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James Tierney

  • At 66, Elizabeth Strout Has Reached Maximum Productivity

    September 6, 2022

    Elizabeth Strout didn’t bat an eyelash when I admitted, moments after meeting her, that I’d snapped the handle off the toilet in her agent’s bathroom.

  • With Mass. attorney general Democratic primary down to two, crucial question emerges: Who is more qualified?

    September 6, 2022

    To be the attorney general of Massachusetts, the “people’s lawyer” as the position is sometimes called, does it matter how much and what type of…

  • Abortion Is Shaking Up Attorneys General Races and Exposing Limits to Their Powers

    August 29, 2022

    As the country grapples with states’ newfound power to regulate abortion in the aftermath of this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, state attorney general candidates…

  • State Attorneys General Unite Against Robocalls

    August 29, 2022

    Nothing has been able to kill scam robocalls — not federal regulation, not individual state lawsuits, not private software. Each effort has made a dent,…

  • Under Maura Healey, the attorney general’s office sued the Trump administration nearly 100 times. Most of the time, she prevailed.

    August 16, 2022

    Donald Trump hadn’t even taken office before Attorney General Maura Healey vowed to fight him in court. In a November 2016 fund-raising appeal to supporters,…

  • Jim Tierney speaking to an audience.

    New law school casebook for teaching about state attorneys general

    June 21, 2022

    Harvard Law lecturer and former Maine attorney general Jim Tierney wants to demystify the inner workings of the state attorney general's office with a 'living text' to help students better understand this definitively American structure.

  • How State AGs Became a Check on the President

    September 30, 2021

    As soon as President Biden announced his plan to require large employers to mandate vaccines, Republicans vowed to block him. “I will pursue every legal option available to the state of Georgia to stop this blatantly unlawful overreach by the Biden administration,” tweeted Gov. Brian Kemp. ...They vowed to block it, although they have to wait for the federal rule to be finalized before going to court. “This is a serious and coordinated effort,” says Jim Tierney, who directs a clinic on attorneys general at Harvard Law School. “This cannot possibly be a surprise to the Biden administration.”

  • Rioters attempt to enter the U.S. Capitol at the House steps during a joint session of Congress

    Did implicit bias lead to breach of U.S. Capitol?

    January 8, 2021

    Harvard Law School’s James Tierney says police would have treated Black Lives Matter protesters differently.

  • As Covid cases soar, GOP state lawmakers keep fighting to limit governors’ power to respond

    November 16, 2020

    Coronavirus cases have surged to their highest levels yet, but conservative state legislators across the U.S. are fighting to limit governors’ ability to impose public health restrictions — and have succeeded in two states with rising caseloads in the heaviest hit region of the country. In public health emergencies, governors have broad powers to impose quarantines and other actions to stop the spread of disease. As emergency orders have stretched on for months, state lawmakers around the country have objected to what they say is governors’ unprecedented use of power for such an extended period of time. The efforts to limit their power have targeted governors across party lines, but those that have had the most success have been in states with Democratic governors and Republican-controlled legislatures...With more states imposing restrictions again to combat rapidly rising case rates, the number of challenges is only likely to increase. “As time has gone on, there's been Covid fatigue, and that’s resulted in more legal challenges,” said James Tierney, a Harvard Law School lecturer and director of its attorney general clinic. “Unfortunately, a lot of public health issues have become political and not scientific in the last three or four months.”

  • State attorneys general have sued Trump’s administration 138 times — nearly double those of Obama and Bush

    November 16, 2020

    During President Donald Trump's four years in office, his administration has sparred in court with state attorneys general over nearly every issue. Among the topics: the "travel ban"; the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA; family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border; the "national emergency" declaration to build the border wall; international student visas; student loan protections; clean water rules; transgender health care protections; automobile emissions; a citizenship question on the 2020 census; U.S. Postal Service operations; and Obamacare. If it seems like a lot, it is. A review of litigation against federal agencies during the Trump administration shows that state attorneys general have filed 138 multistate lawsuits since he took office...James Tierney, a Democratic former attorney general of Maine who is now a lecturer at Harvard Law School, said Trump has largely himself to blame for the flurry of lawsuits after he used executive orders and other directives to push his agenda, often bypassing Congress and administrative laws. "Depending on what President Biden does — and more importantly, how he does it — GOP AGs can be expected to sue," Tierney said. "How often and to what degree of success will depend on what President Biden actually does."

  • Election and Supreme Court Fight Will Decide Trump’s Environmental Legacy

    September 28, 2020

    President Trump has initiated the most aggressive environmental deregulation agenda in modern history, but as his first term drives to a close, many of his policies are being cut down by the courts — even by Republican-appointed jurists who the administration had hoped would be friendly. Those losses have actually heightened the stakes in the election and the fight over a replacement on the Supreme Court for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A second term, coupled with a 6-3 conservative majority on the high court, could save some of his biggest environmental rollbacks. Since January courts have dealt a series of blows to the Trump administration’s plans to ramp up fossil fuel development and undo decades of environmental protections. This month, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked implementation of a major rollback of methane emissions standards for the oil and gas industry while it considers permanent action... if Joseph R. Biden Jr. gets into the White House in January, he will have to provide a written explanation of the reasons he wants to roll back each Trump administration action. Eliminating Trump’s executive orders will be relatively easy, but going through the regulatory process all over again on issues like fuel efficiency...James E. Tierney, a former Maine attorney general who now teaches courses at Harvard Law School on the role of attorneys general, said that they are “institutionally designed to be independent watchdogs, independent brakes on power.” Their relative independence from executive power, whether in their own state or the federal government, goes back to the thirteen original colonies, and, before that, English common law. “If there’s a Democratic president, roll up your sleeves and wait for Texas to file lawsuits against President Biden,” he said.

  • Election and Supreme Court Fight Will Decide Trump’s Environmental Legacy

    September 23, 2020

    President Trump has initiated the most aggressive environmental deregulation agenda in modern history, but as his first term drives to a close, many of his policies are being cut down by the courts — even by Republican-appointed jurists who the administration had hoped would be friendly. Those losses have actually heightened the stakes in the election and the fight over a replacement on the Supreme Court for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A second term, coupled with a 6-3 conservative majority on the high court, could save some of his biggest environmental rollbacks. Since January courts have dealt a series of blows to the Trump administration’s plans to ramp up fossil fuel development and undo decades of environmental protections...In 2018, a federal judge in Montana ordered the Trump administration and TransCanada to stop work on the Keystone XL pipeline, saying Mr. Trump’s approval of the project violated laws by ignoring facts about climate change...He and other regulatory experts noted that if Joseph R. Biden Jr. gets into the White House in January, he will have to provide a written explanation of the reasons he wants to roll back each Trump administration action. Eliminating Trump’s executive orders will be relatively easy, but going through the regulatory process all over again on issues like fuel efficiency standards will take time. That would make lawsuits brought by Democratic attorneys general all the more important because they will have kept many rules from going into effect while their replacements wind their way through the regulatory process...James E. Tierney, a former Maine attorney general who now teaches courses at Harvard Law School on the role of attorneys general, said that they are “institutionally designed to be independent watchdogs, independent brakes on power.” Their relative independence from executive power, whether in their own state or the federal government, goes back to the thirteen original colonies, and, before that, English common law.

  • Postal Service Suspends Changes After Outcry Over Delivery Slowdown

    August 19, 2020

    Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, facing intense backlash over cost-cutting moves that Democrats, state attorneys general and civil rights groups warn could jeopardize mail-in voting, said on Tuesday that the Postal Service would suspend those operational changes until after the 2020 election. The measures, which included eliminating overtime for mail carriers, reducing post office hours and removing postal boxes, have been faulted for slowing mail delivery and criticized as an attempt to disenfranchise voters seeking to vote safely during the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. DeJoy, a major donor to President Trump who was tapped in May to run the Postal Service...said retail hours at the post office would not change, no mail processing facilities would be closed, and overtime would continue to be approved “as needed.” It was unclear, however, whether the agency would reverse measures already put in place across the country that union officials and workers say have inflicted deep damage to the Postal Service. That includes the removal of hundreds of mail-sorting machines, according to a June 17 letter sent from the Postal Service to the American Postal Workers Union. Some of those machines have already been destroyed, union officials and workers said. The announcement came as lawmakers summoned Mr. DeJoy to testify before the House and the Senate in the coming days and as two coalitions of at least 20 state attorneys general said they would file lawsuits against the Trump administration over the postal changes...The states plan to pursue their lawsuit despite Mr. DeJoy’s announcement on Tuesday. James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine and a professor at Harvard Law School, said the lawsuit provided assurance to the attorneys general that the postmaster general would follow through on his promise. “The attorneys general don’t trust the word of the Postal Service,” Mr. Tierney said. “They feel more comfortable having this done in open court.”

  • NRA Fraud Case Will Hurt But Won’t Kill Gun-Rights Behemoth

    August 10, 2020

    Though it ticks off detailed examples of wrongdoing, the New York lawsuit claiming donors to the National Rifle Association have been ripped off for years is likely to be settled without the gun-rights group being forced to dissolve, legal experts said. In a sweeping 164-page complaint on Thursday, New York Attorney General Letitia James said the NRA must be disbanded because of the “breadth and depth” of the frauds carried out by four current and former officials accused of squandering the non-profit’s cash on corrupt personal expenses. But that drastic measure is just a starting point that could serve to push the NRA to make major personnel concessions and pay steep fines to avoid the risk of going to trial or being forced to shutter the organization...The suit filed against the NRA in Manhattan alleges the New York-chartered group was duped out of more than $60 million in the last three years alone as a result of financial sleights of hand by four current and former officials, including the NRA’s embattled longtime leader and public face Wayne LaPierre. James is seeking an injunction that would bar the four men from ever serving as fiduciaries of nonprofits. She said they got inflated salaries, used NRA assets for extravagant spending and arranged no-show contracts for insiders -- claims the NRA vehemently denies...James Tierney, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who has taught courses on the role of state attorneys general, said the NRA’s suit is “foolish” and that the New York case is an “appropriate” response to the NRA’s refusal to cooperate. “This case has been developed by highly sophisticated people who’ve been in the business of charities regulation since long before Tish James,” said Tierney, who served as attorney general of Maine for a decade until 1990. “These people have gone through thousands of pages of documents and they’re accountants -- they’ve tracked all the numbers over the years.”

  • Maine quarantine ruling shows everything old is new again

    June 4, 2020

    An article by Peter Brann and James TierneyLast Friday, the partisan leadership at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington claimed that it knew better than Gov. Mills what should be done in Maine in the COVID-19 pandemic. They argued to a federal court in Maine that Gov. Mills’ emergency order mandating a 14-day self-quarantine for out-of-state visitors was unconstitutional (which is rich irony, given that they have also argued in favor of banning altogether persons in affected countries from even entering the country to slow the virus’ spread). Later the same day, U.S. District Judge Lance Walker rebuffed their efforts, finding: “The governor’s executive orders are informed by a desire to preserve public health in the face of a pandemic. Striking down the quarantine order would seriously undermine her efforts and, based on the current record, would effectively disregard the balance of powers established by our federal system.” The decision is preliminary, and so there is little doubt that the Justice Department will press its arguments, safe in the knowledge that they will not have to suffer the consequences if our parents, children and neighbors are infected by asymptomatic out-of-staters coming to Maine. If today’s Justice Department had only considered its own prior actions, it would know better.

  • The Constitution is not a suicide pact

    May 28, 2020

    An article by Peter Brann and James TierneyMaine is not immune from a virus that knows no borders as it sweeps across the world, stealing the lives of loved ones. To keep ourselves safe, we have also lost many of the things we hold dear, such as graduations, summer fairs and family get-togethers. To combat this plague, Gov. Janet Mills has invoked emergency powers to protect the health and safety of all Mainers. Every state governor has always had extensive emergency powers, and when they are invoked following hurricanes, tornados and other disasters, no one blinks an eye. Now we face the largest worldwide pandemic in more than a century, which has killed nearly 100,000 people in the United States and sickened more than 1,670,000 people in the United States (and more than 5,500,000 worldwide). A small minority nonetheless have gone to court to claim that Mills is violating their constitutional right to do whatever they want whenever they want, effectively claiming a constitutional right to endanger the rest of us. These lawsuits lack merit and mangle our national heritage. In the debate over whether to send troops to fight the Revolutionary War, Patrick Henry famously said, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Unfortunately, the critics challenging Mills’ emergency orders fighting the COVID-19 pandemic essentially misquote Henry, arguing instead, “Give me liberty and give me death!” Fortunately, the Constitution strikes a different balance.

  • Juul Labs sought to court AGs as teen vaping surged

    March 9, 2020

    It was a blunt warning about the dangers of youth vaping: Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced late last month that his state had joined 38 others to investigate whether Juul Labs, the nation’s largest electronic cigarette company, promoted and sold its nicotine-heavy products to teens. It was a moment Juul had worked to avoid...“It means they’re in a world of hurt,” James Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine who now teaches at Harvard Law School, said of the multistate investigation. “The states are not buying what Juul is selling, and they’re saying, ‘We need to go deeper.’”

  • Nevada Joins Other States In Fight Against E-Cig Maker

    February 26, 2020

    A coalition of 39 states, including Nevada will look into the marketing and sales of vaping products by Juul Labs, including whether the company targeted youths and made misleading claims about nicotine content in its devices, officials announced Tuesday. Attorneys general from Nevada, Connecticut, Florida, Oregon and Texas said they will lead the multi-state investigation into San Francisco-based Juul, which also is facing lawsuits by teenagers and others who say they became addicted to the company’s vaping products. The state officials said they also will investigate the company’s claims about the risk, safety and effectiveness of its vaping products as smoking cessation devices. Juul released a statement saying it has halted television, print and digital advertising and eliminated most flavors in response to concerns by government officials and others...The scope of the investigation by dozens of states leaves Juul with little choice but to change its marketing practices, said James Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine. “When you see these kinds of numbers, it means they’re in a world of hurt,” said Tierney, a lecturer at Harvard Law School. “They can’t seriously litigate this.”

  • States Keep Door Open for Better Antitrust Deal From T-Mobile

    December 3, 2019

    Three states that have recently settled antitrust claims with T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. over their $26 billion merger are entitled to additional benefits that might be gained from a broader multistate suit against the companies...More than a dozen states led by New York and California remain part of the multistate suit that asserts combining the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. carriers will lead to higher consumer prices. The case is scheduled to go to trial Dec. 9 in Manhattan federal court...The side settlements won’t impact the upcoming trial involving 13 states and the District of Columbia, James Tierney, the former Maine attorney general, said. “The judge really isn’t going to care how many states show up to trial as a plaintiff,” Tierney, who is now a lecturer at Harvard Law school, said...For T-Mobile, “the only settlements that really matter at the end of the day are New York and California,” since both states are the key drivers pushing the suit forward, Tierney said.

  • When a state attorney general takes on a national fight, what’s he gunning for?

    November 13, 2019

    When a bipartisan bunch of state attorneys general announced this summer they had cut a deal with phone companies to crack down on infuriating robocalls, Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein of North Carolina led the news conference in Washington...Stein, 53, has inserted himself into nearly every high-profile action that state attorneys general have taken since he started the job in North Carolina in 2017. He is emblematic of a new kind of state attorney general more aggressive, often bipartisan rising to prominence nationwide. What used to be a relatively high-profile position within a state's boundaries has become a springboard for publicity across the country. As politics on the national level becomes more polarized, and with Congress stymied by attention on a presidential impeachment investigation, attention has increasingly turned to the states, where legislatures are primed to act, governors have some real power and attorneys general are stepping up, particularly on consumer issues where the federal government has largely stepped away...Former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, a Democrat who now teaches at Harvard Law School, said fraud "doesn't have a partisan hat" when attorneys general are going after bad actors. But, he said, Stein and other AGs are "not going to get elected or reelected based on what they do on robocalls." They may work across party lines on corporate fraud or consumer protections, but when it comes to election time they usually revert to party positions, he said.

  • Facebook, Google Face Multi-State Antitrust Investigations

    September 10, 2019

    A coalition of state attorneys general launch antitrust probes into Facebook and Google. They tell us why. Guests: Phil Weiser, attorney general from Colorado. Served in the Obama Administration as a deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice. Served in President Clinton’s Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. James Tierney, founding director of, an educational resource on the office of state attorney general. Lecturer in law at Harvard Law School. Attorney General of Maine from 1980 to 1990. Tim Wu, professor of law, science and technology at Columbia Law School. Author of "The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age." Former senior adviser to the Federal Trade Commission for consumer protection and competitions issues that affect the internet and mobile markets. ...

  • Attorneys general ask for veto of Iowa AG power-limits bill

    May 15, 2019

    Current and former attorneys general from both major parties and several states are imploring Iowa's Republican governor to veto a measure meant to prevent the state's attorney general, currently a Democrat, from being able to file or join lawsuits challenging Trump administration policies. Iowa would be the only state with such limits on the power of an independently elected attorney general if Gov. Kim Reynolds signs off on the bill, which would require the attorney general to get the permission of the governor, Legislature or state executive council, which includes the governor and other statewide elected officials, to file any out-of-state court action. "There is no question that Iowa would be the only state that has done this to itself, and that the only losers are the people of Iowa," said Jim Tierney, a Harvard Law School lecturer who served as Maine attorney general from 1980 to 1990.

  • Multi-state lawsuits against Trump in 2 years exceed those against Obama, Bush in 8 years

    April 10, 2019

    President Donald Trump had high praise for the nation’s attorneys general when he invited them to the State Dining room in March. “You are very special people and doing a very special and important job,” Trump told the gathering. Increasingly, however, their job is suing Trump. ... But it’s the partisan lawsuits against presidential administrations that are the biggest departure from the past. One reason, says former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, stems from a 2007 Supreme Court decision siding with Massachusetts and 11 other states against the EPA. The states successfully argued that the EPA is required to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants.

  • The Law and the Digital World 1

    The Law and the Digital World

    April 3, 2019

    Officials from 23 offices of state attorneys general recently met at HLS as part of the Berkman Klein Center’s AGTech Forum series, to discuss tech-driven challenges to privacy and data security that vex state regulators and threaten consumers, and to strategize on how the law can keep up.

  • The shutdown threatens the promise of government jobs — and a way of life

    January 16, 2019

    Three weeks of no pay and lots of uncertainty has changed how aerospace engineer Robert Sprayberry thinks about his job. He joined the Federal Aviation Administration a decade ago because it promised him a stable career with steady hours. He might not earn as much money as he could in the private sector, but he could be home more to help raise three young children. ... Others are avoiding the federal government from the start. Jim Tierney, who teaches at Harvard Law School, said he’s noticed a spike in interest in his state attorneys general law clinic under Trump. He attributed the change to Trump’s frequent attacks on the federal Justice Department and drastic curtailment at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Facebook sued by US lawyer over Cambridge Analytica data scandal

    December 20, 2018

    The attorney general for Washington, DC said on Wednesday the US capital city had sued Facebook Inc for allegedly misleading users about how it safeguarded their personal data, in the latest fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. ... State attorneys general from both major US political parties have stepped up their enforcement of privacy laws in recent years, said James Tierney, a lecturer at Harvard Law School and Maine’s former attorney general.

  • Corruption-fighting AG? Easy to say, harder to do

    October 30, 2018

    Come election time, it's popular for Illinois Republicans and Democrats, when political circumstances suit them, to clamor for the state's top lawyer to investigate corruption—almost always, to no avail...Yet candidates often cannot resist taking up the cudgel of anti-corruption, sometimes identifying their targets by name. "If I say, 'Elect me and I'll go after Donald Trump or Speaker (Mike) Madigan or Jared Kushner,' anyone who says that is absolutely wrong," said James Tierney, former attorney general of Maine and now a lecturer at Harvard Law School. "That is the opposite of what our criminal justice system is supposed to be about."

  • With Schneiderman Out, Environmental Fight Loses a Prominent Voice

    May 10, 2018

    Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general who resigned this week after four women accused him of assault, was one of the most active state-level opponents of the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations. He was also the first attorney general to open an investigation into Exxon Mobil’s climate policies and statements. Most of Mr. Schneiderman’s environmental initiatives will almost certainly continue without him, in New York and other states. But a prominent figure in the legal fight against climate change has left the arena, and his eventual replacement could set different priorities...James E. Tierney, a former Maine attorney general who teaches a course on the role of state attorneys general at Harvard Law School, said that unless the transition from one attorney general to another involves a change of political party, lawsuits tend to continue and similar ones tend to be filed...In the wake of scandal, the shock to staff members is keenly felt, but “after a day, the assistant A. G.s will get back to work,” Mr. Tierney said. In fact, he said, cases might proceed more smoothly without Mr. Schneiderman, whose tendency to garner publicity for himself could be a distraction.

  • Eric Schneiderman Set Himself Up as Trump’s Foil. What Happens Now?

    May 9, 2018

    For the last 17 months, Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, had held himself up as the anti-Trump: a one-man legal wrecking ball, taking on the president and his agenda in both the courts and the court of public opinion. His sudden and spectacular downfall — Mr. Schneiderman announced his resignation hours after four women emerged to describe in detail how he had physically assaulted them — has raised questions of whether a powerful office at the heart of the Democratic legal resistance could be sidelined and besmirched by scandal...Even though Mr. Schneiderman has often served as the public face of the sprawling legal battles against Mr. Trump, Mr. Rankin said that his organization had already devised a strategy to share responsibility for the various lawsuits against the president’s policies...“Nothing is going to change,” predicted James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine who is now a lecturer at Harvard Law School. “No change — zero.”

  • How Supreme Court’s Internet Tax Case Was Built ‘From the Ground Up’

    March 17, 2018

    Most U.S. Supreme Court cases are born the old-fashioned way: an aggrieved party goes to a lawyer to appeal a lower court decision, and the lawyer petitions the court. But the high-profile case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, involving state taxation of online retail sales, unfolded in a very different way. Lawyers sought out the clients—states, in this case—who were willing to lose below so they could potentially win before the Supreme Court...But is it improper or even unusual for states to pass contrarian laws aimed at forcing the Supreme Court to confront and rethink its own precedents? “It happens all the time,” said former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, now a Harvard Law School lecturer who advises state attorneys general. Tierney did not want to comment on the Wayfair case specifically, but said that in general, it is not uncommon for states to pass laws they know would be tested at the Supreme Court. State laws on abortion rights and immigration, for example, have been passed in defiance of court precedents, Tierney noted.

  • Illinois Attorney General Candidates Detail Plans For Police Oversight

    February 5, 2018

    Police accountability has been a huge issue in Chicago, but has been virtually ignored in the suburbs. The next Illinois Attorney General could change that. “You can’t be an attorney general … without paying serious attention to the quality of criminal justice in your state. It’s probably your prime responsibility,” said former Maine attorney general James Tierney, a Harvard Law School lecturer. In Chicago, outgoing Attorney General Lisa Madigan has sued the city in an attempt to force federal oversight of police reform efforts. But how to reform police departments outside the city’s borders remains a question. In an effort to hold those officers more accountable, the candidates vying to be the next attorney general have pledged to file federal lawsuits, investigate corruption, and push legislation.

  • After Defeat in New York, State AGs Are Next to Test Emoluments Challenge

    January 25, 2018

    Litigants claiming that President Donald Trump’s business empire violates the Constitution suffered a major loss in federal court in New York last year, but on Thursday, they’ll get another chance. Lawyers for the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, Brian Frosh and Karl Racine, respectively, will argue before a federal judge in Greenbelt, Maryland, that Trump is violating two clauses in the Constitution designed to prevent corruption: the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments clauses...“I think the AGs are the only plaintiffs who have a shot at standing,” said James Tierney, a former Democratic attorney general from Maine, and a lecturer at Harvard Law School. That’s because, he explained, states have unique standing to challenge the federal government.

  • It’s Time To Take On Big Opioid Like We Did With Big Tobacco

    January 11, 2018

    An op-ed by James Tierney. The unchecked flood of opioids into our country has caused unspeakable damage, and the companies that manufacture them will inevitably be held accountable. When that moment comes, it is vital that we avoid the mistakes made in our attempts to hold Big Tobacco accountable. I helped coordinate the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s, which ended with a giant settlement deal that would cost cigarette makers more than $200 billion and require major changes to the industry. But much of that money was wasted, and countless people have died as a result. We can’t let that happen again, and now is the time to start talking about what a Big Tobacco–style national settlement with Big Opioid should look like — and to demand nothing less from our state and federal leaders.

  • For California attorney general, suing Trump again and again is a team sport

    December 1, 2017

    For a man who has alternatively been called the face, the leader, and the speartip of the progressive “resistance” to the Trump administration, Xavier Becerra seems comfortable working outside the spotlight. When Gov. Jerry Brown tapped Becerra to replace U.S. Senate-bound Kamala Harris as California’s attorney general, the 59-year-old congressman came with more than two decades of experience cutting deals and building coalitions as a high-ranking, but...little-known representative...Former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, for one, says Becerra has demonstrated national leadership “even in cases where his name is not in the headlines.” The skills that he developed in the House, building consensus and holding a caucus together, seem to have served Becerra in building ties with attorneys general in other states, said Tierney, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who teaches a class on the role of attorneys general. “He knew from his congressional experience that everybody counts.”

  • State AGs Used to Play Nice in Elections. Not Anymore.

    November 16, 2017

    State attorneys general have operated in an increasingly partisan manner in recent years -- both in terms of how they campaign and what cases they pursue. State AGs have a long history of working together in a bipartisan fashion -- pursuing consumer cases, for example, that affect people across state lines. That still happens. But now, incumbent AGs are targeting their peers in other states in a way they've never done before...Now that Donald Trump is president, it's Democratic AGs who are regularly suing the administration over issues such as immigration and the environment. The homepage for the Democratic Attorneys General Association boldly states: "Democratic Attorneys General are the first line of defense against the new administration." "All the Democrats are pretty well lined up on these Trump investigations," says Jim Tierney, who runs a program on AGs at Harvard Law School. "The presumption is that everyone will be in on the Democratic side."

  • State Attorneys General Lead the Charge Against President Donald Trump

    October 27, 2017

    There are 194 Democrats in the House, and another 46 Democrats in the Senate. But since Donald Trump took office, 22 state attorneys general have played among the most pivotal roles slowing and stopping the march of the Trump agenda. Nineteen state AGs sued to stop the administration from withholding Obamacare subsidies from states, 16 to halt the rollback of environmental regulations, and 20 to reverse its decision to rescind a program that had protected young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation..."The more AGs act like congressmen, the more they'll be treated like congressmen," says James Tierney, a former Democratic attorney general of Maine and a lecturer at Harvard Law School who's carved a niche consulting both Republican and Democratic AGs and studying the office he once held. "It's endangering the very function of attorney general."

  • Silicon Valley Courts Brand-Name Teachers, Raising Ethics Issues

    September 5, 2017

    ...Public-school teachers who accept perks, meals or anything of value in exchange for using a company’s products in their classrooms could also run afoul of school district ethics policies or state laws regulating government employees. “Any time you are paying a public employee to promote a product in the public classroom without transparency, then that’s problematic,” said James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine who is a lecturer at Harvard Law School. “Should attorneys general be concerned about this practice? The answer is yes.”

  • Presidential Pardons Might Not End Russia Prosecutions

    August 30, 2017

    President Donald Trump’s unusual pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, issued before his federal case was even finished, has sparked a debate over whether the president could end Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe with a spate of pre-emptive pardons. But even mass pardons of all suspects in the Russia case would not close the door to potential prosecutions...Prosecuting agents of a foreign power, however, is different than making a potential case against agents of the United States. "It could happen," [James] Tierney says. "If the [district attorney] of Baltimore wants to go after the president, is that destabilizing? Yes it is." Tierney, who now teaches about the role of state attorneys general at Harvard Law School, adds, "The actual legal and practical obstacles to bringing this kind of case are very high."

  • 67 Former State Attorneys General Have a Message: Condemn Hate Bluntly

    August 28, 2017

    With white supremacists emboldened and a national spotlight shining on bigotry and hate, 67 former state attorneys general are calling on Americans and their leaders to condemn hatred unequivocally. Follow the example, they suggest, that an Alabama attorney general set four decades ago...The statement — which was released Monday and is conspicuously addressed not to President Trump or any other official, but rather to the broad, unnamed public — begins, “There are times in the life of a nation, or a president, or a state attorney general, when one is called upon to respond directly to the voice of hate.” Mr. Baxley’s example, it continues, without directly quoting it, should serve as inspiration for “all who seek to equivocate in times of moral crisis.” Mr. Baxley “obviously spoke with real clarity — he just made it as clear as a human being can make it,” said James E. Tierney, a former Maine attorney general who helped pull the joint statement together.

  • Without Obama to Sue, What Are Republican AGs Up To?

    August 28, 2017

    Just a few months ago, Republican attorneys general were aggressively taking the Obama administration to court, notching significant victories that blocked executive actions on immigration and the environment. Now that Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office, it's Democrats' turn to wage legal battles over some of the very same issues...Democratic officials say the party's AG ranks are more active than they were under the last Republican president, George W. Bush. And in solidly blue states where Democrats have control over all the levers of government, money is flowing to the AG office, says former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, who is now a Harvard Law School lecturer focusing on state AGs.

  • Governors, Attorneys General Clash Amid Political Tensions

    May 19, 2017

    Around the U.S., cross-party battles between governors and attorneys general are heating up in what some observers see as another sign of increasingly divisive national politics seeping into state offices...In 13 states, governors and attorneys general currently have different party affiliations. The offices of state attorneys general are supposed to serve as a check on power, which has historically triggered fights and lawsuits with governors—including some battles within party lines. “The friction is there on purpose, it’s there in the Constitution,” said James Tierney, a lecturer at Harvard Law School.

  • Janet Mills Joins Democratic Attorneys General to Fight Trump Environmental Proposals

    May 1, 2017

    Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has joined Democratic colleagues from other states in filing legal challenges aimed at stopping the Trump administration from weakening environmental regulations. The suits reflect a growing trend of partisan alliances among states’ attorneys general...Former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, who now teaches at Harvard Law School, says attorneys general have historically cooperated on various legal issues affecting the states without regard to partisan affiliation. “States are supposed to be different than the federal government, that’s why our country is set up that way. So there is always going to be friction between state governments and the federal government regardless of who is the president,” he says.

  • Blue-state attorneys general lead Trump resistance

    February 8, 2017

    With Washington, D.C., in turmoil during the opening weeks of the Trump administration, state attorneys general have emerged as the vanguard of resistance to the new presidency...“The AGs consider themselves a thin blue line against federal overreach, there’s no question about it,” said James Tierney, the former attorney general of Maine who runs a blog about state attorneys general...Tierney advises many of the Democrats coordinating their efforts against Trump. The group is braced to file more suits in coming months. “It’s actually an essential part of federalism in that attorneys general will hold the president’s feet to the fire,” Tierney said.

  • For-profit college industry slips through cracks of accountability

    January 10, 2017

    At this time last year, all signs were pointing to a for-profit college industry in crisis, if not the death throes...In this context, James Tierney, a former Maine attorney general and now a Harvard Law School professor, called cash awards for individual students “a bonus.” Tierney said predatory industries practice “conscious and rational avoidance of strong enforcement,” meaning they hop across state lines to avoid lawsuits.

  • To Combat Trump, Democrats Ready a G.O.P. Tactic: Lawsuits

    December 15, 2016

    ...As Democrats steel themselves for the day next month when the White House door will slam on their backs, some of the country’s more liberal state attorneys general have vowed to use their power to check and balance Mr. Trump’s Washington...For the moment, the precise shape of Trump-branded targets is hard to make out. At the annual meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., two weeks ago, bipartisan bewilderment about the president-elect’s true intentions abounded...“People are coming up to me and saying, ‘What’s going to happen?’” said James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine, who ran a program studying attorneys general at Columbia Law School. Mr. Tierney, a Democrat, now lectures at Harvard Law School. “There’s a lot of eye-rolling down here, in both parties, like, ‘Oh my God.’”

  • Conservatives pour money into races for state attorneys general

    September 26, 2016

    Conservative organizations are pouring money into the coffers of the Republican Attorneys General Association, which is far outpacing its Democratic rival in fundraising to elect candidates who will stand up to what they see as an activist Democratic agenda. The Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) had raised $15.7 million by early May, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog, well ahead of the $5.7 million collected by the Democratic Attorneys General Association...“The amount of money is staggering,” said James Tierney, a former Maine attorney general and an adjunct professor at Harvard Law School who blames the Citizens United ruling, which lifted limits on corporate political contributions. “But that’s because it’s legal, and it’s legal because the Supreme Court said it was legal.”

  • Jordan Grossman

    Going National: Clinic places students in AGs’ offices across the country

    January 1, 2014

    Human trafficking. Cybercrime. Consumer protection. Public integrity. With broad constitutional and statutory jurisdiction, state attorneys general handle all these matters and more, often in high-impact litigation. Given this variety of opportunities it provides, Harvard Law School’s Attorney General Clinic, taught by former Maine AG James E. Tierney, has been one of the most popular in the clinical program since it was instituted in 2011. And now Tierney has expanded enrollment in the clinic by using winter term to send HLS students to work in AGs’ offices across the country.