As I understand it, the President of the United States has an Attorney General (AG) that serves at the pleasure of the President. That means the President can fire the AG at any time. Can you take a look at Maine? Its legislature elects the AG and as I understand it, the AG has a special common law status as a constitutional officer.

The Governor of Maine is supposed to ensure that the laws are executed faithfully. Does he have power to do so when it comes to the department of the AG? I'm not only interested in the AG, but I am also interested in the assistant AGs who serve at the AG's pleasure. I assume that if the Governor can't fire the AG, then the Governor also can't fire any AAGs.

I'm trying to understand who is in charge.

Can the Governor of Maine fire the Attorney General? Otherwise the department of the AG seems like a 4th or 5th branch of government.

  • It's not for nothing that people say AG stands for "Aspiring Governor."
    – cpast
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 1:56

1 Answer 1


Article IX, Section 5 of the constitution says:

Removal by impeachment or address. Every person holding any civil office under this State, may be removed by impeachment, for misdemeanor in office; and every person holding any office, may be removed by the Governor on the address of both branches of the Legislature. But before such address shall pass either House, the causes of removal shall be stated and entered on the journal of the House in which it originated, and a copy thereof served on the person in office, that the person may be admitted to a hearing in that person's own defense.

This provides at least some mechanism for removing an AG. A subcomittee of the Judiciary Committee of the Maine Legislature reports here on the broader question of tenure of office. p. 5 opines that "Many members of the executive branch of Maine government hold their offices at the pleasure of the Governor and may be removed from office by the Governor's direction to vacate". p. 6 then holds that "For civil officers whose tenure is set by the Constitution, removal from office may only occur through impeachment or address," and the Attorney General is enumerated as one of those Constitutional Officers (referencing Article IX Section 11). The State of Maine web page says that there are three branches of government plus three constitutional officers (state, treasurer, AG) and one statutory officer, thus the AG is not part of the executive branch (and thus the AG does not serve at the pleasure of the Governor).

  • Can I get you to comment or point me towards any philosophical works talking about the merits of such an architecture vs the architecture of the federal government?
    – Mr. A
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 13:25
  • My comment is that a main function of an AG is to provide legal advice to the government, not just implement the policies of the executive branch. That motivates a degree of autonomy for the AG. The US AG is not a constitutional officer, which I think follows from anti-federalist sentiment at the time, but Congress opted to create an AG that is primarily beholding to the president (Judiciary Act 1789). Maine seems to not have gone that direction.
    – user6726
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 15:36

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