|73rd United States Attorney General|
August 16, 1979 – January 19, 1981
|Preceded by||Griffin Bell|
|Succeeded by||William French Smith|
|United States Deputy Attorney General|
|Preceded by||Peter F. Flaherty|
|Succeeded by||Charles B. Renfrew|
July 17, 1935 |
Peekskill, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Johns Hopkins University
University of Maryland Law School
Benjamin Richard Civiletti (born July 17, 1935) served as the United States Attorney General during the last year and a half of the Carter administration, from 1979 to 1981. He is now a senior partner in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Venable LLP, specializing in commercial litigation and internal investigations, and in 2005 became the first U.S. lawyer to charge $1,000 an hour.
Civiletti is also currently one of the three members of the Independent Review Board, a board that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union must answer to when allegations of corruption or organized crime infiltration surface under the terms of a 1992 consent decree issued by a federal district court judgment.
Civiletti was educated at Johns Hopkins University, where he received an A.B. in psychology in 1957, and at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, Maryland, where he received a J.D. in 1961.
Civiletti was a law clerk for W. Calvin Chestnut, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, and became an Assistant United States Attorney in Baltimore a year after graduating from law school.
Civiletti was serving as the Deputy Attorney General when his boss Griffin B. Bell resigned. He was elevated to the top job in the Justice Department on July 19, 1979. Although Bell was not involved in the shake-up and resigned voluntarily, it occurred during a major Cabinet shakeup in the Carter administration. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph A. Califano, Jr. and Secretary of the Treasury W. Michael Blumenthal also resigned the same day. Transportation Secretary Brock Adams soon followed.
Civiletti had come to Bell's attention when he was forming the Justice Department for the newly elected president by Carter's close confidant, Charles Kirbo, a law partner of Bell's who had once been involved in a case with Civiletti. Civiletti served as assistant attorney general in charge of the Criminal Division and was elevated to deputy attorney general after the resignation of Carter's first deputy attorney general, Peter F. Flaherty, the former mayor of Pittsburgh.
As attorney general, Civiletti argued several important cases on behalf of the U.S. government. Notably, he argued before the International Court of Justice on behalf of Americans being held captive in Iran during the Iran hostage crisis, in the Case Concerning United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran. He also argued before the Supreme Court in support of the government's right to denaturalize Nazi war criminals in Fedorenko v. United States.
Opinions written by Civiletti as attorney general which interpreted the Constitution and federal law to say that government can't operate until Congress agrees on a spending bill set the stage for partial government shutdowns in later years.
On July 10, 2008, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley announced that Civiletti would serve as the chairman of the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, set up to study the application of capital punishment in Maryland and make a recommendation on the abolition of the death penalty in Maryland. On November 12, 2008, the Commission voted 13-7, with Civiletti voting with the majority, to recommend that the Maryland General Assembly abolish capital punishment in the state.
- U.S. lawyer charging $1,000 an hour, Vancouver Sun (December 13, 2005).
- The Independent Review Board.
- "Benjamin R. Civiletti". Venable LLP. Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- "Governor O'Malley Announces Benjamin Civiletti as Chairman of Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, Announces Commission Members". Annapolis, Maryland: Office of the Governor. July 10, 2008. Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- "Legends in the Law: Benjamin R. Civiletti". Bar Report. December/January 1999. Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- Dechter, Gadi; Smitherman, Laura (November 13, 2008). "Repeal of death penalty urged". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 15, 2010.
Peter F. Flaherty
|U.S. Deputy Attorney General
Served under: Jimmy Carter
Charles B. Renfrew
Griffin B. Bell
|U.S. Attorney General
Served under: Jimmy Carter
William French Smith