The Nevadan/El Nevadense sat down for an exclusive interview with Nevada’s 34th Attorney General, Dr. Aaron Ford on September 14.
We discussed various topics, such as abortion, housing, human trafficking, and other issues affecting the Latino community statewide.
Ford was first elected to the role in 2018 and was reelected to a second term last year. He is the first African American to serve in this position and is a fluent Spanish speaker. He previously represented Clark County in the state Senate.
Ford was the first in his family to graduate from college. He obtained five degrees, including a law degree and a Ph.D. in education. Once a math school teacher, and a lawyer at a private practice for many years; today, Dr. Ford proudly shares some of the accomplishments and issues he is faced with as Nevada’s Attorney General.
Watch (or read) our full interview below.
Emilia Pablo – The Nevadan: Thank you so much, Dr. Ford, for this time. We’re going to start with having you please say your name and what you do as attorney general.
Well, my name is Aaron Ford. I am the Nevada attorney general. And in that role, I am the people’s lawyer. We are the top law enforcement officers in the state. We sue when the state needs to hold people accountable and we defend the state from lawsuits. And we advise all members of the state on how best to do their job, and we just ensure at the end of the day that all Nevadans are taken care of.
You’re now in your second term as Nevada’s attorney general. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re focusing on over the next few years?
Absolutely. So one of the first things I did when I took this role was to announce our motto in this office. And that motto is ‘Our job is justice.’ We focused on that for the first term, and we will continue that focus this next term. We focus on protecting consumers through consumer protection statutes and using our departments for that.
We focus on protecting the constitutional rights of all Nevadans. We focus on criminal justice and reform to ensure that we have a fair system that is going to hold people accountable when they break the law. We focus on constituent services, ensuring that all of our constituents, whether they be our clients or people who elected us, get the services that they need and questions answered that they ask.
Finally, we continue to focus on being engaged in the community, ensuring that people know that we’re more than just law enforcement officers who put people in jail. We’re your neighbors. We shop at the Smith’s just like you. We’re soccer moms and dads. And so we want to ensure that we focus on the community and we will continue doing that in my second term.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen the Supreme Court really veer to the far right, striking down abortion rights, ending affirmative action, blocking student loan debt cancellation, and so forth. What are your thoughts on the court’s shift and what would you say to Nevadans who might be discouraged by it?
Well, suffice it to say, I’ve not been in support of some of the decisions that have come down from the Supreme Court. And I, like many of the folks who are watching this, have been discouraged. So being discouraged is entirely normal and is understandable. But beyond being discouraged, we have to stay vigilant. We have to continue to fight and push for equal rights for everyone, ensuring that our constitutional rights are protected.
We refuse, and we cannot allow ourselves to be taken backwards, and my advice to all of those watching this is that, continue moving forward and continue fighting to ensure that our rights are protected.
Dr. Ford, abortion remains legal in Nevada right now, but there’s a court case making its way through the federal system that threatens to impose barriers to accessing the medication abortion. What do you think about that case and what are you going to do to try to protect reproductive freedoms in Nevada?
Well, that case is another one of the disappointments that we’ve seen coming out from some of the courts in our nation. But we saw it coming. We knew that this particular judge, frankly, in Texas, is the go-to judge for people who are trying to undermine what used to be the constitutional right to an abortion. And so to be proactive, we filed our own lawsuit in a court in Oregon that requires the Federal Drug Administration, the FDA, to still provide access to Mifepristone because it has been proven over the last two decades to be effective and safe.
And so we have these battling lawsuits going on. And at some point, the Supreme Court’s going to have to make a decision on that. But we will continue in our state, under my administration, to continue to protect, again, what once was considered to be a constitutional right—one that is protected in our state by a referendum—but one that we have to stay vigilant in protecting.
Now, the opioid crisis has ravaged communities across America, including those in Nevada. Can you talk about what your office has done and is doing to address the crisis and help Nevadans?
Yeah, this opioid crisis is something that has ravaged the entirety of our state. It knows no race. It knows no gender. It knows no zip code. It touches on every single one of us and I’m positive that many people have experienced the devastation that opioids have wrought. And so one of the first things we did when I became attorney general was to file a lawsuit against almost 50 people, companies, individuals, entities about their role in the opioid crisis, understanding that they lied when opioids were first introduced in a prescription form, understand[ing] that they pumped pills into communities at a rate that was alarming, that people should have known about that.
And we’ve been successful in these lawsuits. We brought in over $1.1 billion to the state over the next 20 years to help abate the crisis. This money is going to go toward helping people who are addicted or who are using opioids and are addicted to it. It’s going to help address some of the problems that we’ve seen as a result, whether it’s in the foster care system or in the recovery community.
And we’re very proud of that work. We will continue to work on that because it is something that affects everybody in this state.
Now, Nevada has one of the highest [rates of] cases of human trafficking in the nation. In fact, we are at number two. Any accomplishments you can share in this area, Dr. Ford?
Absolutely. I mean, we have teams in my office that focus specifically on human trafficking and even more specifically on child trafficking. We were just talking recently about a team that has recovered and protected 22 missing children and put 22 sex traffickers or sex offenders away. And we will continue to focus on those things to ensure that, again, we can keep our community safe.
We try to pass laws that strengthen penalties, that support victims and survivors of sex trafficking by holding accountable those who are putting these people at risk.
And housing is a huge issue in Nevada today as rental costs and mortgage costs soar. Obviously, you’re limited with what you can do, but what role can the attorney general’s office play in protecting tenants and homeowners?
Well, you’re right that in the housing context, we have a limited role. We aren’t the policy makers. We don’t make the laws that relate to affordable housing or housing, generally speaking. And so, you know, we’re limited in that role. But what we can do is what we are doing, and that’s advocate for good policy, support people when they bring forth good policy that is going to try to address homelessness issues.
A few years ago, many people may remember that we had a mortgage crisis. My office sprung into action to push back against some banks and some mortgage lenders that were taking advantage of Nevadans. And that’s part of what we do as well in the housing context. And so when we see bad things happening that we can address, we will address those. When we see advocacy opportunities, we will advocate as well.
Now, fraud and scams are issues your office is working to combat. You and I know that notarios tend to target Latinos. Your thoughts, Dr. Ford?
Yeah, I mean, that’s another one of the first things we worked on when we got here was notario fraud. Understanding that the Latino community is oftentimes preyed upon by people who use the phrase ‘notary public’ in a confusing manner. Notarios in Mexico and other parts of Latin America may very well be lawyers, but here, a notary public is not.
And so they can oftentimes use that phrase to take advantage of people trying to seek support on immigration or other legal issues. And so we have put out alerts about that to try to inform the communities against this type of fraud, and even going so far as to work with the consulate here and put out public service announcements on television and on radio, warning our Latino community against abuses in the notario fraud scenario.
Now, your office distributes grants, correct? And if so, can you tell us how those grants have helped the Latino community?
Absolutely. Our office does participate in the distribution of some grants, and we are proud of the work that we do, whether it’s grants that help to abate the opioid crisis. We have moneys that have gone into rural communities that have people of all stripes, colors, races, genders, ethnicities, you name it. And we’re proud of that work as well.
We’ve also had grants that go out to help in drug interdiction issues and gang interdiction issues, especially in the Latino community. We’ve partnered with some organizations in the Latino community, including the Latin Chamber of Commerce, for example, to assist with that, and so we are proud of administering these grants, and we look forward to continue doing that to help out all communities.
Attorney General Ford, what is the best way the community should reach your office and in what cases, or what situations?
Well, we don’t turn anyone away. If you have a problem, you can feel free to call us or to visit our website or even email us. If we can’t handle the problem, we make it a point to find someone who can help you. We don’t just say, “It’s not our job. Go find someone else.” We try to find someone to help you with your circumstance.
And so you can call our office. (775) 684-1100. You can visit our website, which is AG.NV.GOV, or you can find emails for us and communicate with us that way. Or if you just see me on the street and want to ask a question, feel free. I’m approachable to assist and we can try to help however we can.
Let’s get to know the Nevada attorney general a little more on a very important position. When you are hungry, do you prefer enchiladas or chile rellenos?
Got to be enchiladas and it has to be con carne. No sin queso. Nada. Más carne.
For the weather, do you prefer the cold weather or the heat?
It’s got to be the heat. That’s why I live right here in Las Vegas. I’ve lived in the cold and I prefer the heat.
Would you rather deal with flies or cobwebs?
Neither one. I’m sorry, but you’re not going make me pick that one.
What does the Office of Attorney General do?
We are the people’s lawyer, and we work hard to ensure that people are taken care of and not taken advantage of in our state.
Three things you would take to the deserted island to live alone for a month.
I think all I really need is two — my family and a phone so I can order UberEats.
Okay. We hope they can get there, to that deserted island. Something personal that many people don’t know about you, Dr. Ford?
I do a mean karaoke. A lot of people don’t know that. Some people know it, but not a lot of people know. I can do some karaoke.
[“Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe plays]
That’s one of my songs right there.
What comes to mind when you hear this song?
Oh, some of my infamous karaoke performances to “Poison”. Yeah, that’s great. I love it. I mean, it takes me back to the 1990s when I was in high school, and that’s one of my go-tos for karaoke right there.
Awesome. Anything else you would like to share?
No, I think you covered it.
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