The Office

The Attorney General is Pennsylvania’s top law enforcement official, with a wide range of responsibilities to protect and serve the citizens and agencies of the Commonwealth. The Attorney General is served by a staff of several hundred prosecutors, attorneys, investigators, agents and support staff in offices across the state, divided into four sections: the Criminal Law Division, the Public Protection Division, the Civil Division and the Operations Division.

The Criminal Law Division is responsible for investigating drug trafficking, child predators, organized crime, public corruption, insurance fraud and other criminal violations. This division also handles criminal cases referred to the Office of Attorney General by Pennsylvania’s 67 District Attorneys or various other government agencies.

More Criminal Law Division

The Public Protection Division safeguards the personal rights of the citizens of Pennsylvania and protects the public interest. The Public Protection Division handles consumer complaints through the Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Health Care Section, oversees Tobacco enforcement, Charitable Trusts and Organizations, Antitrust actions and Civil Rights Enforcement.

More Public Protection Division

The Civil Law Division defends the constitutionality of Pennsylvania law, represents Commonwealth agencies, defends the Commonwealth in tax appeals, collects delinquent taxes and other debts owed to the Commonwealth, handles or supervises various appeals and reviews Commonwealth contracts, regulations and bond issues for form and legality.

More Civil Law Division

The Office of Public Engagement prevents crime through outreach in communities across Pennsylvania. The office teaches young adults and parents about drug addiction and shows seniors how to avoid becoming the victim of a scam. Request a presentation and access resources from the office online.

More Office of Public Engagement

M Henry

Michelle A. Henry, a life-long public servant and 26-year veteran prosecutor, is Pennsylvania’s Acting Attorney General. Widely recognized for her work ethic and singular dedication to public service, Michelle rose from intern in the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s Office to now serve as the chief law enforcement officer for the Commonwealth.

 

Michelle was raised in Westmoreland County, graduated from Greensburg-Salem public schools and remains a proud Golden Lion. Her life and career have crisscrossed and impacted all of Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Allegheny College and the Widener University School of Law, worked for the Westmoreland County Legal Aid Office, and clerked for now retired Lancaster County President Judge Michael Georgelis.

 

Before serving as First Deputy Attorney General, Michelle dedicated over 20 years of her career to the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office – taking on critical jobs including Chief of Major Crimes, Chief of Child Abuse, and First Assistant. She was appointed Bucks County District Attorney with a bipartisan vote in 2008. In Bucks County, colleagues credited her for leading by example and being first in line for the toughest cases. Michelle was admired as an excellent attorney who also pushed major initiatives – she was instrumental in helping start the county’s children’s advocacy center and took a leading role in educating junior prosecutors from across the Commonwealth. 

 

As First Deputy Attorney General under former Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Henry was responsible for overseeing all of the Office’s legal matters, including criminal cases to seek justice for victims, civil suits representing the Commonwealth and public protection cases fighting for the rights of Pennsylvania consumers. During her tenure as First Deputy, Henry was recognized for her tireless work safeguarding the Office’s mission to protect and serve Pennsylvanians as the legal advocate for the Commonwealth. Chief among those honors was Henry’s admittance to the American College of Trial Lawyers, one of the premier legal associations in North America; and the receipt of Widener University Commonwealth Law School’s 2017 Excellence in Public Service Alumni Award for her “extraordinary contributions” to public service.

The heritage of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General is one of the oldest and most divergent offices of public trust in the United States spanning over three centuries of life in the Commonwealth.

The office is marked by several significant periods in its history:

1643-1681: Attorneys General before William Penn
1686-1710: The Era of David Lloyd1717-1776: Proprietary Attorneys General
1776-1838: Early Constitutional Era
1838-1915: 19th and Early 20th Century Attorneys General
1915-1981: Modern Attorneys General
1981-present: Elected Attorneys General

The position of Attorney General was created in 1643, before the arrival of English Common Law, as an office within government of the area known as New Sweden. Appointees were selected by the King of Sweden.

The arrival of William Penn in 1681 as the proprietor of Pennsylvania began a continuing succession of notable Attorneys General including David Lloyd (1686-1710), who designed Pennsylvania’s first judicial system, and Andrew Hamilton (1717-1726), who defined the early role of the Office by making significant changes from the European systems of justice. (Hamilton later defended printer John Peter Zenger in a case that became the foundation for the concept of freedom of press.)

The “Proprietary” Attorneys General existed until 1776 when the Attorney General became a constitutional officer of the democratic Commonwealth. John Morris was the first Attorney General appointed under the Constitution.

The new constitutional office continued to grow in importance until 1840 when it suffered a period of regression. Various Attorneys General and the Governors who appointed them defined the duties of the Office in different and contradictory ways. By the year 1850, through improperly drafted legislation, the Office was stripped of its authority at the county level and was rendered almost powerless in state government.

It was not until 1915 that the General Assembly established new powers and duties for the Office including the authority to appoint more Deputy Attorneys General. Beginning in 1923, the Administrative Code made the Attorney General the administrator for the Pennsylvania Department of Justice.

Attorneys General
At the primary election of 1978, Pennsylvania voters approved a Constitutional amendment providing for the election of an Attorney General effective with the general election of 1980.

The Constitutional amendment was implemented by the Commonwealth Attorneys Act of 1980 which defined the duties and powers of the Attorney General. The Constitution further provided the Attorney General shall be the chief law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth and shall exercise such powers and perform such duties as may be imposed by law.

Attorney General Took office Left office
LeRoy S. Zimmerman January 20, 1981 January 17, 1989
Ernie Preate January 17, 1989 June 23, 1995
Walter W. Cohen (acting) June 26, 1995 October 3, 1995
Tom Corbett October 3, 1995 January 21, 1997
Mike Fisher January 21, 1997 December 15, 2003
Jerry Pappert January 18, 2004 January 18, 2005
Tom Corbett January 18, 2005 January 18, 2011
William Ryan (acting) January 18, 2011 May 27, 2011
Linda Kelly May 27, 2011 January 15, 2013
Kathleen Kane January 15, 2013 August 17, 2016
Bruce Castor (acting) August 17, 2016 August 31, 2016
Bruce Beemer August 31, 2016 January 17, 2017
Josh Shapiro January 17, 2017 present

 

 

The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General enforces the law and defends the interests of the Commonwealth and its diverse citizens by:

  • Ensuring fair and impartial administration of justice for all Pennsylvanians;
  • Advocating for fair and equitable treatment of all consumers;
  • Providing leadership in preventing and controlling crime committed against Pennsylvanians;
  • Pursuing just punishment without fear or favor for those guilty of unlawful behavior.

As provided by the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, the fundamental duties of the Attorney General are:

  • To be the Commonwealth’s chief law enforcement officer charged with the responsibility for the prosecution of organized crime and public corruption. This law enforcement effort includes a criminal investigation unit and a drug law enforcement program as well as direction of statewide and multi-county investigating grand juries and a Medicaid Fraud Control Section
  • To collect, by suit or otherwise, all debts, taxes and accounts due the Commonwealth which shall be referred to and placed with the Attorney General
  • To represent the Commonwealth and all Commonwealth agencies and upon request the Auditor General, State Treasurer and Public Utility Commission in any action brought by or against the Commonwealth or its Agencies
  • To administer the provision relating to consumer protection laws
  • To represent the Commonwealth and its citizens in any action brought about for violation of the antitrust laws of the United States.

M Henry

Michelle A. Henry, a life-long public servant and 26-year veteran prosecutor, is Pennsylvania’s Acting Attorney General. Widely recognized for her work ethic and singular dedication to public service, Michelle rose from intern in the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s Office to now serve as the chief law enforcement officer for the Commonwealth.

 

Michelle was raised in Westmoreland County, graduated from Greensburg-Salem public schools and remains a proud Golden Lion. Her life and career have crisscrossed and impacted all of Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Allegheny College and the Widener University School of Law, worked for the Westmoreland County Legal Aid Office, and clerked for now retired Lancaster County President Judge Michael Georgelis.

 

Before serving as First Deputy Attorney General, Michelle dedicated over 20 years of her career to the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office – taking on critical jobs including Chief of Major Crimes, Chief of Child Abuse, and First Assistant. She was appointed Bucks County District Attorney with a bipartisan vote in 2008. In Bucks County, colleagues credited her for leading by example and being first in line for the toughest cases. Michelle was admired as an excellent attorney who also pushed major initiatives – she was instrumental in helping start the county’s children’s advocacy center and took a leading role in educating junior prosecutors from across the Commonwealth. 

 

As First Deputy Attorney General under former Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Henry was responsible for overseeing all of the Office’s legal matters, including criminal cases to seek justice for victims, civil suits representing the Commonwealth and public protection cases fighting for the rights of Pennsylvania consumers. During her tenure as First Deputy, Henry was recognized for her tireless work safeguarding the Office’s mission to protect and serve Pennsylvanians as the legal advocate for the Commonwealth. Chief among those honors was Henry’s admittance to the American College of Trial Lawyers, one of the premier legal associations in North America; and the receipt of Widener University Commonwealth Law School’s 2017 Excellence in Public Service Alumni Award for her “extraordinary contributions” to public service.

The heritage of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General is one of the oldest and most divergent offices of public trust in the United States spanning over three centuries of life in the Commonwealth.

The office is marked by several significant periods in its history:

1643-1681: Attorneys General before William Penn
1686-1710: The Era of David Lloyd1717-1776: Proprietary Attorneys General
1776-1838: Early Constitutional Era
1838-1915: 19th and Early 20th Century Attorneys General
1915-1981: Modern Attorneys General
1981-present: Elected Attorneys General

The position of Attorney General was created in 1643, before the arrival of English Common Law, as an office within government of the area known as New Sweden. Appointees were selected by the King of Sweden.

The arrival of William Penn in 1681 as the proprietor of Pennsylvania began a continuing succession of notable Attorneys General including David Lloyd (1686-1710), who designed Pennsylvania’s first judicial system, and Andrew Hamilton (1717-1726), who defined the early role of the Office by making significant changes from the European systems of justice. (Hamilton later defended printer John Peter Zenger in a case that became the foundation for the concept of freedom of press.)

The “Proprietary” Attorneys General existed until 1776 when the Attorney General became a constitutional officer of the democratic Commonwealth. John Morris was the first Attorney General appointed under the Constitution.

The new constitutional office continued to grow in importance until 1840 when it suffered a period of regression. Various Attorneys General and the Governors who appointed them defined the duties of the Office in different and contradictory ways. By the year 1850, through improperly drafted legislation, the Office was stripped of its authority at the county level and was rendered almost powerless in state government.

It was not until 1915 that the General Assembly established new powers and duties for the Office including the authority to appoint more Deputy Attorneys General. Beginning in 1923, the Administrative Code made the Attorney General the administrator for the Pennsylvania Department of Justice.

Attorneys General
At the primary election of 1978, Pennsylvania voters approved a Constitutional amendment providing for the election of an Attorney General effective with the general election of 1980.

The Constitutional amendment was implemented by the Commonwealth Attorneys Act of 1980 which defined the duties and powers of the Attorney General. The Constitution further provided the Attorney General shall be the chief law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth and shall exercise such powers and perform such duties as may be imposed by law.

Attorney General Took office Left office
LeRoy S. Zimmerman January 20, 1981 January 17, 1989
Ernie Preate January 17, 1989 June 23, 1995
Walter W. Cohen (acting) June 26, 1995 October 3, 1995
Tom Corbett October 3, 1995 January 21, 1997
Mike Fisher January 21, 1997 December 15, 2003
Jerry Pappert January 18, 2004 January 18, 2005
Tom Corbett January 18, 2005 January 18, 2011
William Ryan (acting) January 18, 2011 May 27, 2011
Linda Kelly May 27, 2011 January 15, 2013
Kathleen Kane January 15, 2013 August 17, 2016
Bruce Castor (acting) August 17, 2016 August 31, 2016
Bruce Beemer August 31, 2016 January 17, 2017
Josh Shapiro January 17, 2017 present

 

 

The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General enforces the law and defends the interests of the Commonwealth and its diverse citizens by:

  • Ensuring fair and impartial administration of justice for all Pennsylvanians;
  • Advocating for fair and equitable treatment of all consumers;
  • Providing leadership in preventing and controlling crime committed against Pennsylvanians;
  • Pursuing just punishment without fear or favor for those guilty of unlawful behavior.

As provided by the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, the fundamental duties of the Attorney General are:

  • To be the Commonwealth’s chief law enforcement officer charged with the responsibility for the prosecution of organized crime and public corruption. This law enforcement effort includes a criminal investigation unit and a drug law enforcement program as well as direction of statewide and multi-county investigating grand juries and a Medicaid Fraud Control Section
  • To collect, by suit or otherwise, all debts, taxes and accounts due the Commonwealth which shall be referred to and placed with the Attorney General
  • To represent the Commonwealth and all Commonwealth agencies and upon request the Auditor General, State Treasurer and Public Utility Commission in any action brought by or against the Commonwealth or its Agencies
  • To administer the provision relating to consumer protection laws
  • To represent the Commonwealth and its citizens in any action brought about for violation of the antitrust laws of the United States.