In the general election of 1888, Republican Samuel W. Jones of Breckenridge defeated J. M. Abbott by a vote of 51,000 to 38,000 to become Colorado’s seventh Attorney General. Jones had been an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1888, at which Benjamin Harrison was nominated for President.
Samuel Jones was born in 1853 in Monroe County, Kentucky. The family moved to Illinois in 1863 and Jones graduated from Ewing College. He attended law school in Lexington, Kentucky and then returned to Illinois to set up a law practice. Jones was elected to the Illinois legislature as a Republican in 1877, at the age of 24. In 1880 he and his wife Jennie moved their family to Breckenridge where he incorporated the Monumental Gold and Silver Mining Company.
In his Report of the Attorney General at the end of his term, Jones expressed considerable frustration.
“The business of this office has increased during my incumbency in a far greater ratio than at any time heretofore…Not only has the greater volume of business in the various departments entailed much additional labor…but errors in previous legislation, defective statutory provisions…unsuited to the complexities of the present day, have constantly been submitted to this office for adaptation to present demands.
So constantly are requisitions made on this office, in the less conspicuous, but not less important, matters affecting the various departments, that little time is afforded for other than official duties…
From these considerations, it is apparent that there should be affixed to the office a salary commensurate with its importance and with its duties.”
Jones issued an opinion that the legislature could not spend in excess of its revenues and could not enter into contracts binding future legislatures. In another opinion he said that, while the statutes were not clear, the Attorney General’s Office had authority to bring suit on behalf of the Governor and the state, pursuant to the Attorney General’s grant of authority “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Jones did commend the legislature for making an appropriation allowing him to hire “assistants” and recommended it continue to do so. This is the first reference in the historical documentation indicating the Attorney General had hired legal assistants.
Jones’ most important litigation involved indictments and civil suits brought against several State Treasurers for “profits received by them upon public money loaned for their private benefit.” Considerable attention was also given to a variety of issues presented by the Board of Capitol Managers regarding the construction of a state capitol building, including whether the contract could be changed to allow for the use of granite rather than Gunnison Sandstone. In an interesting bit of lawyering, the Attorney General’s Office opined that the capitol’s supervising architect could be fired because the term “for cause” in his contract meant “at the discretion” of the Board of Capitol Managers. Jones also addressed questions pertaining to construction of a new state reformatory to be built in Buena Vista, and to the circumstances under which inmate labor could be contracted to private parties.
Another opinion issued by Attorney General Jones dealt with a statute passed by the legislature adding additional judges in the Second Judicial District so long as the State Senate could “advise and consent” as to the new judges. Jones ruled that the Colorado Constitution vests “absolute power of appointment with the Governor alone” and the legislature had no power to compel the Governor to ask for its advice and consent. Finally, Jones recommended that the legislature create an intermediate court, to be called a Court of Appeals, to relieve the burdens in the Supreme Court.