Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

PO Box 40100
Olympia, WA 98504-0100


The Government Compliance and Enforcement Division is comprised of 25 attorneys and 19 professional staff.  The division provides legal advice to the State Auditor, the State Insurance Commissioner, Department of Financial Institutions, Gambling Commission, Horse Racing Commission, Human Rights Commission, Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises, Tax Preference Board and Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.  It also handles the regulatory enforcement and forfeiture litigation for the Washington State Patrol, Public Disclosure Commission, Gambling Commission, Lottery Commission, Liquor Control Board, Department of Financial Institutions, Human Rights Commission, Horse Racing Commission, Insurance Commissioner, Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises, Executive Ethics Board, and Legislative Ethics Board.  For the Department of Health, the division is responsible for the professional licensing litigation related to health professions licensed by boards and commissions.  Finally, the division acts as the statutory Counsel for the Environment.

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Legal Services Provided

The division provides a full range of representation to its clients, including at the administrative, state superior court, federal district court and federal and state appellate court levels.  It is divided into two sections whose functions are described below:

The Advice and Compliance Section provides legal advice to eight state agencies, including two state-wide elected officials, the State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner.  This advice includes issues that are uniquely within the scope of their constitutional and statutory responsibilities.  Legal advice requested often relates to general issues affecting government agencies, such as administrative law, federal preemption of state laws and regulations, investments, contracts, finance, public records, and ethics in government service.  In addition, advice is often sought regarding the specific statutes establishing the agency's programs and responsibilities.  Attorneys for the Insurance Commissioner also handle enforcement proceedings, rate hearings, insolvency proceedings, public disclosure requests, and health care litigation.  Attorneys for the Auditor’s Office provide advice on legal compliance issues related to state and local government financial audits and state whistleblower investigations, monitor recovery efforts when fraud is reported, and handle enforcement actions that may arise from the audit process.  Two attorneys from the section also are appointed as members of the State Records Committee and Local Records Committee, which are charged with approval of public record retention schedules establishing how long public records must be retained prior to destruction.

The Litigation Section is compromised by three teams who primarily prosecute cases at the administrative and state superior court level and on appeal of violations of campaign, discrimination, minority contracting, banking and securities, liquor, gambling, lottery, cigarette tax, and ethics laws, as well as allegations of misconduct and violations of the Uniform Disciplinary Act for health care providers licensed by a state board or commission.  The section also handles Indian Gaming Compact advice and litigation, drug seizure litigation, and RICO/money laundering cases.  Finally, section attorneys act as the Counsel for the Environment on matters related to the siting of state energy facilities.

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Public Safety Enforcement Actions:  The division opened 278 cases that involved violations of the state liquor and tobacco, gambling, horse racing, lottery, financial institutions, insurance and health care provider licensing laws.  The division also opened 148 advice matters, many of which applied to this enforcement work.

Division Judicial Review and Appellate Work:  The division handles cases on judicial review from the administrative proceedings, as well as appeals of state and federal trial level decisions.  This fiscal year, 36 such cases were filed and defended by division staff.

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