The Civil Law Division handles defense litigation for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and much, much more. It defends the constitutionality of Pennsylvania law; represents Commonwealth agencies and their employees in the course of their job duties; collects taxes and other debts owed to the Commonwealth including through litigation of tax appeals to the Commonwealth Court; reviews Commonwealth contracts, regulations and bond issues for form and legality; acts as a plaintiff in legal matters involving issues of significant state and national importance including litigation on policies and actions of the federal government; and handles all manner of civil appellate litigation for the Commonwealth. The Civil Law Division is headed by an Executive Deputy Attorney General who reports to the First Deputy Attorney General and, through the First Deputy, to the Attorney General.
Civil Law Division attorneys appear before federal District and Bankruptcy Courts, United States Courts of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as the Courts of Common Pleas in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court. They work out of the Office of Attorney General’s main offices in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as Erie, Norristown and Scranton. Each office has an Attorney-in-Charge who reports to the Section Chief with respect to legal matters. In addition, the Eastern and Western Regional Offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh each have a Regional Chief who reports to the Executive Deputy Attorney General of the Civil Law Division with respect to administrative matters.
The six sections in the Civil Law Division are:
- Appellate Litigation
- Civil Litigation
- Impact Litigation
- Legal Review
- Tax Litigation and Financial Enforcement
- Torts Litigation
Each is headed by a Chief Deputy Attorney General who reports to the Executive Deputy Attorney General. While each of these six sections has its own area of expertise, where appropriate, the sections work collaboratively, to get the best result for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The Appellate Litigation Section handles all civil litigation appeals in state and federal courts. These appeals arise from both the Civil Law and Public Protection Divisions of the Office of Attorney General and include constitutional challenges to state laws, policies and actions; employment, tax appeal and personal injury matters; oversight of charitable organizations; and consumer protection cases. The Appellate Litigation Section also analyzes and advises on requests that the Commonwealth join friend-of-the-court “amicus” briefs in the Supreme Court of the United States and elsewhere around the Country.
The Civil Litigation Section represents the Commonwealth, its executive and independent agencies, public officials, and employees in civil litigation. It is involved in a wide variety of lawsuits, most of which concern the constitutionality of state statutes, the operation of state programs, the conduct of state law enforcement officers, the administration of state prisons, or the employment practices of state agencies. In the overwhelming majority of its cases, the Civil Litigation Section is defending the interests of the Commonwealth when it is sued by others; however, Civil Litigation Section attorneys also initiate actions on behalf of the Commonwealth when necessary to enforce the law.
The Impact Litigation Section is responsible for representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a plaintiff in civil litigation and related legal matters involving issues of significant state and national importance, including matters regarding policies and actions of the federal government. It both initiates legal action on its own and joins actions initiated by other state attorneys general across the Country where doing so is necessary or desirable to protect the legal rights of Pennsylvanians. The Impact Litigation Section also analyzes and advises on requests that the Commonwealth join friend-of-the-court “amicus” briefs in the Supreme Court of the United States and elsewhere around the Country.
The Legal Review Section reviews and approves for form and legality all state agency contracts and regulations, as well as state bond issues. It also drafts and approves plain language statements for ballot questions, protects agricultural operations from unauthorized local regulation that is prohibited or preempted by state law under the Agricultural Communities and Rural Environment Act, 3 Pa. C.S. §§ 311-318, or “ACRE,” and responds to all Right-to-Know Law requests submitted to the Office of Attorney General. In addition, when requested to do so by the Governor or the head of any Commonwealth agency, the Legal Review Section provides them with legal advice on matters arising in connection with their official duties. 71 P.S. § 732-204.
Tax Litigation represents the Commonwealth in litigation of state tax appeals from the Board of Finance and Revenue to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania and beyond. It handles an active caseload of over 2,000 cases, more than half of which involve corporate and sales and use taxes. The majority of the remaining cases involve personal income taxes.
Financial Enforcement collects delinquent debts and other obligations owed to the Commonwealth and its agencies. It also represents the Commonwealth and its agencies before federal bankruptcy courts in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States.
The Torts Litigation Section defends the Commonwealth and its agencies, officials, and employees in personal injury and property damage actions in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Many of these matters involve claims against the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for death or serious bodily injury resulting from the allegedly defective design, construction, or maintenance of state highways. Torts Litigation lawyers work out of six regional offices across the state.