Under Montana law, the Attorney General is the state’s chief legal officer, chief law enforcement officer, and director of the Montana Department of Justice. As the State’s chief legal officer, the Attorney General is responsible for representing and defending Montana’s legal positions and Montana’s laws with other sovereign governments such as the federal government and other states.
Montana’s Constitution provides that “[t]he attorney general is the legal officer of the state and shall have the duties and powers provided by law.” Mont. Const. Art. VI, § 4(4). The delegates to the 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention made the Attorney General an independent elected official responsible to the people of Montana, and not to the Governor or any other elected official.
The Attorney General controls and manages all litigation on behalf of the State, and may also intervene in all suits or proceedings which are of concern to the general public. The Attorney General’s legal views and opinions prevail when a conflict arises between state agencies and officers whom the Attorney General represents.
The Attorney General also has supervisory authority over the State’s 56 county attorneys and, at the request of local, state or federal law enforcement agencies, can investigate criminal violations of law.
The Attorney General’s authority, duties, and responsibilities also include:
- Authority and control over all legal actions concerning state lands. Mont. Code Ann. § 77-1-111.
- Authority to provide legal opinions – which carry the weight of law – to the Legislature; to state officers, boards or commissions; to city attorneys and to county commissioners and county attorneys. Mont. Code Ann. § 2-15-501.
- Authority to review and approve all state agreements and contracts with Montana’s sovereign tribal nations. Mont. Code Ann. § 18-11-105.
- Limited authority to review all ballot initiatives and referenda for “legal sufficiency,” and to approve ballot statements. Mont. Code Ann. § 13-27-312, 315.
- Establish and maintain a criminal justice information telecommunications network for connecting federal, state, county, and city law enforcement agencies. Mont. Code Ann. § 44-2-301.
- Provide legal advice and services to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Mont. Code Ann. § 87-1-105.
- Provide legal advice and services to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. Mont. Code. Ann. §§ 50-1-102, 53-2-202.
- Review referrals of complaints filed by Montana National Guard members who allege employer discrimination in violation of the Montana Military Service Employment Rights Act. Mont. Code Ann. § 10-1-1018.
- Authority and control over all legal actions to recover state corporate income taxes due. Mont. Code Ann. § 15-31-526.
- Authority and control over all legal actions involving contract actions involving the State. Mont. Code Ann. § 18-1-413.
- Act as attorney for the Montana Public Service Commission and appear as legal counsel for the Commission in all legal actions. Mont. Code Ann. §§ 69-3-110, 69-14-132.
- Enforce a beneficiary’s rights under a charitable trust. Mont. Code Ann. § 72-38-221.
- Prosecute criminal actions for violations of Montana’s unemployment insurance laws. Mont. Code Ann. § 39-51-309.
- Prosecute all public offenses involving a state agency as reported by the Montana Legislative Auditor. Mont. Code Ann. § 5-13-310.
- Investigate and prosecute Medicaid fraud. Mont. Code Ann. § 53-6-156.
- Provide legal advice and services for Montana’s Workers’ Compensation Fund (State Fund), and prosecute all workers’ compensation fraud cases. Mont. Code Ann. §§ 2-15-2015, 39-71-206.
- Act as legal counsel for the Montana Public Employees Retirement System Board. Mont. Code Ann. § 19-2-401.
- Represent the State in all bankruptcy matters involving debts owed to the State. Mont. Code Ann. § 2-15-503.
- Ensure the resolution of issue remarks on water rights claims to protect the accuracy of the Montana General Stream Adjudication. Mont. Code Ann. § 85-2-248(7).
The above list is not intended to be a complete compilation of all authority, duties, and responsibilities of the Attorney General.
Although the Attorney General is the chief legal officer for the State, many legal issues and questions fall outside the jurisdiction of the Attorney General’s office, including the following:
- The Attorney General cannot represent citizens in private legal matters, and cannot give citizens legal advice. The State Bar of Montana or the Montana Legal Services Association may be able to offer referrals or other information.
- The Attorney General does not have the authority to address complaints against private attorneys. Complaints should be addressed to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, 301 South Park Ave., Suite 334, Helena, MT 59601, or phone (406) 442-1648.
- Likewise, the Attorney General does not have authority over Montana judges. If a citizen has a complaint about improper or unethical conduct involving a judge, he or she should contact the Judicial Standards Commission, Court Administration Office, P.O. Box 203002, Helena, MT 59620-3002.
- The Attorney General does not direct or supervise state agencies other than the Department of Justice. Complaints about state agencies should be directed to the specific agency’s director or to the office of the Governor.
You may contact the Office of the Attorney General by phone, fax, U.S. Mail and e-mail. Please include your name and mailing address so that we can provide you with complete information when responding to your inquiry.
Office of the Attorney General
Montana Department of Justice
P.O. Box 201401
Helena, MT 59620-1401
Phone: (406) 444-2026
Fax: (406) 444-3549