Bill Passes Senate Judiciary Committee To Give Top State Officials Say-So Over Filing Of Lawsuits

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to pass SB 2085 which changes the method used by the attorney general to determine whether it is in the state’s best interests to commence a civil lawsuit.

Specifically, the measure would give both the legislature, through joint resolution, and the governor, via executive order, authority to instruct the attorney general when to file such legal actions. Additionally, when the General Assembly is not in session, the speaker of the House and speaker of the Senate may, by joint agreement, direct the attorney general to file suit. The bill also allows the legislature and the governor to request that the attorney general move to dismiss a lawsuit and allows the legislature to employ outside special counsel.

“The attorney general is the state’s chief litigator, and he should be responsive to the people of Tennessee and their concerns,” stated Senator Brian Kelsey. “This bill makes the office of attorney general more accountable to the people.”

He said, "Over the past few years, Attorney General Robert Cooper has declined to file suit in a number of important lawsuits that either would have, or already have, benefited Tennesseans. One of the most prominent of those was the lawsuit filed to challenge Obamacare. One of the primary outcomes of that case was the United States Supreme Court ruling that states cannot be forced into an expansion of Medicaid. That has been viewed by many as win for Tennesseans, even though their state did not participate in the lawsuit."

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