It’s been just shy of a year since Aaron Frey went from being a state legislator and criminal defense lawyer in Bangor to managing one of the largest law firms in the state with more than 115 lawyers and 80 support staff.
In his first year on the job as Maine’s attorney general, Frey, 40, of Bangor has encountered a few surprises and found that he spends time each day deciding when Maine will join other states with Democratic attorneys general in challenging the policies of President Donald Trump. In a recent interview, he discussed how he makes those decisions, his expectations for a state lawsuit against the opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma and his office’s investigations into police officers’ use of deadly force.
As for a surprise that’s come with being the state’s top law enforcement officer, Frey said, “We get a lot of letters from Mainers who think the AG’s office has a lot more authority to solve their problems than we actually have. There isn’t a template on how to deal with them, but I want to be helpful. The challenge is how to get them properly directed.”
Overall, Frey said, the adjustment from a solo practitioner law office to the attorney general’s office hasn’t been as big a challenge as he thought it would be.
“So much work over the years by a number of different AGs went into hiring excellent attorneys and staff that it has not been as hard as I’d anticipated getting into the rhythm of the AG’s office,” he said.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who heads the criminal division and has worked for seven different attorneys general, including Frey and now-Gov. Janet Mills, praised Frey’s approach to the job, including making sure the office was fully staffed.
“At the time AG Frey was elected, the office was short-staffed because necessary approval to fill positions from the prior administration had been withheld,” Marchese said. “Aaron immediately collaborated with division chiefs to get positions filled and bring the office up to full complement. He is a quick study and very approachable. He has been supportive, open and available to people in the office, and these characteristics are certainly appreciated.”
While no two days are the same, Frey does spend a portion of each day considering whether Maine will take a stand on national issues. Whether it’s a lawsuit, a “friend of the court” brief or a letter to the head of a federal agency, Frey must decide what he will sign onto and what he won’t.
While Frey admits that opposing Trump administration policies plays a role in those decisions, his bottom line in making a decision is always: How does it benefit Maine?