Conference of Western Attorneys General
The Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) is a bipartisan group comprised of the chief legal officers of 15 western states and three Pacific territories. Members include, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The Conference also includes the Pacific jurisdictions of American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. Associate Members include the states of Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.
CWAG’s primary function is to provide a forum for chief legal officers of member states and jurisdictions to cultivate knowledge, cooperate on concerns and coordinate actions which improve the quality of legal services available to members. CWAG focuses on common areas of interest to the west: water, fish and wildlife, public lands, minerals, environmental protection and Indian Law. Interest in the organization has been generated from states, countries and individuals from outside the west due to the evolution of the law on these matters and the universality of many of these issues.
Since 1982 CWAG has employed its own staff to coordinate litigation, legislative efforts and information to assist western states on both regional and national levels. CWAG provides assistance to members by serving as a central clearinghouse for information and legal strategies, facilitating interstate working relationships and enhancing expertise by providing timely information. CWAG plans and sponsors an annual conference along with several topic specific meetings such Indian Gaming Seminars, Takings Seminars and Energy Issues Seminars. These conferences are attended by Attorneys General and their staff from within the CWAG region, across the country and have had international exposure with participation by both Canadian and Mexican Attorneys General. CWAG maintains communication with federal officials and Congressional contacts, monitors legislation and provides questions for confirmation hearings.
CWAG works closely with the National Association of Attorneys General on many projects, including issues like methamphetamines, criminal law and identification theft. CWAG provides information and articulates western state views on federal issues and legislation. CWAG maintains regular contacts with and initiates meetings with many federal agencies. The National Indian Gaming Commission, U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Energy regularly solicit input and cooperation from CWAG on matters of concern or interest to western states. A common theme with these entities is the tension between state and federal sovereigns.
CWAG has created a channel through which western concerns and suggestions are conveyed and answered. WAGLAC (the Western Attorneys General Litigation Action Committee) is comprised of key deputies and staff people within the Attorney General’s offices who are primarily responsible for carrying out the analysis of legal issues and coordination of litigation. Each Attorney General designates one or more staff members to attend meetings and carry out committee projects. The committee provides a forum for study and discussion through quarterly meetings, seminars and working groups.
WAGLAC members contribute to both short term and long term projects including filings of amicus briefs, exchange of legal expertise and recommendations on selected legal issues. Successful long term projects include the publication in 1991 of the American Indian Law Deskbook, a legal treatise which has received national recognition. The Deskbook is updated annually and a 3rd Edition was published in 2003 with yearly updates in 2004, 2005. The group was also instrumental in developing two books published in 1987 and 1988, Federal Lands and Reserved Water Rights Settlement Manual.