Mike Cox, Michigan’s new attorney general, is laying a determined and deliberate course for his term in office. Cox, who is taking the position vacated by recently-elected Gov. Jennifer Granholm, is calling for dramatic reforms within the attorney general’s office as well as in the laws of the state.
Cox’s early agenda includes a plan to reorganize the bureaucracy of the attorney general’s office, combining the 31 different legal divisions of the office into five larger bureaus. Cox said in an interview with The Michigan Daily that the conglomeration would increase the efficiency of the office and provide support and resources to departments in need.
“We’re making this into a modern law office. You used to have divisions that had 22 lawyers and divisions that had one lawyer. By consolidating, you make it possible to share lawyers and to share secretaries,” Cox said.
The attorney general noted that the changes would allow the office to operate within a more efficient budget and would also help other areas of the state government perform more effectively.
“If the attorney general’s office is more effective, it can generally save the government as a whole a large sum of money,” Cox said.
In addition to his plans for internal improvements, Cox has made a strong statement about more public reforms. In outlining his priorities as a public official, the attorney general highlighted enforcement of child support payments as a pressing issue and hopes that reform of the current system will be part of his legacy as attorney general.
“What I’m going to do is stick up for the little guy, especially the 600,000 children who don’t get the child support they need. It’s an utter shame that these children wake up every morning without knowing if they have the money they need,” Cox said.
One concern Cox’s critics hold involves his relationship with Granholm, who has clashed directly with the attorney general on several past occasions. In particular, Granholm’s hiring of 12 new lawyers shortly before the end of her term as attorney general drew protests from Cox. Despite this conflict, Cox asserted that his relationship with Granholm will be cooperative and efficient in order to fulfill the responsibilities of his position.
“There’s going to be bumps in the road occasionally and areas where we disagree politically, but I have an obligation to do the best job I can for the governor and for the people of Michigan,” Cox said.
After narrowly defeating Democratic candidate Gary Peters in the race for attorney general, Cox found himself in a unique position as the first Republican to fill the office in more than 40 years.
While potential incompatibilities with the state’s largely Democratic legal staff have caused many to question Cox’s ability to function within the position, he asserted that his experience and political values will be an asset.
“I think (my views) are an advantage to me because my Republican values are what helped me get hired. I’ve spoken with the staff and we’re all excited to meet the challenges of the future,” Cox said.
The attorney general attributed the formulation of many of the political views that came to influence his career to time spent studying in Ann Arbor. Cox spent both his undergraduate career and his years in law school at the University and claims that its diverse intellectual environment helped shape his policy perspectives.
“It was a great mix of people that really opened my eyes and made me into the person that I am,” Cox said. “That’s the great thing about the University; there are so many people with different views and opinions that really make it work.”