ATTORNEY GENERAL

ORIGIN & FUNCTIONS


[photo, St. Paul Plaza, 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, Maryland] In Maryland, the office of Attorney General was established by the Constitution of 1776 (sec. 48). The office was abolished by Constitutional amendment in 1817, (Chapter 247, Acts of 1816, ratified 1817). The General Assembly in 1818 recreated the office by statute (Chapter 146, Acts of 1817). By 1851, the Attorney General's duties were fulfilled by a state's attorney in each county and in Baltimore City (Const. 1851, Art. V, sec. 3). The office of Attorney General was reestablished by the Constitution of 1864 (Art. V, sec. 1).

St. Paul Plaza, 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, Maryland, January 2001. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


The Attorney General heads the Office of the Attorney General (formerly known as the State Law Department) which was established in 1916 (Chapter 560, Acts of 1916). The Attorney General serves as legal counsel to the Governor, the General Assembly, the Judiciary, and to all State agencies, except the State Ethics Commission, which appoints its own counsel; the Commission on Civil Rights; and the Public Service Commission, whose counsel are appointed by the Governor. The Attorney General may render an opinion on any legal subject or matter upon the request of the Governor, the General Assembly (or its member), or a State agency (Code State Government Article, secs. 6-101 through 6-406).

In all matters in which interests of the State of Maryland are involved, the Attorney General and assistant attorneys general represent the State. This includes litigation in the Court of Appeals, the Court of Special Appeals, the Circuit Courts, and the District Court of Maryland, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Circuit Courts, and the United States District Courts. Administrative rules and regulations promulgated by most State officers or agencies must be submitted to the Attorney General for review before they may become effective. The Office of the Attorney General also enforces the State's antitrust, consumer protection and securities laws, and conducts criminal prosecutions and appeals.

Clerks of court, registers of wills, sheriffs, and state's attorneys of the counties and Baltimore City are represented by the Attorney General's Office. Yet, the Office does not represent boards or officials of the counties or Baltimore City that employ their own counsel, such as boards of education, or boards of elections (except in Baltimore City).

By law, the Attorney General chairs the Maryland Cybersecurity Council. Further, the Attorney General serves on the Board of State Canvassers; the Commission on Correctional Standards; the Correctional Training Commission; the Criminal Justice Information Advisory Board; State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy; the Governor's Family Violence Council; the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council; the Police Training Commission; the Council for the Procurement of Health, Educational and Social Services; the State Prosecutor Selection and Disabilities Commission; the Maryland State Employees Surety Bond Committee; the State Board of Victim Services; the State's Attorneys' Coordination Council; and the Joint Enforcement Task Force on Workplace Fraud. The Attorney General also is a member of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council of Baltimore City, and the Governing Board of the Maryland Center for School Safety.

The Attorney General is elected by the voters to a four-year term (Const., Art. V, sec. 1). The number of consecutive terms which an Attorney General may serve is not limited. The Attorney General must be a citizen of the State and a qualified voter who has resided and practiced law in Maryland for at least ten years prior to election. Though not specified by law, the Attorney General by custom takes office in early January, following the election.


CHIEF DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Chief Deputy Attorney General oversees Administration, the General Assembly Counsel, the Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit, Legislative Affairs and Civil Rights; Professional Development and Planning; Public Finance; the Tobacco Enforcement Unit and five divisions: Civil Litigation; Contract Litigation; Educational Affairs; Health Decisions Policy; and Opinions, Advice and Legislation. The Chief Deputy Attorney General also is responsible for assistant attorneys general assigned to certain State government agencies.


CONTRACT LITIGATION DIVISION

The Contract Litigation Division formed in 1983. The Division represents State agencies, particularly the Department of General Services, the Department of Transportation, and the University System of Maryland in litigation over disputes relating to State contracts and the award of State contracts under the State General Procurement Law. The Division advises agencies on procurement issues, such as the structuring of procurement solicitations, drafting of contract provisions and procurement regulations, the proper formulation of State claims, and State response to contractor claims.


EDUCATIONAL AFFAIRS DIVISION

In 1979, the Educational Affairs Division began as the Educational Affairs Section. It reorganized as a division in 1984. The Division represents all State educational agencies, institutions, boards, and commissions, including the State Department of Education, the University System of Maryland, the Maryland Higher Education Commission, Morgan State University, St. Mary's College of Maryland, Baltimore City Community College, and the Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission. As counsel to these schools and agencies, Division attorneys conduct court litigation and administrative proceedings, and provide advice and preventive law counseling.


HEALTH DECISIONS POLICY DIVISION

Within the Office of Attorney General, the Health Decisions Policy Division was created in 1998.

To health care providers, and patients and their families, the Division provides information and advice about health care planning, including advance directives, appointment of health care proxies, and end-of-life care. The Division also supports initiatives on issues related to individual rights in the health care system, and provides legal opinions and letters of advice concerning the provisions of the Health Care Decisions Act (Chapter 372, Acts of 1993; Code Health-General, sec. 5-601 to 5-626).


GENERAL ASSEMBLY COUNSEL

Legislative Services Building, 90 State Circle, Annapolis, MD 21401

Created in 1976, the Office of the General Assembly Counsel provides prompt and authoritative legal advice to legislators, General Assembly support units, and the Governor's legislative office. The Office reviews for constitutionality and legal sufficiency all bills passed by the General Assembly and defends them in court when necessary. The Office also participates in significant constitutional and civil rights litigation.


JUVENILE JUSTICE MONITORING UNIT

The Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit originated in October 2002 as the Office of the Independent Juvenile Justice Monitor within the Office for Children, Youth, and Families (Chapter 255, Acts of 2002). At that time, the Office oversaw the residential facilities where youth who were serious and chronic offenders were confined. Formerly, these residential facilities were supervised by the Department of Juvenile Justice. Later, the Office of the Independent Juvenile Justice Monitor evaluated the process by which the Department of Juvenile Services monitored these residential facilities. The Office also reviewed the treatment of youth, examining allegations of child abuse or neglect in the facilities. In addition, the Office evaluated services to youth, and the physical conditions of each facility.

In February 2006, the Office of the Independent Juvenile Justice Monitor transferred to the Office of Attorney General, and was renamed the Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit (Chapter 12, Acts of 2006). The Unit investigates the needs of children under the jurisdiction of the Department of Juvenile Services and determines whether those needs are being met in compliance with State law, that the rights of children are being upheld, and that the children are not being abused. To that end, the Unit evaluates the condition of facilities housing detained juvenile offenders, the treatment of and services to youths, and child advocacy grievance processes.


PEOPLE'S INSURANCE COUNSEL DIVISION

The People's Insurance Counsel Division was created in 2005 (Chapter 5, Acts of Special Session of 2004). Before the Insurance Commissioner, and State and federal courts, the Division represents the interests of Maryland insurance consumers.

Matters pending before the Insurance Commissioner are evaluated by the Division to determine whether the interests of insurance consumers are affected adversely. To guard against excessive or unfair rate-making, the Division must review any proposal increase of 10 percent or more filed by a medical professional liability insurer or homeowner insurer. The Division has rights of counsel to a party in any proceeding.

The People's Insurance Counsel Fund pays the expenses of the Division. The Fund is financed by an assessment on insurers.

Appointed by the Attorney General with Senate advice and consent, the People's Insurance Counsel must be an attorney-at-law of the State, have expertise in the insurance business, and may not have an official relationship with or pecuniary interest in an insurer (Code State Government Article, secs. 6-301 through 6-308).


DIVISION OF SECURITIES

The Division of Securities was established in 1962 (Chapter 1, Acts of 1962; Code Corporations & Associations Article, secs. 11-201 through 11-207). The main purpose of the Division is to protect Maryland investors from investment fraud and misrepresentation.

The principal executive officer of the Division is the Securities Commissioner, who is appointed by the Attorney General. The Securities Commissioner and the Division administer and enforce three Maryland laws: the Maryland Securities Act; the Franchise Registration and Disclosure Law; and the Business Opportunities Sales Act. Administration of these acts involves a substantive scheme of regulation imposed by statute and by rule requiring the registration of investment opportunities prior to their offer and sale to the public. Through a comprehensive statutory framework imposing administrative, civil and criminal standards, the Division enforces these laws. The Division uses investigatory powers, administrative hearings and administrative orders, litigation in State and federal courts, and cooperative efforts with state's attorneys and assistant attorneys general in criminal matters.

Business Opportunities. Business opportunities are prepackaged small business deals offered mainly to novice entrepreneurs. Under the Maryland Business Opportunity Acts, such "deals" are regulated by the Division (Code Business Regulation Article, secs. 14-101 through 14-129).

Financial Planners. Under the federal National Securities Markets Improvement Act of 1996, investment advisors must register with the Division.

Franchises. Under the Franchise Registration and Disclosure Law, any person or company intending to offer or sell franchises within Maryland or to Maryland residents must register the offering with the Division (Code Business Regulation Article, secs. 14-201 through 14-233).

Securities. Under the Securities Act, a licensing requirement (subject to annual renewals) is imposed on persons engaged in the sale of securities (Code Corporations & Associations Article, secs. 11-301 through 11-805).

Stockbrokers. Any broker-dealer (stock brokerage firm) that solicits or conducts business in Maryland must register with the Division (Code Corporations & Associations Article, secs. 11-401 through 11-417).


DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Deputy Attorney General oversees the Office of Courts and Judicial Affairs, the Attorney General's Environmental Advisory Council; Communications; the Internet Privacy Unit; Multimedia Services; and Victim Services, as well as seven divisions: Antitrust; Consumer Protection; Criminal; Criminal Appeals; Health Occupations Prosecution and Litigation; People's Insurance Counsel; and Securities. The Deputy Attorney General also oversees assistant attorneys general assigned to certain State government agencies.


INTERNET PRIVACY UNIT
To protect the privacy of on-line users, the Attorney General formed the Internet Privacy Unit in January 2013.

The Unit monitors companies to ensure compliance with State and federal consumer protection laws, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) which restricts companies from collecting personal information of children under 13 years old. The Unit also examines weaknesses in on-line privacy policies and works to inform businesses and consumers about privacy rights. Where appropriate, the Unit pursues enforcement actions to ensure that the privacy of consumers is protected.

CIVIL LITIGATION DIVISION

Formed in 1986 from the Criminal Appeals Division, the Civil Litigation Division represents Maryland State government and State employees in major federal and State civil lawsuits. By advising or acting as co-counsel, Division attorneys help agency counsel involved in or contemplating litigation. The Division reviews civil complaints for potential suits to be filed by the State, and all federal and State civil appellate briefs. The Division also approves the payment of all settlements and judgments.

CORRECTIONAL LITIGATION UNIT
Within the Civil Litigation Division, the Correctional Litigation Unit is responsible for the representation of state's attorneys in any lawsuit challenging their official actions, and of sheriffs where the matter involves correctional matters. The Unit also represents State officials and employees who are sued in State or federal courts by prisoners for violations of their constitutional rights in Maryland prisons.


ANTITRUST DIVISION

The Antitrust Division was created in 1972 (Chapter 357, Acts of 1972). The Division enforces the Maryland Antitrust Act which governs restraints of trade, unfair competition, monopolies, and other acts or practices that restrain or tend to restrain trade and commerce within the State. The Act calls for both civil and criminal enforcement of its provisions and permits the Attorney General to cooperate with officials of the federal government and the several states in enforcing antitrust laws (Code Commercial Law Article, secs. 11-201 through 11-213).


DIVISION OF CONSUMER PROTECTION

Organized in 1967, the Division of Consumer Protection oversees the control and regulation of unfair and deceptive trade practices (Chapter 388, Acts of 1967). Through court litigation, administrative hearings, complaint mediation, and arbitration, it enforces civil remedies. The Division also recommends legislation to the Governor and the General Assembly to protect the public from fraudulent schemes and promotions.

Information about violations of laws affecting consumers is reported by the Division to other law enforcement authorities. Publishing educational materials for the public, the Division encourages business and industry to maintain high standards of honesty, fair business practices, and public responsibility in the production, promotion, and sale of consumer goods and services (Code Commercial Law Article, secs. 13-101 through 13-501).

The Division oversees seven units: Education; Enforcement; Health Club Registration; Health Education and Advocacy; Home Builder and Home Builder Sales Representative Registration; Investigative; and Mediation. In addition, the Consumer Council assists the Division.

HEALTH CLUB REGISTRATION UNIT
The Health Club Registration Unit started under the Division of Consumer Protection in 1986. The Unit registers Maryland health clubs and ensures that they are properly bonded (Code Commercial Law Article, secs. 14-12B-01 through 14-12B-08).

HEALTH EDUCATION & ADVOCACY UNIT
Within the Division of Consumer Protection, the Health Education and Advocacy Unit began in 1986 (Chapters 296 and 565, Acts of 1986). The Unit implements an educational and advocacy program enabling citizens to make informed choices in the health marketplace and participate in decisions concerning their health care.

The Unit helps people understand their health-care bills and third-party coverage, identify improper billing or coverage determinations, and report such problems to appropriate agencies, insurers, or providers. The Unit may refer concerns raised about health care to professional, licensing or disciplinary bodies. To government officers and agencies, the Unit also may recommend measures for promoting the interests of consumers in the health marketplace.

HOME BUILDER & HOME BUILDER SALES REPRESENTATIVE REGISTRATION UNIT
The Home Builder Registration Unit was established within the Division of Consumer Protection in January 2001 and assumed its present name in October 2008 (Chapter 522, Acts of 2000; Chapters 480 & 481, Acts of 2008; Code Business Regulation Article, secs. 4.5-201 through 4.5-203). The Unit maintains a list of all persons registered to build new homes. All new home builders and home builder sales representatives must register with the Unit.

The Division of Consumer Protection administers the Home Builder Registration Fund which is used to cover the costs of administering and enforcing the Maryland Home Builder Registration Act (Code Business Regulation Article, sec. 4.5-203). Beginning in January 2009, the Division also administers the Home Builder Guaranty Fund, which compensates eligible claimants for losses incurred by actions or omissions of a registered home builder or home builder sales representative (Chapters 480 & 481, Acts of 2008).

INVESTIGATIVE UNIT
In cases involving unfair or deceptive trade practices, the Investigative Unit investigates and brings actions, when appropriate.

MEDIATION UNIT
The Mediation Unit was created from the merger of the Arbitration Unit and the Complaint Handling Unit in 1997. The Unit conciliates disputes between consumers and businesses (Code Commercial Law Article, secs. 13-401, 13-402).


OFFICE OF COURTS & JUDICIAL AFFAIRS

The Office of Courts and Judicial Affairs represents and advises the Judicial Branch of State government. As such, it serves as counsel to the Court of Appeals, the Court of Special Appeals, each Circuit Court, the District Court of Maryland, and the 22 Orphans' Courts. The Office also represents and advises the clerks of each court (including the elected Clerk of the Circuit Court for each county), and the Registers of Wills for each county, as well as individual State judges. Moreover, the Office advises and represents court-related agencies, such as the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, the Commission on Judicial Disabilities, the Attorney Grievance Commission, the Client Protection Fund, and the State Board of Law Examiners. In addition, the Office represents certain independent executive agencies that perform quasi-judicial functions, such as the Maryland Tax Court and the Office of Administrative Hearings.

CRIMINAL DIVISION

Formed in 1982 as the Criminal Investigations Division, the Criminal Division was restructured under its present name in February 2007. It is authorized by the Governor to investigate and prosecute a broad range of criminal acts occurring against and within State government (Const., Art. V, sec. 3).

Crimes by State employees, fraud against the State, multicounty frauds, public corruption, and criminal violations of State tax laws are the focus of the Division. The Division also investigates and prosecutes white collar crime, gun trafficking, insurance fraud, and multi-jurisdictional crimes. Moreover, the Division assists state's attorneys when they need additional resources or special expertise in a complex criminal investigation.

Under the Criminal Division are five main units: Environmental Crimes; Firearms Trafficking; Gang Prosecution; Insurance Fraud; and Medicaid Fraud Control.

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES UNIT
The Environmental Crimes Unit investigates and prosecutes environmental crimes. The Unit consists of prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office, and investigators from the Department of State Police.

FIREARMS TRAFFICKING UNIT
Within the Criminal Division, the Firearms Trafficking Unit was established in 2010.

GANG PROSECUTION UNIT
The Gang Prosecution Unit was created within the Criminal Division in 2010.

MEDICAID FRAUD CONTROL UNIT
The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit organized in 1978. In February 2007, it moved under the Criminal Division. The Unit investigates and, where appropriate, prosecutes allegations of fraud by physicians, dentists, nursing homes, hospitals, pharmacies, and other health care providers receiving funds from the Maryland Medical Assistance Program (Medicaid). The Unit also investigates and prosecutes the abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults residing in Medicaid-funded facilities. Seventy-five percent of the operating funds of the Unit come from federal sources.


CRIMINAL APPEALS DIVISION

The Criminal Appeals Division commenced in 1965 as the Criminal Division. By 1978, it reorganized as the Criminal Appeals and Correctional Litigation Division. It became the Criminal Appeals Division in 1986.

The Division represents the State in all criminal matters before the appellate courts of Maryland and the federal courts at all levels, including the U.S. District Court, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court. The Division also advises state's attorneys and other law enforcement personnel on legal matters.


HEALTH OCCUPATIONS PROSECUTION & LITIGATION DIVISION

300 West Preston St., Suite 201, Baltimore, MD 21201

The Health Occupations Prosecution and Litigation Division formed in August 2010.

The Divison prosecutes disciplinary cases against health care professionals referred by the professional licensing boards of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Most cases concern violations of standards of care, unprofessional conduct, substance abuse, incompetence, and fraud.

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