Attorneys General and Selective Enforcement

I am not a lawyer, so hopefully some of you can help me with this. Virginia’s new Attorney General has announced that he will not defend Virginia’s same sex marriage ban constitutional amendment, and furthermore, will be filing a brief to support overturning it.



The Attorney General of the United States has been pulling this stunt for years.





My question is- the Attorney General was hired by the [misguided] voters of Virginia to defend the interests and Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, including her laws. http://www.ag.virginia.gov/About%20the%20Office/Respnsibilities.html [sic]

If he can pick and choose which laws to defend and which to support the overturning of, how is this not legal malpractice due to breach of contract? It seems to me that in the position of counsel for the state, he’s supposed to defend all of the laws. How is this substantively different than an attorney agreeing to take on a client, taking his money,  and then standing up in court and saying, “well Your Honor, I think he’s guilty as sin, and I’m not defending him”?


Furthermore, what’s to keep the next Attorney General, either state or federal, from selectively defending his pet laws?

Support legal codification of marriage or not, I just don’t see how the lawyer for the government can ethically pick and choose which laws to defend. You get to pick your clients in private practice, not public service.

Or maybe I’m way off, everyone does this, and each Attorney General has the discretion to run the country as he sees fit?