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04 August 2011

Lichtenegger: Knowing Your Missouri State Departments: The Office of Attorney General

Technically the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) is not a state department. It is an office within the Missouri’s Executive Branch which also includes the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, and the State Treasurer. In fact I’ll take this opportunity to introduce you to the overall structure of our State Government by using this flow chart:

As with all branches and departments, the AGO has a mission statement: “To protect and advance the interests of the state and its citizens through the judicial and legislative process and to serve as the People’s lawyer, fighting for openness and justice, especially for those who have not voice . . . [it] directs all litigation to which the state, any agency or official is a party and represents the state’s legal position at every level of trial and appellate courts.”

The Mission Statement above is for the entire AGO; however, each of the eight divisions within the AGO has its own missions statement. The division that will be most useful to my constituents is that of Consumer Protection. The picture below is a link to the AGO webpage. Once you connect to that webpage you can link to any of these divisions of interest. (NOTE: The Civil, Disability and Workers’ Rights Division has been absorbed into other divisions to save Missourians money.) I encourage you to visit each AGO division to discover which will be most useful to you as a consumer, business owner, municipal officer or all of the above!

Before I discuss the valuable asset of this state office, I would like to tell you what the AGO does not do.

They do not render legal advice or opinions to private citizens nor any non-state entity particularly and especially with respect to any criminal or civil suit in litigation. (They do render “official opinions to the executive and legislative branch and the county prosecuting attorneys on ques­tions of law relating to their duties.”)


They do not have supervision or authority over judges, lawyers, prosecuting attorneys or local elected officials, including law enforcement. However, “the attorney general may institute quo warranto proceedings [A legal proceeding during which an individual's right to hold an office or governmental privilege is challenged.] against anyone unlawfully holding office or move to oust any public official for malfeasance [misconduct] in office.” Complaints about judges are handled by the Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline of Judges, and the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel handles attorney complaints.

The most valuable resources from the AGO are its consumer publications and webpage. Link below to view the various publications; everything from their Consumer Fraud Guide, Crime Victims’ Rights to a booklet called Life Choices that walks you through important decisions about your personal care should you become impaired -it even includes forms to fill out to make your wishes known to family, friends and / or legal agent.

When you click on the left-most hyperlink-picture above you’ll need to scroll down the page to the left-lower portion. You’ll notice small < > on each side. Those maneuver buttons will describe an area of consumer information. The example above is the Consumer Complaint section which describes the Know Your Rights publication; gives you a link to file a complaint online; or the 1-800 # to contact the Consumer Protection Division.

The right-most hyperlink-picture above is for the actual Consumer Publications page where you can order a variety of AGO publications; find worksheets for buying a used car or housing rental; and under Where to Find Help you’ll find a long list of State, Federal and independent consumer hotline numbers for everything from elder abuse to wage disputes.

When you know your consumer rights, who to call to get assistance with problems, and anwers to your consumer questions, you are being a resposible and informed consumer . . . and that has personal financial benefit.

Of a Worthy Note

Missouri Teen Wins Second Place in National Song Contest Against Distracted Driving

HANNIBAL – Kori Caswell, 17, a student at Hannibal High School, won second place in the 2011 Ford Driving Skills for Life "Belt It Out" song contest focusing on distracted driving. Caswell’s song “On the Road, You Can Make Or Break Your Dreams,” shared an important safe driving message: keep both hands on the wheel, face straight forward, and turn your cell phone off. Caswell received a $3,000 savings bond.

The contest involved 520,000 public votes and final judging by Shawn Wilson, president of Usher's New Look Foundation. The public selected the five finalists on from among videos by teen musicians performing original songs. Wilson chose the first, second and third-place winners.

Caswell was honored by the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Northeast Regional Blueprint Committee at Hannibal’s Music Under the Stars event. She was presented with a simulated album cover that included a picture of her with her guitar and the song listed on the cover.

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