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Minnesota Agencies

Information on Minnesota State Agencies, Boards, Task Forces, and Commissions

Compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library

Attorney General

Active dates:1849-

The Attorney General is the chief legal officer of the State of Minnesota. The Office provides legal representation to over 100 state agencies, boards, and commissions and represents the State of Minnesota in state and federal court and administrative hearings. In some cases, the Office provides legal assistance to rural county prosecutors in major felonies and criminal appeals. The Office enforces state consumer protection and antitrust laws, regulates charitable institutions, and advocates for people and small businesses in utilities matters.


The attorney general, established by the territorial act (codified in Laws 1849-1858 c5 s68-85), is the chief legal officer for the state and is the legal advisor to all state agencies, political subdivisions of the state, and the general public. The territorial attorney general was appointed in 1849 by President Zachary Taylor.

At statehood in 1858, the voters elected the first state attorney general for a four-year term, as specified in the state constitution (Minn. Const. Art. 5). Current statutes relating to the attorney general are in Chapter 8 of Minnesota Statutes. The attorney general is elected by the voters of the state on a partisan ballot. Intra-term vacancies are filled by primary or special election.

The attorney general also serves on the Executive Council and the Land Exchange and Pardon boards. The attorney general and assistant attorneys represent and advise all state agencies, boards, and commissions in matters of civil and criminal law; appear on the state's behalf in federal and state courts; issue formal opinions interpreting statutes; draft legislation and administrative rules; and respond to citizens' questions and concerns with written opinions. The office consists of 21 divisions which offer direct assistance to the public, and which handle cases involving constitutional challenges, affirmative action and human rights complaints, tax and banking law, environmental law, consumer protection matters, criminal prosecutions, antitrust litigation, health and education law, land condemnation and acquisition, energy and utilities regulation, Indian affairs, and various other issues. The attorney general's staff includes deputy attorneys general and assistant attorneys general who are authorized to appear in place of the attorney general before grand juries and in all state courts. (Source: Minnesota State Archives)

Agency heads:

Territorial attorneys general: Lorenso A. Babcock, 1849-1853; Lafayette Emmett, 1853-1858
State attorneys general: Charles H. Berry, 1858-1860; Gordon E. Cole, 1860-1866; William Colville, 1866-1868; F. R. E. Cornell, 1868-1874; George P. Wilson, 1874-1880; Charles M. Start, 1880-1881; William John Hahn, 1881-1887; Moses E. Clapp, 1887-1893; Henry Warren Childs, 1893-1899; Wallace Barton Douglas, 1899-1904; William J. Donahower, 1904-1905; Edward T. Young, 1905-1909; George T. Simpson, 1909-1912; Lyndon A. Smith, 1912-1918; Clifford L. Hilton, 1918-1927; Albert F. Pratt, 1927-1928; G. Aaron Youngquist, 1928-1929; Henry N. Benson, 1929-1933; Harry H. Peterson, 1933-1936; William S. Ervin, 1936-1939; Joseph Alfred Arner Burnquist, 1939-1955; Miles Lord, 1955-1960; Walter F. Mondale, 1960-1964; Robert W. Mattson, 1964-1966; Douglas M. Head, 1967-1970; Warren Spannaus, 1971-1982; Hubert H. (Skip) Humphrey, III, 1983-1998; Mike Hatch, 1999-2006; Lori Swanson, 2007-2018; Keith Ellison, 2019- 


Lori Swanson was elected Attorney General of the State of Minnesota in 2006, and reelected in 2010 and 2014. She was the first woman elected Minnesota's Attorney General.

Note: The Legislative Reference Library may have additional reports on or by this group available through our catalog.
News clippings and documents. Agencies Notebook Collection, 1969-2019.
Record last updated: 01/31/2019

All information on this group from the Library’s collection of agency notebooks has been digitized. These materials are incorporated into the “documents/articles” section of the record. Please contact a librarian with any questions. The Minnesota Agencies database is a work in progress.

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