Civil and Defense Litigation Divisions

There are ten civil and defense litigation divisions at the Office of the Attorney General. They perform a wide variety of functions ranging from prosecuting anitrust violations to providing representation to other state agencies.

The Administrative Law Division's legal work can be broadly categorized into four areas: enforcement litigation, agency defense litigation, legal counseling and other legal proceedings. The division provides general counsel support to state agencies, many of which do not have in-house counsel. Attorneys routinely provide advice to these agencies and their governing boards on a broad range of topics, including the Open Meetings Act, the Public Information Act, rulemaking, contracting, employment, pre-litigation, and statutory construction and interpretation. The division also includes a section devoted solely to litigation support for the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General.

The division presents conferences on government law and liability for board members and agency administrators. The division also publishes the Administrative Law Handbook and guidance for compliance with the Private Real Property Rights Preservation Act and Texas Government Code Section 2006.002 (relating to development of an analysis of the impact of proposed regulations on small businesses).

The Bankruptcy and Collections Division is the centralized collection unit for the state, charged with the responsibility to recover all debts, judgments, taxes, fees, fines, penalties, loans and other obligations. The Collection Section employs investigators to locate and identify parties responsible for the debt, and its attorneys pursue collection in state court. The Bankruptcy Section represents state agencies in federal court around the country, as well as in Texas, to protect the state's monetary and regulatory interests in bankruptcy cases.

The Civil Medicaid Fraud Division prosecutes civil cases of Medicaid fraud under the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act. Many of the division's cases derive from qui tam actions, which are private "relator" or whistleblower lawsuits filed under seal in which the state is asked to intervene. Because the whistleblower usually includes a similar claim under the Federal False Claims Act, the division often works with federal authorities and other states. The attorney general has statutory authority to self-initiate civil Medicaid fraud matters and may receive referrals from its criminal counterpart in the agency, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. In addition the division may receive referrals from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. The division also helps to coordinate the agency's compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.

The Consumer Protection Division protects consumers and the legitimate business community by filing civil lawsuits under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and other consumer protection statutes. Although it is widely known for its work in traditional areas of consumer protection litigation - enforcing the laws against false, misleading or deceptive advertising and marketing practices - the division also takes legal action against nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health care agencies and psychiatric facilities that abuse and neglect residents and patients. The division maintains regional offices in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, McAllen and San Antonio. In addition, three specialized sections protect the public in ways that go beyond the usual consumer issues: Consumer Law Enforcement, Public Health and Technology and Antitrust. The Insurance Practices Section protects Texas consumers from unfair or deceptive practices in the business of insurance. Finally, the Public Agency Representation Section represents the State of Texas as a consumer of utilities.

The Environmental Protection Division represents the state in matters pertaining to environmental protection, natural resources and public utilities. EPD's clients include the Commission on Environmental Quality, Public Utility Commission, General Land Office, Railroad Commission, Water Development Board, Department of Agriculture, Department of State Health Services, Parks and Wildlife Department and state river compact commissions. EPD prosecutes and defends cases in state and federal courts and in administrative proceedings.

The work of the division is organized into five sections: The Enforcement Section prosecutes cases against those who violate laws protecting the health and safety of the people of Texas and the environment in which they live. The Defense Section represents the state and its environmental agencies when their decisions or actions are challenged in court or when federal regulators impose policy choices that are inconsistent with the state's interests in protecting the environment. The Natural Resources Section represents the state in a variety of matters relating to the state's natural resources, including public land litigation involving title and boundary disputes, public beach access, coastal dune protection and mineral valuation on state lands. The Utilities Section represents the Public Utility Commission in matters relating to regulation of electric and telecommunications utilities in Texas. The Colonias Section investigates and prosecutes enforcement litigation against developers of substandard subdivisions along and near the Texas-Mexico border.

The Financial Litigation, Tax, and Charitable Trusts defends and prosecutes lawsuits involving regulatory and financial matters for state agencies. The Division regularly represents over thirty client agencies in litigation, in state and federal court and trial and appeals court. Representation of these agencies is primarily based on referrals from the agencies requesting legal assistance on a case-by-case basis, and the division's work is comprised of four key areas, overseen by the respective senior attorney. Financial Litigation matters include enforcement actions to enjoin fraud or statutory violations; receiverships; the defense of rules, final agency actions, and statutes; breach of contract suits; and client counseling on related issues. In Tax cases, the Division represents the Comptroller of Public Accounts in suits by taxpayers disputing audit liabilities or seeking a refund of taxes, including sales, franchise, insurance, and motor vehicle taxes. In its Charitable Trusts function, the Division performs many duties stemming from the Attorney General's constitutional duty to safeguard the public interest in charity in Texas, such as initiating action against errant charities and representing the public interest in proceedings that involve charitable trusts. In its Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) work, the Division represents TWC in suits regarding the payment of wages, unemployment benefits, and the assessment of unemployment taxes.

The General Litigation Division defends state agencies, elected and appointed state officials, and state employees in civil rights litigation including employment litigation. Such suits include whistleblower claims, tenure denials, claims of discrimination, student dismissals, and First and Fourteenth Amendment constitutional claims. The division represents clients in libel, slander and other tort actions. The division defends against challenges to the constitutionality of state statutes. The division handles state and federal suits through all litigation stages including the appellate process.

The Law Enforcement Defense Division provides representation for all state law enforcement agencies, their officials and employees in civil lawsuits brought against them in their official capacities or in the course of their employment. Among the agencies represented are the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, component divisions of the criminal justice system, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and police departments of state universities. Representation may also be provided to employees who serve as adult probation and juvenile probation officers for the state, district attorneys, and in some administrative law cases and actions in quo warranto against elected officials.

The Tort Litigation Division primarily defends state agencies and state employees in suits involving personal injury, medical malpractice, property damage, workers' compensation, libel, slander and anti-retaliation. The Division also evaluates pre-litigation claims for potential settlement or defense of said claims and provides advice to numerous state entities on tort related civil matters. Most of the suits defended by the Tort Litigation Division are brought under the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA), the Medical Liability and Insurance Improvement Act and the Texas Labor Code.

The Transportation Division represents the Texas Department of Transportation in all litigation matters. This includes eminent domain (land acquisition), prosecution of violations of highway beautification laws, enforcement of contracts, recoupment of monies expended by the state for job-related injuries and externally caused damages to state property, defense of employment discrimination claims, defense of tort claims, and prosecution and collection of certain administrative penalties. The Transportation Division also handles condemnation cases for all state agencies having the power of eminent domain.

Revised: June 19 2013