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Archives - State Agencies - Attorney General

[Constitution, Article V, Section 12; NDCC Chapter 54-12]
Beginning in 1862 legal affairs for Dakota Territory were handled by an attorney appointed by the Governor for a four-year term. The term for the territorial Attorney General was reduced to two years in 1883 and remained at two years when the office was specified in the state constitution. The office of the Attorney General was created by the North Dakota State Constitution. Commissioned by the Governor, the Attorney General took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of North Dakota (S. L. 1890, Ch. 21). Since then the Attorney General has served as the legal advisor for all state agencies and rendered legal opinions on request to state officials, the Legislative Assembly, state’s attorneys, and city attorneys. The Attorney General has represented the state before the Supreme Court and in all cases in which the state was a party or has had an interest and as the chief law enforcement officer gave opinions upon all legal or constitutional questions. Additionally the chief law enforcement officer prescribed standards for the construction, operation, and maintenance of public and private juvenile detention centers, county and city jails, and regional corrections facilities.

The Attorney General was also responsible for certain regulatory functions. In 1919 the Attorney General was given responsibility for licensing “pool and billiard rooms, ball and pin alleys, dancehalls, theaters, moving picture shows, taxicab stands, and places where soft drinks were sold, and for a public hall whether it was owned privately or used for public purposes” (S. L. 1919, Ch. 6). During the special session in 1919 legislation created an office of State Sheriff who assumed the duties of licensing. The State Sheriff was to be appointed by the Governor, and all sheriffs and deputies in the state were to be members of a state law enforcement unit that was subject to the direction of the State Sheriff. In 1921 licensing duties were returned to the office of the Attorney General with licensing additions including auto livery, places where soft drinks were retailed, and where cigars or tobacco were sold (S. L. 1921, Ch. 84). In 1933, licensing duties were transferred to the North Dakota Regulatory Department and again returned to the Attorney General in 1939.

In 1963 the Criminal Investigation Division was transferred from the State Warden to the Attorney General (S. L. 1963, Ch. 123). The Attorney General became the superintendent of the division which was organized into five sections including criminal, narcotics, training, grant management, and criminal justice information service. The division was responsible for conducting criminal and narcotics investigations, training criminal justice personnel, maintaining training for and keeping the license records of peace officers, and administering federal grant funds for the criminal justice program. 

In 1975 a cash fund, called the Drug Control Fund was created for use by the office of the Attorney General (S. L. 1975, Ch. 474). The fund was used by the by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The Legislative Assembly appropriated funds for the program. A law enforcement unit was established and designated for use in drug enforcement. The unit included a director and other necessary personnel and was responsible for suppressing the trafficking and abuse of controlled substances. The State Laboratories Department and other state and local agencies cooperated with the drug enforcement unit.  This legislation gave the Attorney General the same “powers conferred by law upon any peace officer in the state” (S. L. 1979, Ch. 540). Also in 1979 legislation changed licensing requirements by removing the language “prohibit and suppress” and by adding licensing of games and amusement (S. L. 1979, Ch. 444). 
In 1981 the office of the State Fire Marshal became a division within the office of the Attorney General.  Headed by the State Fire Marshal the division was directed to enforce state laws relating to the prevention of fires, coordinate resources for large rural wild-land fires, to enforce legislation on the sale or use combustibles and explosives, to install and maintain fire alarms and extinguisher equipment, check for adequate exits in public buildings, investigate arson or the origin of fires. The division was the state’s emergency response unit for training and responding to hazardous material incidents. Also in 1981 the Attorney General was asked to prepare an eminent domain pamphlet describing the eminent domain laws of the state including the reason for condemnation of property (S. L. 1981, Ch. 353).

Legislation in 1983 (S. L. 1983, Ch. 556) created a Consumer Protection and Antitrust division responsible for enforcing the state consumer fraud laws investigating claims of fraud and misrepresentation especially deceptive practices in sales and advertising, and mediating consumer complaints against a business.  Also in 1983 the Gaming division was established (S. L. 1983, Ch. 546) when the Legislative Assembly passed a bill allowing for charitable gaming in North Dakota. Some duties the division included office and field auditing and investigating gaming organizations, distributors, and manufacturers, ensuring that receipts, control, and disbursement of gaming funds were accurate and lawful,  reviewing gaming tax returns, issuing administrative complaints, issuing work permits and conducting background checks of employees, guiding and training management companies and others involved in gaming.  The Attorney General was to ensure compliance with five tribal-state Indian casino gaming compact. Legislation in 1987 also allowed the Attorney General to make a full and complete investigation of any complaint alleging the deprivation of a constitutional, civil, or legal right of an aggrieved individual living on an Indian Reservation upon written request of the state’s attorney of the county of residence (S. L. 1987, Ch. 627).

In 1989 the Legislature (S. L. 1989, Ch. 641) established a fund in the State Treasury to provide or be used by the Division of Consumer Fraud.  The fund was called the Attorney General’s refund fund and the Attorney General was to develop guidelines for use of the fund (S. L. 1989, Ch. 640). The Attorney General, with the concurrence of the director of Office of the Budget and Management, established the necessary accounting procedures for the fund. 
In 1991 (S. L. 1991, Ch. 580) a Child Sexual Abuse Investigation and Prosecution Team was established. The team consisted of an assistant attorney general, an agent of the State Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and a licensed social worker employed by the Department of Human Services. An amendment to the law in 1993 (S. L. 1993, Ch. 515 ) named an assistant attorney general, an agent of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and a licensed social worker employed by the Attorney Generals’ office as members of the team. In 1999 legislation eliminated the social worker (S. L. 1999, Ch. 452).  Other legislation in 1999 required the Attorney General to provide access to information of registered sex offenders to law enforcement dispatch centers (S. L. 1999, Ch. 455). 
Voters in a June 13, 2000 primary election approved a measure changing the Constitution to require one-half of the elected officials to be on a ballot each election year. To begin the process the Secretary of State, Agriculture Commissioner, Attorney General, and the Tax Commissioner were elected for a two-year term starting in 2004. Thereafter the elected officers returned to the cycle of four-year terms. (S. L. 2001, Chapter 591).

Although not a division of the office, the North Dakota Racing Commission was located within the office of Attorney General. The Commission consists of the chairmen and four other members apponted by the Governor. Members serve five year terms. One must be appointed from a list of nominees submitted by specific organizations of horse breeders. The Commission licenses and regulates actibities relating to live and simulcast pari-mutual racing. The Commission is subject to supervision and direction by the Attorney General. The Commission appointed a director of racing (S. L. 2003, Ch. 3).

In 2003 the State Crime Laboratory and the State Toxicologist were transferred from the State Department of Health to the office of the Attorney General and it was named the State Crime Laboratory (S. L. 2003, Ch. 469). To aid in the fight against drugs the Attorney General established a multijurisdictional drug task force grant fund (S. L. 2007, Ch. 459). The Attorney General developed guidelines for the qualifications to receive funding.  Federal funds were used to defray expenses of the task force. In 2009 (S. L. 2009, Ch. 469) the Attorney General authorized a program that established a statewide twenty-four seven sobriety program. The Attorney General along with law enforcement, the judiciary, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and the Safety Division within the Department of Transportation worked cooperatively to run the program. Guidelines, policies, and procedures were developed.  In 2011the Attorney General established a Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission and appointed members to the Commission with a goal of reviewing domestic violence deaths that have occurred in the state (S. L. 2011, Ch.112). 

According to the North Dakota Blue Book the duties of the Attorney General in 2011 included representing the state in all legal matters, civil and criminal, where the state is a party or the state may have an interest in the outcome of the litigation. Legal services and opinions are provided to state legislators, state officials, constitutional officers, state agencies, boards and commissions. The consumer fraud laws, the open meetings law, and the North Dakota open records law are enforced. Licensing responsibilities include issuing licenses for retail alcohol beverage establishments, Class A and B gambling organizations, polygraph examiners, amusement games and devises, and concealed weapons permits. The office is responsible for maintaining the state’s criminal investigations and offender registration systems, performing fire safety inspections of public buildings, conducting arson investigations and criminal investigations. The office is responsible for the North Dakota lottery and the State Crime Laboratory. Qualifications of the Attorney General include being a qualified elector of the state and at least twenty five years of age. The term of office is four years. The office of the Attorney General is headquartered in the State Capitol in the Bismarck. 

Like other elected executive officials of the state the Attorney General has had a long and varied career serving on numerous boards, agencies, and commissions. Over the years the Attorney General or a designee has served on the following: the State Canvassing Board (1892-1961), State Board of Auditors (1893-1959), State Board of Equalizations (1897-1923), State Auditing Board (1901-1923), Board of Immigration (1913-1917), State Budget Board (1915-1965), Council of Defense (1919-1921), State Securities Commission (1923-1951), Board of Health (1885-1973), North Dakota Research Foundation (1943-1957),  North Dakota State Safety Committee (1955-1963), State Board of Public School Education (1955-1963), Natural Resource Council (1961-1981), Civil Defense Advisory Council (1961-1971), and the Combined Law Enforcement Council (1967-1981). The Attorney General has also been involved with State Laboratories Commission (1939), Board of Securities Review (1959), and the Commission on Medical Competency (1977).  Additionally the Attorney General has served or currently serves as a member of the Industrial Commission (1919), Board of University and School Lands (1890), Board of Pardons (1901), and the Judicial Council (1927).     


1889       The Office of Attorney General was created by the North Dakota Constitution and other legislation allowed for the appointment of an assistant attorney general (S. L. 1889, Ch. 17).

1890       Legislation prescribed for a bond and oath and duties as listed for which the Attorney General was responsible (S. L. 1890, Ch. 21).

1901       The Attorney General was the public prosecutor and attended all cases in which the state was an interested party (S. L. 1901, Ch. 24). The duties of the Attorney General were amended (S. L. 1901, Ch. 178).

1909       The Attorney General could appoint two assistants (S. L. 1909, Ch. 219).

1919       Legislation established that the State Licensing Department and inspectors to be a part of the office of Attorney General (S. L. 1919, Ch. 6). The Attorney General could have five attorney assistants (S. L. 1919, Ch. 66), and appoint special assistant attorneys when necessary (S. L. 1919, Ch. 67). The Attorney General appointed an assistant attorney general to act as attorney on the Board of University and School Lands (S. L. 1919, Ch. 65) and conducted investigations in counties when necessary or when requested by the majority of the Board of County Commissioners (S. L. 1919, Ch. 68).   
1921       Licensing laws were amended. Applicant tax forms and collection from license fees were prepared for by the licensing department.  The Attorney General appointed a state inspector who had the same enforcement authority as a police officer (S. L. 1921, Ch. 84).

1923       The Attorney General appointed three assistant attorneys general.  One of the assistants was designated as first assistant and had the same power and authority as the Attorney General. A stenographer was also hired (S. L. 1923, Ch. 131).

1932       An initiated measure (November 8, 1932) reduced the salaries for elected government officers, state appointed officials, deputies, secretaries, clerks, and employees of all state officials, boards, bureaus, and commissions.

1935       Legislation authorized district judges to require the Attorney General to perform certain duties relating to criminal matters.  The county requesting the opinion of the Attorney General’s office paid for the service (S. L. 1935, Ch. 125).

1945       Legislation related to assistant attorneys general who were appointed when necessary (S. L. 1945, Ch. 290).

1953       The Attorney General could appoint five assistants (S. L. 1953, Ch. 305). Legislation that passed in 1919 allowing the Attorney General to appoint an assistant attorney general to act as an attorney on the Board of University and School Lands was repealed (S. L. 1953, Ch. 306).

1963       The responsibility of office of the superintendent of Criminal Identification was transferred from the authority of State Warden to the Attorney General who named the superintendent and assistant superintendent. Duties were listed (S. L. 1963, Ch. 123). The Attorney General was required to submit a biennial report to the Governor and the Secretary of State covering operations for the two previous fiscal years (S. L. 1963, Ch. 346).
1965       The Attorney General was elected to a two-year term until passage of a constitutional amendment in 1964 established a four-year term of office (S. L. 1965, Ch. 475).

1967       Legislation repealed the1919 law that had established the State Licensing Department. Also repealed was legislation from 1921that listed the duties of the licensing department and the state inspector (S. L.1967, Ch. 116).

1971       A subsection of the Century Code was created and required the Attorney General to write an opinion when requested by the governing body or city attorney of any city in North Dakota (S. L. 1971, Ch. 494). The North Dakota State Bureau of Criminal Identification and Apprehension was renamed the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (S. L. 1971, Ch. 140).

1973       Legislation specified what information was required in a biennial report (S. L. 1973, Ch. 403).

1975       Legislation created a new section in the Century Code relating to the Attorney General’s drug control cash fund as requested by the chief of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.  A report of accountability for the use of the money was sent to the Legislative Council (S. L. 1975, Ch. 474).

1979       The Century Code amended and updated establishments that required licensing (S. L. 1979, Ch. 444). The state drug enforcement unit was established within the office of the Attorney General and included a director who was designated to carry out duties and powers of the drug enforcement unit [NDCC 19-03.1-32]. The use of the drug control fund was addressed (S. L. 1979, Ch. 540).

1981       A new section to the Century Code required the Attorney General to prepare an eminent domain pamphlet for land owners that defined and described eminent domain laws for the state of North Dakota (S. L. 1981, Ch. 353).  

1983       A new section in the Century Code [NDCC 54-12] related to the creation of the division for the collection of crime statistics and consumer fraud and antitrust within the office of the   Attorney General.  Counties were required to send statistics to the director of the new division (S. L. 1983, Ch. 556). Charitable gambling became legal in North Dakota with the Attorney General regulating the schools that offered training and methods of conducting games of chance (S. L. 1983, Ch. 546).

1987       The drug control cash fund became the assets forfeiture fund.  Legislation was related to the powers of the drug enforcement unit regarding the forfeiting of property of those found in violation of possessing a controlled substance (S. L. 1987, Ch. 266). The Attorney General could hold a hearing at a nursing home upon request (S. L. 1987, Ch. 582). The Attorney General was to appear or appoint a special assistant to defend any supreme court justice, supreme court surrogate judge, county court judge, judicial referee, or juvenile supervisor in an action arising from an act of omission (S. L.1987, Ch. 626). Billing for legal services by the assistant and special assistant attorneys generals was clarified (S. L. 1987, Ch. 628).   The Attorney General could make a full and complete investigation of complaints on Indian Reservations if they related to alleged deprivation of any constitutional, civil, or legal right of an individual. A written complaint requested by the county state’s attorney was required (S. L. 1987, Ch.627). 

1989       A new section added an act establishing a “refund fund” within the State Treasury to provide for cases of consumer fraud (S. L. 1989, Ch. 641). Continuing appropriations were provided for the assets forfeiture fund with designation for using the fund (S. L. 1989, Ch. 640).

1991       Legislation removed county court judges from those who would be defended by the Attorney General or by special attorney assistants as required in earlier (1987) legislation (S. L. 1991, Ch. 326). A child abuse investigation and prosecution team was established and appropriations provided. The team consisted of an assistant attorney general, agent of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and a licensed social worker employed by the Department of Human Services (S. L. 1991, Ch. 580). All costs, expenses, attorney’s fee, and civil penalties collected by the consumer fraud or antitrust division were deposited in the refund fund and any surplus at the end of the year was transferred to the State Treasury (S. L. 1991, Ch. 551).   The Attorney General’s asset forfeiture fund was created (S. L. 1991, Ch. 600).

1993       An amendment was made to the child sexual abuse investigation and prosecution team and it included an assistant attorney general, an agent from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and a licensed social worker employed by the office of the Attorney General (S. L. 1993, Ch. 515).  North Dakota voters elected Mary Kathryn “Heidi” Heitkamp as the first women Attorney General.  She served from 1993-2001.

1995       Added legislation concerning controlled substances included notifying the State Board of Pharmacy (S. L. 1995, Ch. 217). The Attorney General could appoint assistant or special attorneys to serve as a representative on certain boards, commissions, committees, agencies, and departments (S. L. 1995, Ch. 504).

1997       Legislation related to revocation of the appointment of a special assistant attorney general and the payment of attorney fees for representing workers’ compensation claimants (S. L.1997, Ch. 533).

1999       The child sexual abuse investigation team was changed to include an assistant attorney general and an agent of the State Bureau of Criminal Investigation (S. L. 1999, Ch. 452). The Attorney General made sex offender registration information available to law enforcement dispatch centers (S. L. 1999, Ch. 455).  A new section of the Century Code concerned the presumption in drug forfeiture cases and amended the Century Code relating to the asset forfeiture fund (S. L. 1999, Ch. 215). Funds recovered by the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division resulting from negotiated settlements or court proceeding were deposited in special fund (S. L. 1999, Ch. 454).  

2001       Legislation updated the “refund fund” and identified those entitled to payment (S. L. 2001, Ch. 3).  A Senate Concurrent resolution amended the constitution concerning the election of executive branch officers. The addition stated that “elected officials except the Public Service Commissioners shall serve four-year terms”.  However in 2004 the Agriculture Commissioner, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Tax Commissioner served a term of two years [Constitution, Article V Section 5]. The measure (Number 2) passed in the 2000 primary election (S .L. 2001, Ch. 591).

2003       The Attorney General Special Operation Team Reimbursement Fund consisting of federal funds and money obtained from cities and counties was created (S. L. 2003, Ch. 468). A new section to the Century Code transferred the State Crime Laboratory division and the State Toxicologist to the office of the Attorney General from the State Department of Health (S. L. 2003, Ch. 469). 

2005       Legislation addressed expenses relating to the Attorney General and allowed the office to keep the balance left from the refund (reimbursement) funds rather than transfer it to the general fund. The North Dakota Racing Commission was established and was under the supervision and direction of the Attorney General (S. L. 2005, Ch. 3). The Attorney General could provide counsel and written opinions to the State Board of Health (S. L. 2005, Ch. 484).

2007       Legislation added the director of juvenile court to the list of those defended by the Attorney General as established in the 1987 legislation (S. L. 2007, Ch. 274). The Attorney General could establish a fund for a multijurisdictional drug task force (law enforcement task force) and develop guidelines for receipt of funds from appropriations and from federal funds (S. L. 2007, Ch. 459).

2009       The Attorney General established guidelines to promote a program called the “twenty-four seven sobriety program”  with the cooperation of law enforcement, the judiciary, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,  and the Safety Division of the Department of Transportation (S. L. 2009, Ch. 469). At the discretion of the Attorney General agents from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the drug enforcement unit could be compensated for overtime (S. L. 2009, Ch. 125).

2011       A new section to the Century Code allowed the Attorney General to establish a Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission [NDCC 14-07.1] to review domestic violence deaths that have occurred in the state (S. L. 2011, Ch. 112). The Legislative Assembly enacted a new section to the Century Code relating to the athletic nickname and logo of the University of North Dakota [NDCC 15-10] and legislation stating that intercollegiate athletic teams sponsored by the University of North Dakota were to be known as the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. Neither the University nor the State Board of Higher Education could take action to discontinue the use of the nickname or logo. If the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) chose to take action to penalize the University of North Dakota for using the nickname or logo, the Attorney General was to consider filing a federal antitrust claim against the NCAA (S. L. 2011, Ch. 118).


30009 Administration. Outgoing Letters.
30010 Administration. Extradition Papers.
30011 Administration. Miscellaneous Files.
30014 Administration. Land Department Correspondence.
30015 Administration. Budgets.
30016 Administration. Warrant Register.
30017 Board of Pardons. Board of Pardons Calendars, 1941-1945, 1951. Confidential.
30019 Consumer Fraud Division. Assistant Attorney General’s Correspondence.
30021 Administration. School District Bond Correspondence.
30023 Administration. Legal Opinion Files.
30760 Administration. Docket Book Index.
30761 Administration. Case Files.
30762 Administration. Tax Appeal Case Files.
30763 Administration. Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act Files.
30881 Administration. Photographs of North Dakota Jails.
31184 Administration. Jail Standards Survey Reports.
31215 Criminal Justice Training and Statistics Division. Public Service Announcements.
31265 Administration. Correspondence.
31543 Administration. Administrative Files.
31553 Gaming Division. Summary of Gaming Activity.
31575 Consumer Fraud Division. Dockets.
31603 Licensing Division. Abstracts of Gaming Tax Local Payback.
31705 Administrative Division. Amicus Case File - Joined.
31706 Administrative Division. National Association of Attorneys General.
31707 Administrative Division. News Releases.
31708 Administrative Division. State Agency File.
31803 Licensing Division. Abstract Payment Back To Local Governing Bodies.
31823 Consumer Protection Division. Investigative Case Files.
31908 Administrative Division. Administrative Files.
32025 Administration. Reference Material.
32166 Fire Marshal. Property Insurance Loss Reports.
32205 Fire Marshal. Hazardous Materials Incident Reports.
32207 Administration. Internal Manuals and Projects.
32212 Administration. Card File: Opinions, Letters, Constitution.
32326 Racing Commission. Records
32340 Crime Lab. Manuals


Baum, Dale. “The New Day in North Dakota: The Nonpartisan League and the Politics of Negative Revolution,” North Dakota History: Journal of the Northern Plains, 40, no. 2 (1973): 4-19.
Gray, David P.  Guide to the North Dakota State Archives, 1985.
Laws of Dakota Territory.
North Dakota Century Code.
North Dakota Secretary of State Blue Book.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.

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