fraud  techniques. Mr. Reyes pointed out that highly trained people and resources are needed to detect white collar fraud. It requires diligence when investigating. Utah established a White Collar Fraud Registry, which lists 7 classes of crimes and second-degree felonies perpetrated by predators serially robbing from citizens. One of the objectives is to educate citizens to make better financial decisions and become aware of fraudulent schemes. If perpetrators make restitution, they are removed from the registry. “If the Federal government chose to provide a White Collar Fraud Registry on a national level, the States have shown the way, Mr. Reyes observed.

“If the Federal government chose to provide a White Collar Fraud Registry on a national level, the States have shown the way.”— Sean D. Reyes

Suicide Prevention

Suicide among teens happens more frequently than the next three causes of death combined. The AG’s Office developed a “Safe-to-Tell” app for Smart phones, a 911 for mental and behavioral health emergencies, where teens can submit texts and access world-class counselors on-line to seek help in a crisis, such as bullying, suicide, or addictions.  The service has received 40,000 texts in 1 year. Once again, a State-initiated practice that could be Federalized.

The AG’s Office developed a “Safe-to-Tell” app for Smart phones, a 911 for mental and behavioral health emergencies, where teens can submit texts and access world-class counselors on-line to seek help in a crisis.

Issues for State/Federal Collaboration

Mr. Reyes said it will require State and Federal cooperation to address national issues such as the opioid crisis, cybercrimes, violence and sex crimes, and information protection. Today’s complex social demographics have created a national need for police training, in part to protect themselves, but also to de-escalate explosive situations, react with sensitivity to the cultural norms of different ethnicities and be aware of disabilities.

As technology advances, the evolution of the Internet, the Internet of Things, drones, and autonomous vehicles will create situations that challenge authorities to provide appropriate public safety safeguards. The States are laboratories of experimentation and innovation to address emerging needs, he concluded.

The States are laboratories of experimentation and innovation to address emerging needs.

Presentation 3: Connecticut

George Jepsen, Attorney General, Connecticut

George Jepsen, Connecticut’s Attorney General, has  a long history of public service since 1982, having served in both the House and Senate of Connecticut and as Senate President. The State AGs make the decisions about how to enforce the laws of the State, even if they do personally agree with them. Even during partisan debates, State AGs will work together to find solutions. Most importantly, AGs are empowered to act in service to the broad public interest. As a result, the states get better, stronger, more equitable laws from the State AGs, Mr. Jepsen said.

Most importantly, AGs are empowered to act in service to the broad public interest.

The Financial Crisis

Mr. Jepsen provided examples of where the States’ AGs Offices have been effective in advocating for the Common Good. He cited the clean-up of the financial crisis, which was driven by AGs. After 2008, 2,000 private party cases against mortgage manipulators were dismissed by the Courts, until the AGs stepped in. Eventually, their actions led to $26 billion in debt relief to help people keep their homes, and provided funding to the States to implement banking reforms.

Healthcare

The States are on the forefront of healthcare issues, Mr. Jepsen said. As the Federal government wrestles to find a pathway to healthcare reform, the State Attorneys General convened a summit to examine the economics of healthcare. They looked at the extensive mergers of hospital systems and vertical integration of healthcare services as potential monopolies. The main thrust of their meeting was fact-finding and bipartisan cooperation to  find optimal solutions for how their States can fund healthcare.

A 47-State coalition of AGs is working with the Justice department to investigate potentially illegal practices by drug companies, such as systematic price fixing and the manipulation of patent extensions to block generic drug development.

Other Issues on the AG Agenda

Mr. Jepsen observed that environmental issues tend to be more partisan, with Democratic AGs driving the EPA to meet its responsibilities to enforce the laws, while Republican AGs may wish to limit the power of the EPA.

Opioid overdose accounted for 300 deaths in Connecticut 8 years ago. In 2016, it skyrocketed to 1,000 deaths. Mr. Jepsen said the states AGs will need to get involved to develop strategies to address this growing crisis.

The States AGs are coordinating a bipartisan national drive to address key issues related to data privacy.

Conclusion

The States AGs provide an important forum for the branches of government to come together, seek legal advice, and explore bipartisan solutions to complex problems. Working together, the AGs from cooperating States can form coalitions to drive initiatives in the best interests of their States. In this way, the states get better, stronger, and more equitable laws with input from the State AGs, Mr. Jepsen concluded.

Discussion

Sen. Wayne Niederhauser (UT): It is troubling on a national level that the legislature or Congress will pass a law, but the executive branch, through the Attorney General, decides whether to enforce the law’s intent or to enforce it beyond legislative intent. If an AG does not like a law, the proper procedure is to go back to the legislature to amend or repeal it. When an AG chooses not to enforce a law or to enforce it more stringently than it is written, this violates the process of checks and balances, and the system will break down.

Mr. Reyes: AGs do have prosecutorial discretion and can make decisions about where to focus resources where they think it will be most beneficial to the State. Once a law, legislation or ballot issue is passed, the State AG is constitutionally required to defend the law, unless the US supreme Court has a precedent that changes the law’s interpretation. This requirement to uphold the law applies regardless of party issues or personal objections. Discretionary resource allocation must be managed judiciously or the people’s trust in the AG will be diminished.

Mr. Jepsen: AGs take seriously our responsibility to enforce the laws as written.  We defend State laws from Constitutional challenges. In some cases, I have defended laws that I would not have voted for, but I defend it as required by law. The State AGs’ most important asset is credibility, doing what is right, even if some stakeholders want me to act differently.

The State AGs’ most important asset is credibility.

Mr. Kilmartin: Politics does not enter into the office of the AG. We are guided by the law. It is imperative to protect the integrity of the office. The AGs staff informs legislators if there is a constitutional issue with a law being drafted, or if it can be passed as written. The AG’s office does the legal analysis and ensures the ability to defend the law from Constitutional challenge. The legislature listens to the legal reasoning we present and this allows them to craft laws that are constitutionally sound. This is an essential function for the AG’s office.

There are areas where State AGs have found themselves in conflict with the law, for example, State AGs who refused to enforce gay marriage, because it conflicted with their personal beliefs, or those States that have legalized marijuana, while it is still a federally scheduled drug.  These situations can lead to haphazard law enforcement, which causes confusion and can compromise the integrity of the office. Immigration is another area where the lack of Federal action from Congress has left a void that State AGs are filling. States can be the leaders locally on key issues where the Federal government has not acted in the public interest.

Sen. Rich Wardner (ND): What can the State AGs do about intervening in the opioid crisis?

Mr. Jepsen: It appears that physicians did not have intent to harm when they over-prescribed opioids for chronic pain and other chronic conditions. But the pharmaceutical companies knew or should have known what the risks for addiction were. They understated these risks.

Mr. Kilmartin: Legislative bodies can influence the opioid crisis by reasonable restrictions on opioid prescribing, not to restrict appropriate medical practice, but rather, to limit initial prescription to 5 days, use Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs to monitor opioid use. Dentists also prescribe a lot of opioids. If the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not act to control the epidemic, then the States will need to do it.

Sen. Peter Courtney (OR): Just what does a State Attorney General do that isn’t covered by District Attorneys or other legal agents in the State?

Mr. Kilmartin: The AGs have different levels of authority, areas of jurisdictions, and roles in different States. In general, the AG defends the State, State agencies, and the police, whenever law suits are brought against them.

Mr. Jepsen: State AGs enforce the laws of the State and act as lawyers for the State. AGs are the only lawyers who can go before the Court to defend the States. Importantly, the AGs are also empowered to act in the public interest.

Mr. Reyes: It can take 7-10 years to have a case resolved by US Attorneys General. For State AGs, cases are resolved in 7 months. The bottom line is that State AGs help the States enact better, stronger laws for the public good.

Speaker Biographies

Peter F. Kilmartin

Peter Kilmartin was elected the 73rd Attorney General of Rhode Island on November 4, 2010. His promise to enhance the economic security of Rhode Island, protect the public safety of our communities and families and restore the public trust in state government resonated with the people of Rhode Island.

A native Rode Islander and former police officer, Peter Kilmartin has continued to focus on Rhode Islanders’ safety and security since being elected Attorney General. He has strongly advocated for longer prison sentences and stiffer penalties for criminals. He successfully changed the state’s “Good Time” law, prohibiting those who commit heinous crimes against children to earn time off for good behavior while incarcerated. He has advocated for stronger and stiffer sentences for people who illegally possess and use firearms, as well as those who engage in gang activity.

Attorney General Kilmartin has established specialized prosecution units that focus on specific crimes and victims. The office is active in the Veteran’s Court, with setting the goal of successfully rehabilitating veterans by diverting them from the traditional criminal justice system and providing them the tools they will need to lead a productive, law-abiding life. In addition, Attorney General Kilmartin established a Child Abuse Unit, led by prosecutors, victim advocates and support staff, all trained to handle the emotional and psychological effects associated with physical and sexual abuse of children. He led the way to bring greater transparency to government, and has filed multiple lawsuits against public bodies for violating the state’s public access laws.

He serves in several leadership positions with the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), including liaison to the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP), vice-chair for the Eastern Region, co-chair for NAAG’s Criminal Law Committee and serves on the Law Enforcement and Prosecutorial Relations Working Group and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Sean D. Reyes

Sean Reyes has been Utah Attorney General since his appointment on December 30, 2013, by Governor Gary R. Herbert. General Reyes was faced with the challenge of restoring public trust in the Utah Attorney General’s Office (AGO), where accusations of wrongdoing and abuse of power beset his two predecessors.

In the first months of his administration, he commissioned outside investigations and audits to shine a light on misconduct in the AGO, streamline budgets and expenditures, and improve infrastructure and client satisfaction. Reyes quickly reestablished credibility at the highest ranks of the office. He demonstrated his commitment to hire and promote based solely on merit, diffusing perceptions of cronyism or political favoritism.

Armed with a top-flight executive team largely recruited from the private sector, and committed leadership within the office, General Reyes has created renewed excitement among the lawyers and professionals of the AGO to match the increased trust of the public in his office. Reyes has been lauded by legislators from both sides of the aisle for his work ethic and legal acumen and won praise from the Governor and his Cabinet for increased excellence and transparency in the AGO.

At the time of his inauguration, several cases of national interest, including those regarding the definition of marriage, polygamy and immigration were awaiting his direction and leadership. While very emotional and potentially divisive in nature, Reyes has approached each case with the same sense of dignity, professionalism, duty and respect that won him numerous awards and recognitions throughout his legal career. Along with many upgrades to infrastructure, technology and efficiencies to make his legal teams even better, he has also organized a Constitutional Law Section to prepare the AGO for many critical issues facing and likely to face Utah in the near future.

George Jepsen

George Jepsen is the 24th Attorney General to serve Connecticut since the office was established in 1897. He took office in 2011 and was re-elected in 2014 to a second term.

Attorney General Jepsen has focused on reducing healthcare costs by increasing transparency and competition, and preventing and deterring healthcare fraud. He advocated for stronger consumer protections in Connecticut's competitive electricity market. Among other initiatives, Jepsen created a Privacy & Data Security department to focus on data breach and privacy concerns; simplified the process for data breach reporting; consolidated staff to create an Antitrust and Government Program Fraud department; and has vigorously pursued antitrust, environmental, health care, and consumer protection issues.

Attorney General Jepsen concluded his one-year term as president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) in June, 2017. He also was a member of the NAAG executive committee that negotiated a $25 billion federal-state settlement in 2012—the largest in history—with the nation's five largest banks over mortgage foreclosure abuses.

Among other notable cases, Connecticut played a prominent role in the e-book pricing investigation that produced $166 million in consumer refunds, and a successful federal suit against Apple for its role in the anti-competitive scheme that netted $400 million for consumers. Connecticut led an intensive, 20-state investigation of financial rating agency Standard & Poor's for allegedly misrepresenting its analysis of structured securities, resulting in a $1.375 billion federal-state settlement in February 2015. Connecticut was one of six lead states in a coalition of more than 40 attorneys general that investigated Volkswagon for violations of state laws prohibiting unfair or deceptive trade practices. The investigation led to a $570 million settlement in June, 2016.

General Jepsen’s legislative record reflects strong advocacy for consumers, civil rights, the environment, protecting women from domestic violence, public safety, and a fair and competitive business climate.