AP Exclusive: America’s Black Attorneys General Discuss Race, Politics, and the Justice System

December 1, 2023

Black Democratic AGs Reflect America’s Growing Diversity, Lead the Fight In Protecting Our Rights

Washington, DC —  Across the country, Democratic Attorneys General are taking on some of the biggest policy fights in America. The Associated Press’ Matt Brown sat down with all six sitting Black Democratic Attorneys General — Illinois AG Kwame Raoul, Maryland AG Anthony Brown, Massachusetts AG Andrea Campbell, Minnesota AG Keith Ellison, New York AG Letitia James, and Nevada AG Aaron Ford — to discuss their backgrounds that inform their approach to the law. The conversations delved into their perspectives on racial equity, public safety, police accountability, and safeguarding democratic institutions.

“Anthony Brown and Kwame Raoul learned from their fathers, who were both physicians and Caribbean immigrants. Raoul, now the attorney general of Illinois, said he learned ‘to never forget where you came from and never forget the struggles that others go through.’”

 On addressing police misconduct, “Campbell doesn’t see public safety and racial justice as mutually exclusive. ‘You can absolutely make sure that we are giving law enforcement every tool they need, every resource they need to do their jobs effectively, while at the same time taking on the misappropriation of funds, police misconduct, police brutality. All of that can happen at once’, she said.” 

“Brown has made reducing Maryland’s high rate of Black male incarceration his “number one strategy priority.” Maryland has the highest percentage of Black people incarcerated of any state, though Southeastern states like Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi have higher total populations.”

“He created a civil rights division in his office and obtained greater powers from Maryland’s general assembly to prosecute police-involved killings and bring such cases under civil rights law.”

“For Ellison, improving outcomes in the legal system can’t happen without ensuring fair and equitable policing across communities.”

“‘We want the system of justice to work for defendants and for victims both. And there’s no reason it shouldn’t,” Ellison said. He believes involvement from attorneys general is “probably’ needed ‘in order for it to happen.’”

“Ellison, who successfully prosecuted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for Floyd’s murder, doesn’t believe such a high-profile case of accountability for police misconduct, by itself, signaled a meaningful shift in police relations with underserved communities.”

On protecting democracy and the rule of law, “‘I took an oath of office when I got elected to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and of the state of Nevada,’ Ford said. ‘And I didn’t know that literally meant we’d be protecting democracy in the sense that folks would be pushing back on the legitimacy of our elections and undermining our democracy.’”

“James, who has sued Trump in a civil fraud case in which she argues the real estate mogul misrepresented the values of his New York properties for tax purposes, said Trump tends to use his multiple legal entanglements ‘as a microphone’ to sow more distrust for governmental institutions.”

“‘He claims he wants to make America great again, but the reality is that America is already exceptional,’ James said. ‘It’s unfortunate that we are so polarized because of the insecurities of one man.’”

On increasing Black representation among prosecutors, “‘There’s an assault going on, an intentional assault against opportunities for the Black community at large and on diversity and inclusion,’ Raoul said.”

“Raoul cited lawsuits against diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in areas ranging from higher education, contracting and employment opportunities as evidence of a ‘coordinated, well-funded assault on opportunity,’ he said.”


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