North Carolina Attorney General

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Attorney General of North Carolina
Seal of the Attorney General of North Carolina.gif
Seal of the Attorney General
Josh Stein.jpg
Josh Stein

since January 1, 2017
Member ofCouncil of State
Term lengthFour years
Inaugural holderWaightstill Avery

The Attorney General of North Carolina is the elected head of the state's Department of Justice. The North Carolina Constitution provides for the election of the Attorney General to serve a four-year term. There is no limit on the number of terms a person may serve in the office.[1]

The current Attorney General, Democrat Josh Stein, assumed office on January 1, 2017.[2]


Attorney General's duties include providing legal representation and advice to all state agencies.[3]

The parameters of that duty have been the subject of some debate, when, for example, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder suggested that state Attorneys General should not squander their state's resources in defense of laws they know to be unconstitutional.[4] By statute, in defense of the public interest, the Attorney General may initiate legal action or intervene in proceedings before any courts, regulatory officers, agencies or bodies — either state or federal — on behalf of the state's agencies and citizens.[3] The Attorney General also renders legal opinions, either formally or informally, upon all questions of law submitted by the General Assembly, the Governor, or any other state officer. Attorney General opinions may be viewed online.[5]


The title "Attorney General" was used in colonial North Carolina as early as 1677, when George Durant was appointed by Governor John Jenkins. In theory, colonial Attorneys General represented the British Attorney General, who represented the Crown.

The first North Carolina Constitution (1776) established the office of state Attorney General. Like the state Governor, the Attorney General was at that time elected by the legislature, the North Carolina General Assembly. The first Attorney General for the independent state of North Carolina was Waightstill Avery, who served from 1777 to 1779. Two of Avery's successors, James Iredell and Alfred Moore, both served on the United States Supreme Court. Since 1868, the Attorney General has been elected by the people. At the same time, the Attorney General became a voting member of the Council of State, rather than the legal advisor to the council.

The North Carolina Department of Justice was created by the legislature in the early 1970s.

Occupants of the office often run for Governor of North Carolina or U.S. Senator, some of them successfully, such as former Governor Mike Easley, former Senator Robert B. Morgan, and the current Governor, Roy Cooper.

List of Attorneys General[edit]

The following is a list of Attorneys General of North Carolina and their term of office:[6][7]


  1. ^ ""Article III: Executive"". Archived from the original on 2017-03-27. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  2. ^ Doran, Will (1 January 2017). "Josh Stein sworn in as North Carolina attorney general". The News & Observer. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Chapter 114: Department of Justice"
  4. ^ Nunn, Sharon (2014-06-05). "U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder: State attorneys should question laws". The Daily Tar Heel. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  5. ^ "Legal Opinions" Archived 2017-08-16 at the Wayback Machine, North Carolina Department of Justice
  6. ^ Connor, R.D.D. (1913). A Manual of North Carolina (PDF). Raleigh: North Carolina Historical Commission. p. 444. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  7. ^ "The Legislative Manual and Political Register of the State of North Carolina". 1874. p. 444. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  8. ^ Reconstruction in North Carolina
  9. ^ a b Macfie, John (1994). "William Marcus Shipp". NCpedia.
  10. ^ NCpedia: Thomas Stephen Kenan
  11. ^ "Theodore Fulton Davidson". NCpedia.

External links[edit]