About the Office

The Nebraska Department of Justice/Office of the Attorney General operates, in many respects, as the "State's law firm".

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning

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Attorney General History

The office of the Attorney General is one of the most important offices in the state that has come down to us from the Anglo-Norman system of government. As early as 1253 mention is made of attornatus regis or the King's attorney, and it is certain that the office had already long been in existence at that time. It was not, however, until the year 1472 that the first formal patent of appointment was issued.

The functions of the Attorney General were, from the first, recognized as of great constitutional importance. He was considered not only the legal representative of the crown but also the parens patriae or guardian of public interests. His duty was not just to represent and protect the rights of the King, but to represent and protect the rights of the public in all matters tinged with a public interest.

US Attorney General Beginnings

After having established their independence, the American colonies, proceeded to form a federal government. They recognized that, although the new government would not tolerate a king, a necessity still existed for a public officer similar to that of the British Attorney General, who was charged with the protection of public rights and the enforcement of public duties. Accordingly, in organizing the judicial business of the federal government, they made provision for Attorney General of the United States to be at the head of the Department of Justice, and whose duties and functions were essentially the same as those of the Attorney General of Great Britain. The United States Attorney General would receive his commission by appointment from the President of the United States.

Nebraska's History

When the government of Nebraska was organized it was, of course, modeled closely after that of the federal government except that the provision was made that the Nebraska Attorney General should be an elected and not an appointed office.

Thus, in Nebraska, the Attorney General, in addition to the many constitutional and statutory powers vested in him, is charged with guarding the rights and interests of the pubic vested in the office by the common law. The office has long been recognized as one of great responsibility. As head of the state's Department of Justice he is, within the scope of his department, independent of and co-ordinate with all other executive officers.

By reason of his independent status as principal law officer of the state and head of the Department of Justice, the Attorney General has authority to initiate actions in the name of the state on his own motion without authorization of the governor or other state officer. This important power was jealously guarded by the common law and has been carefully preserved by constitutional and statutory enactments.

Source: 1929-30 Report of the Attorney General

Nebraska Attorneys General 1867-2011

2003 - Current Jon C. Bruning
1991 - 2003 Don Stenberg
1985 - 1991 Robert M. Spire
1975 - 1984 Paul L. Douglas
1961 - 1975 Clarence A.H. Meyer
1951 - 1951 Harold P. Caldwell
1950 - 1961 Clarence S. Beck
1949 - 1950 James H. Anderson
1939 - 1949 Walter R. Johnson
1937 - 1939 Richard C. Hunter
1935 - 1937 William H. Wright
1933 - 1935 Paul F. Good
1929 - 1933 C.A. Sorensen
1923 - 1929 Ora S. Spillman
1919-1923 Clarence A. Davis
1915-1919 Willis E. Reed
1911-1915 Grant G. Martin
1910-1911 Arthur F. Mullen
1907-1910 William T. Thompson
1905-1907 Norris Brown
1901-1905 Frank N. Prout
1897-1901 Constantine J. Smyth
1895-1897 Arthur S. Churchill
1891-1895 George H. Hastings
1885-1891 William Leese
1883-1885 Isaac Powers, Jr.
1879-1883 C.J. Dilworth
1875-1879 George H. Roberts
1873-1875 Joseph R. Webster
1871-1873 George H. Roberts
1869-1871 Seth Robinson
1867-1869 Champion S. Chase