Roles and Responsibilities. The Attorney General is the chief legal officer and chief law enforcement officer of the State of Hawaii. The Attorney General is appointed by the Governor. 180 attorneys and over 500 professional and support personnel assist the Attorney General in fulfilling the responsibilities of the office.
Personally or through deputy attorneys general, the Attorney General (1) appears for the State in civil and criminal cases when the State is a party; (2) investigates violations of state laws, and initiates civil and criminal actions to enforce the laws or prosecute persons who violate them; (3) prepares legal opinions for the Governor, the Legislature, and the heads of state departments; (4) advises state officials on legal matters so that they may faithfully execute their duties and responsibilities; and (5) defends and represents state officials and employees when they are sued for actions they have taken or are about to take in connection with their state positions.
In addition, the Department of the Attorney General (1) administers the State’s Child Support Enforcement program to obtain child support payments for Hawaii’s children, and conducts administrative proceedings to establish paternity and adjust support obligations; (2) plans and implements crime prevention programs and activities like McGruff the Crime Dog; (3) secures and disseminates financial and other resources to support law enforcement and the criminal and juvenile justice systems; (4) gathers information, records, and statistics, and maintains information and communications systems to support law enforcement and the criminal and juvenile justice systems; (5) administers the State’s sex offender registration system; and (6) commissions notaries public.
The scope of our law practice is wide and varied. We are the largest law firm in Hawaii, and have offices on Oahu, the Big Island, Kauai, and Maui.
Criminal Justice. Although the county prosecuting attorneys bring most of the criminal prosecutions in Hawaii, the prosecutors act under the authority of the Attorney General, and deputy attorneys general also prosecute persons who commit crimes. We have primary responsibility for prosecuting fraud in the areas of Medicaid, tax, unemployment insurance, welfare, and workers compensation. We prosecute multi-county crime, crimes involving state agencies and officials, and cases that county prosecutors cannot prosecute because of conflicts or other reasons.
Our specialized criminal justice programs include the Asset Forfeiture Unit, the Drug Nuisance Abatement Program, the Environmental Crimes Unit, the Missing Child Center-Hawaii, the Tobacco Enforcement Unit, and the Hawaii Internet and Technology Crimes Unit, which represents the Hawaii High Technology Crime Unit and the Hawaii Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Civil Litigation. The Attorney General represents and defends state agencies and officials when the State or its agencies or officials sue or are sued. Civil suits are regularly brought on behalf of the State and its agencies and officials to collect delinquent loans, accounts, and overdue fines and fees, to recover salary and program overpayments, to enforce contracts and liens, and to recover damages for losses suffered as a result of other people’s acts. We also bring civil actions to enforce or stop violations of anti-trust, tax, licensing, environmental and other regulatory laws.
We bring actions in the Family Court to protect children who are abused or truant, persons who are mentally ill and pose a danger to themselves or others, and adults in need of guardians. The Attorney General is also responsible for supervising charitable trusts.
The bulk of our civil practice, however, is devoted to defending the State and state officials against claims for violations of federal law, improper execution of state laws, or money damages for property loss, personal injury or death.
Administrative Law. Deputy attorneys general appear before or advise most of the state boards and commissions, including the Board of Education, the Board of Land and Natural Resources, the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board, the Labor Relations Board, the Water Commission, the Land Use Commission, and the licensing and regulatory boards of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.
Advice and Counsel. Most of our time is spent reviewing legislation, rules, deeds, contracts and other legal documents, interpreting laws, and providing legal advice and counsel to state officials to assist them in performing their functions and tasks.