Over the past few weeks, the Orrick State Attorney General Practice Group has highlighted the numerous ways in which state Attorneys General are enforcing state laws in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With some states starting to reopen, state AGs will also help shape and enforce the executive orders issued by the governors.
Below are areas in which state AGs are playing an active role in enforcing state laws during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sign-On Letters to Congress and Federal Agencies: Some AGs continue to weigh in on areas covered by federal law. For instance, state AGs express their legal and policy positions through “sign-on” letters. These letters are often started by one or a small group of state AGs, and then circulated to the other AGs. Below are sign on letters that have been sent by state AGs:
While most state AG actions involve civil investigations or enforcement actions, some state AGs also have jurisdiction to investigate and file criminal enforcement actions. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro recently announced his office has opened criminal investigations into several Pennsylvania nursing homes.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued a report titled, “COVID-19’s Unequal Effects in Massachusetts.” The report discusses the “environmental factors that compound the COVID-19 pandemic’s disparate impact on communities of color in Massachusetts” and provides a number of steps to “address the longstanding impact of environmental injustice.”
These are just a few of the recent actions being taken by state AGs involving the COVID-19 pandemic. Attorneys General are increasingly active as they look for ways to enforce laws or regulations related to the pandemic. Businesses need to carefully think through any potential violations and consider drafting and implementing compliance protocols to ensure that they are in compliance with state and federal laws.