St. Mary's Law Journal


John W. Vinson


The Attorney General of Texas is the only elected official charged with regulating the state’s charitable interest. This duty and authority over charitable assets and entities are comprehensive and unique in themselves. Although the broader state representation role of American attorneys general has evolved considerably and been substantively codified in the statutory law, the area of charity regulations has remained remarkably true to its common law root. This Article will briefly examine the early roots of charity regulation and then discuss the authority and duties of the Attorney General of Texas in the modern context of charity regulation. In Texas, the assets held and managed by charitable entities are quite significant in financial terms. The Attorney General represents the public’s interest in these assets by ensuring they are used for proper charitable purposes. Such role is akin to, but more significant than, the role of an attorney for stockholders of a business corporation or the beneficiary of an express trust. Charitable interests, however, having no stockholders or specifically identifiable owners, are protected and enforced by the Attorney General on behalf of the public. A parallel goal of the Attorney General’s powers and duties in the charity realm is the protection and perpetuation of the intent of charity donors. The Attorney General’s uniquely broad representational capacity is the fundamental concept of common law charity regulation. The Attorney General of Texas enjoys such authority and thereby provides a great public benefit. For public policy reasons and considering the importance of charity, such oversight should be expansively interpreted and implemented. There is no other governmental entity willing, equipped, or able to assert this oversight role.


St. Mary's University School of Law