Produced by the BGA's Civic Engagement team, the BGA Backstory project is a non-partisan guide to Illinois' most important government issues. Don't see what you're looking for? Ask us your burning questions about Illinois government.
The Office of the Illinois Attorney General
Who is the attorney general of Illinois?
The current attorney general of Illinois is Lisa Madigan. She has served in that position since 2003 and is the first woman to hold this office. Following the November 2018 election, Kwame Raoul is the attorney general-elect of Illinois. Like Madigan, he is a Democrat. He will assume office on January 14, 2019.
What does an attorney general do?
The attorney general is the chief legal officer of the state.
The attorney general’s office describes its role as follows1 :
1. Advocating for the people of Illinois
2. Working with members of the General Assembly to push for new legislation
3. Litigating in court
The attorney general’s office investigates and litigates a broad range of issues, including:
- Consumer fraud
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
- Special needs for elderly citizens
- School safety
- Internet safety and teen dating violence
- Disability and veterans rights
- Labor and employment
- Freedom of Information Act
- Open Meetings Act
- The methamphetamine crisis
When necessary, the attorney general’s office also works with state and local law enforcement agencies on investigating these issues.
1 Illinois Attorney General’s Office, About the Office of the Attorney General.
What are the duties of the attorney general under Illinois law?
The powers of the attorney general of Illinois are derived from the Attorney General Act,1 which lists these duties:
1. To represent the people of Illinois before the Supreme Court in all cases in which the state or the people of the state are interested parties.
2. To prosecute all proceedings and actions in favor of the state (and not against the state’s interests).
3. To defend any state officer acting in his or her official capacity in a proceeding or acting brought against them. The attorney general does not have a duty to represent a state officer who was acting in his or her personal capacity.
For instance, if a state officer was jogging in the morning and was involved in an accident, the attorney general of the state would not be required to represent or defend the state officer as the accident occurred while he or she was off the job. If, however, the state official is involved in an accident while on the job, for instance while delivering state-owned goods in a state-owned vehicle during work hours, then the attorney general is required to represent the state officer in any proceedings brought against him.
4. To consult with and advise all the state’s attorneys in Illinois. The attorney general must assist in the prosecution of any individual when the interest of the people of Illinois is at stake or when the state’s attorney requests the attorney general to do so.
5. To investigate alleged violations of all the statutes that the attorney general has jurisdiction over.
6. To advise the governor and other state officers and give written opinions on legal and constitutional matters when asked to do so.
7. To give written opinions to the general assembly or any committee of the General Assembly on legal and constitutional matters when asked to do so.
8. To prepare drafts of contracts for the state.
9. To attend and present evidence at all statewide grand jury trials and to prosecute all those cases in which the grand jury decides to indict an individual.
10. To ensure that funds appropriated for the use of public institutions of the state are properly allocated. If the administration of such funds is mishandled, the attorney general has a duty to prosecute such actions.
1 15 ILCS 205/4, from Ch. 14, par. 4.
What type of crimes does the attorney general litigate?
Crimes committed locally are generally handled by the state’s attorney of each county, not the Illinois attorney general. The attorney general’s office generally focuses on crimes in which the state itself a victim or a defendant or in which a state officer acting in his or her official capacity is the defendant.1
There are situations in which both the attorney general and the state's attorney have jurisdiction over a case. For instance, in October 2018, both Attorney General Lisa Madigan and DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin filed a complaint in state court against Sterigenics after federal regulators found that its sterilization plant in Willowbrook, Illinois, produced dangerous levels of a toxic chemical known to increase the risk of cancer.2
The state attorney general is charged with prosecuting crimes that are violations of state law, including political corruption3 , police corruption4 , organized crime, money laundering, and racketeering5 .
The attorney general’s office also conducts independent investigations into matters that affect the citizens of Illinois. For instance, in October 2018, the attorney general’s office said it would launch a criminal investigation into Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy and how the governor’s office handled the case.6
1 Department of Attorney General, Michigan, Does the Attorney General’s Office investigate or prosecute alleged crimes?
2 Michael Hawthorne, Citing cancer risks, Lisa Madigan, DuPage prosecutor urge court to shut down Sterigenics in Willowbrook, Chicago Tribune, (Oct 30, 2018).
3 Tina Sfondeles, AG Madigan opens criminal probe into Rauner administration over Quincy deaths, Chicago Sun- Times, (Oct 3, 2013).
4 Editorial Board, A historic moment for policing in Chicago, Chicago Tribune, (July 27, 2018).
5 Illinois Attorney General’s Office Press Release, Madigan: Known Gang Member Indicted on Gunrunning Charges. Also see, Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Press Release, Attorney General Madigan Files Immigration Fraud Cases.
6 John O’ Connor, Illinois attorney general to investigate Legionnaire's disease response, Herald & Review, (Oct 3, 2018).