History of the Office of the Attorney General

In California, the Office of Attorney General was created in 1850 to contend with what was considered at the time an unstructured, inadequate and inconsistent system of law enforcement.

Since its establishment, the Office of the Attorney General has been molded and changed by three distinct forces: first, the California Constitution and state government codes, which specify the duties and responsibilities of the Attorney General; second, legislative decree altering the duties of the Attorney General in response to specific state needs; and third, the personalities and ambitions of those who have served as Attorney General.

Of all in state government, the Office of the Attorney General has probably changed the most dramatically in its more than 160 year history. Its development essentially mirrors California's history and the development of the state itself.

The Office of Attorney General in its present form is radically different from the office created by California's founders. Like the Constitution, the office has evolved to serve changing state needs. "I wish to see a good Constitution formed," declared C. T. Botts at California's first Constitutional Convention, "...but it will take time to make it. It is true that houses were built in a single night in San Francisco. It is a go-ahead place. I fear if this Constitution is built in the same way, it will bear about the same relation to an enduring political structure, that a shanty in San Francisco bore to a great monument of architectural skill."

Gradually, through the protection of state lands and resources, through monitoring corporate practices, by asserting the rights of the people against discrimination, and by assuming leadership as the state's central law enforcement authority, the Attorney General has grown to play a critical and, like the Constitution, an enduring role in the life of California.

1850 until Present

Names Dates of Office
Rob Bonta Apr. 2021 - Present
Xavier Becerra Jan. 2017 - Mar. 2021
Kamala D. Harris Jan. 2011 - Jan. 2017
Edmund G. Brown Jr. Jan. 2007 - Jan. 2011
Bill Lockyer Jan. 1999 - Jan. 2007
Daniel E. Lungren Jan. 1991 - Jan. 1999
John K. Van de Kamp Jan. 1983 - Jan. 1991
George Deukmejian Jan. 1979 - Jan. 1983
Evelle J. Younger Jan. 1971 - Jan. 1979
Thomas C. Lynch Sep. 1964 - Jan. 1971
Stanley Mosk Jan. 1959 - Sep. 1964
Edmund G. Brown Sr. Jan. 1951 - Jan. 1959
Frederick N. Howser Jan. 1947 - Jan. 1951
Robert W. Kenny Jan. 1943 - Jan. 1947
Earl Warren Jan. 1939 - Jan. 1943
Ulysses S. Webb Sep. 1902 - Jan. 1939
Tirey L. Ford Jan. 1899 - Sep. 1902
William F. Fitzgerald Jan. 1895 - Jan. 1899
William H. H. Hart Jan. 1891 - Jan. 1895
George A. Johnson Jan. 1887 - Jan. 1891
Edward C. Marshall Jan. 1883 - Jan. 1887
Augustus L. Hart Jan. 1880 - Jan. 1883
Jo Hamilton Dec. 1875 - Jan. 1880
John Lord Love Dec. 1871 - Dec. 1875
Jo Hamilton Dec. 1867 - Dec. 1871
John C. McCullough Dec. 1863 - Dec. 1867
Frank M. Pixley Jan. 1862 - Dec. 1863
Thomas H. Williams Jan. 1858 - Jan. 1862
William T. Wallace Jan. 1856 - Jan. 1858
William M. Stewart Jun. 1854 - (Temporary)
John R. McConnell Jan. 1854 - Jan. 1856
S. Clinton Hastings Jan. 1852 - Jan. 1854
James A. McDougall Oct. 1850 - Dec. 1851
Edward J. C. Kewen Dec. 1849 - Aug. 1850