Former New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (Photo: Getty Images)

The New York State Attorney General's office was central to the news this week, with the resignation of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman following charges of physical abuse. On Wednesday, New York State Solicitor General Barbara Underwood was sworn in as acting attorney general and said the office's work would continue "without interruption." But what does the attorney general do, exactly?

What does the Attorney General do?

In the U.S, each state has an Attorney General as does the United States overall.

An Attorney General is essentially a jurisdiction's head lawyer, responsible for legally advising the government and representing the jurisdiction and its citizens.

The National Association of Attorneys General say an attorney general's powers may "include the authority to issue formal opinions to state agencies; act as public advocates in areas such as child support enforcement, consumer protections, antitrust and utility regulation; propose legislation; enforce federal and state environmental laws; represent the state and state agencies before the state and federal courts; handle criminal appeals and serious statewide criminal prosecutions; institute civil suits on behalf of the state; represent the public's interests in charitable trust and solicitations; and operate victim compensation programs."

 

In the past several months, the New York State Attorney General's Office has made headlines for high-profile investigations and lawsuits in the consumer-protection sphere and against the federal government. Last month, New York joined 17 state attorneys general and six cities in suing the federal government to prevent a question about citizenship status on the 2020 census.

Earlier this year, Schneiderman and 22 sued the federal government to block the rollback of net neutrality, arguing that it would be detrimental to the lives of New Yorkers. Underwood has already issued a statement on the matter, saying, “A free and open internet is critical to New York, and to our democracy ... This office has proudly led the suit to block this illegal rollback of net neutrality – and we certainly won’t stop now. We look forward to making our case in court."

Underwood likewise issued a statement reiterating New York's support of the Clean Power Plan, which the Trump administration intends to quash. New York has joined a coalition of 17 states, Washington, D.C. and six local jurisdictions suing to protect the plan.

On the non-federal level, the New York State Attorney General has recently sued state and local businesses for illegal treatment of customers and employees; announced the breakup of an intrastate fentanyl ring; indicted members of organized crime; and won penalties against companies accused of exploiting consumers in areas related to lending and health care.