Talk:United States Attorney General

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External link[edit]

Perhaps restore the external link to its original target (from Revision as of 22:55, 27 Jul 2004) ?

Form of address[edit]

I have heard senators refer to "General Ashcroft." I presume that this is an error, and that, despite not having "secretary" in his official title, "Secretary Ashcroft" would be the proper way to address him? Doops 04:00, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Definitely not. While I don't know about whether "General Ashcroft" is good form, I do know that he should not be referred to as "Secretary Ashcroft", as he is not a Secretary (even though he is a member of the cabinet). Articles on forms of address such as this treat the Attorney General separately from the other department heads (see page 9 in the example) with a salutation of "Dear Mr. Attorney General" instead of "Dear Mr. Secretary". (Note that in example I picked is apparently from the U.S. Navy, which one would hope would be somewhat authoritative.) I don't know if the shortening of "Attorney General Ashcroft" to "General Ashcroft" is proper, but I have heard the newsies refer to Surgeons General as "General Whoever", so at least they're consistent. — DLJessup 05:33, 2004 Dec 15 (UTC)

Knox under Roosevelt?[edit]

Why isnt Philander C. Knox under Roosevelt since it says he was AG from 1901-1904 and TR became president on 9-14-1901

Human error, most likely. In any case, I've added T.R. to Knox's presidents. — DLJessup 12:24, 13 July 2005 (UTC)

How many[edit]

The US DOJ lists Gonzales as the 80th AG. The table contained within the article does not agree. So, how amny AGs have there been? ZueJay (talk) 20:05, 13 March 2007 (UTC)

States[edit]

Officials appointed in the United States for Senate confirmation are appointed in a manner which lists their state of residence at the time of appointment. This is what the state of residence column means. Presumably a fair number of them actually move fully to DC, Maryland, or Virginia during their tenure in office, but we don't list that, because that's not what's significant, and because it's more or less impossible to determine. The state they were appointed from is a matter of public law and record, recorded in their confirmation information. The same is not the case for any state they may move into during their time in office. Assuming Kennedy was appointed from Massachusetts, this should be the only state listed for him. That state of residence is legally significant for other things is irrelevant here - it has nothing to do with the person's appointment to government office, whereas their state of residence at the time of their appointment is actually a part of the nomination process. john k 04:50, 10 April 2007 (UTC)

Alberto Gonzales end date.[edit]

There seems to be a minor edit war between people choosing August 27, 2007 (the day on which his resignation was announced), September 17, 2007 (the day on which his resignation takes effect), and "Present". Can we establish a consensus about this?

I'm personally in favor of September 17th. "Present" will become inaccurate in about three weeks; "August 27th" ignores the fact that his resignation hasn't taken effect yet. Any thoughts? vogon 16:54, 28 August 2007 (UTC)

Agreed. The date is under "ended service," which is the date it takes effect, Sept. 17th. If it was prose saying when his resignation was announced, that would be different. But maybe a citation would help clarify any confusion there may be. bobanny 17:15, 28 August 2007 (UTC) I just noticed that both dates are in the intro text and cited. It should definitely say Sept 17 in the table. bobanny 17:18, 28 August 2007 (UTC)

RFK[edit]

The Robert Kennedy begin date is off -- it should be 1961. Can't change this because page is locked. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 72.64.10.29 (talk) 20:21, 31 August 2007 (UTC)

Geoffrey Fieger[edit]

It has recently been stated the Geoffrey Fieger will take the position. No one else has heard this? That's why I made the change earlier. Until next time!--Mexicomida 21:49, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

"On August 21, 2007 the grand jury returned a 30-page, 10-count indictment against Fieger" Yeah, I somehow doubt this man will be attorney general. Stop vandalizing please. --Golbez 22:38, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
There's also the minor matter that he's a Democrat. Jhobson1 13:16, 20 September 2007 (UTC)
These points are trivial. At best.Mexicomida 00:32, 18 October 2007 (UTC)

Acting AG's[edit]

Hello all,

I have listed Stuart M. Gerson and Eric H. Holder, Jr. as acting Attorney General. They both served as acting Attorney General in the first months of the Clinton and GW Bush administrations because both Clinton and GW Bush both had problems finding an AG (in Clinton's case it was because both of his first two choices - Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood - had problems with the immigration status of their domestic staff and in GW Bush's case, the Ashcroft nomination was so controversial). They were added because the office of AG was vacant during this time. Mr. Holder's bio at his law firm points this out [1] and there are four references to Mr. Gerson's service: [2], [3], [4], [5]. As this is the day Alberto Gonzales has resigned, i've added Paul D. Clement as acting AG for the same reasons listed above. I hope this is helpful.- Thanks, Hoshie 16:37, 17 September 2007 (UTC)

The phrase "serves at the pleasure of the President"[edit]

The sole power of removal in the constitution is by impeachment. All executive powers listed in Article II are packaged "with the advice and consent of the Senate" which refers back to Article I section 8 which places all the power in the Congress of the United States"

Like the phrase "Separation of Powers" we don't find anything about "serving at the pleasure of the President" in the Constitution or the ammendments to it.

The President ...


Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."


Section 2. The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.


The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.

Section 4. The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.


Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;

To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;

To establish post offices and post roads;

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;--And

To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.


Rktect (talk) 20:14, 12 August 2008 (UTC)

You are wrong. The controlling law on the removal of executive branch officials is Myers v. United States (1926) where the Court held that the Constitution mandates the President to "faithfully execute the law" and that the President can only do that through his subordinates and thus he has the ability to fire at will executive branch officials without the need for Congressional approval or limitation. Thus, the Attorney General (and all members of the Cabinet) serve at the pleasure of the President.
Additionally, you are wrong that "all executive powers in Article II are packaged with the advice and consent of the Senate." The President has independent authority, powers, and responsibilities in Article II (and in Article I, Section 7) that have nothing to do with the Senate. To wit: the President must take care that the laws be faithfully executed, may require the opinion (in writing) of the principal officers of the executive departments, can sign or veto laws, receive ambassadors, make recess appointments, issue executive orders, etc.
JasonCNJ (talk) 22:10, 12 August 2008 (UTC)
The controlling law is the Constitution. Under Article II the President has no independent power. He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate

Section 2. The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment. He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments. The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.

The President does have the power to pardon, but even that is limited by the power of the Congress to impeach.

he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

The President's obligations to preserve protect and defend the Constitution and take care that the laws of the United States are faithfully executed are not powers of the President, they are his responsibilities to Congress and We the People of the United States.Rktect (talk) 13:29, 2 September 2008 (UTC)
This page isn't an area for you to opine on the scope of executive powers. Please do not further clutter this Talk page with your rantings about the President's power or obligations. I have stated my sources and supported my claim that the Attorney General "serves at the pleasure of the President." You are entitled to your own interpretation of executive power -- but not your own facts. The Attorney General serves at the pleasure of the President. That's the law right now. Unless the law changes, stop trying to change the article and stop cluttering up this talk page with your opinions that have nothing to do with the article. JasonCNJ (talk) 14:57, 2 September 2008 (UTC)
I find your remarks above uncivil and improper not to mention incorrect. "The Constitution clearly specifies Presidential nomination and Senate confirmation of all "principal Officers," a term that undoubtedly includes the Attorney General."
The language used by Congress in their laws and in their rules for the military provides for appointments by and with the advice and consent of the Senate as the Constitution provides. It goes on to set rules, some of which the president may waive under certain circumstances for a limited period of time such as a transition to power, or in time of war or if it is in the national interest. Congress provides limits to the term of employment and if the President disagrees then the matter is still subject to being settled by Congress who may at their discretion impeach any officer of the United States government...

TITLE 10 - ARMED FORCES

SUBTITLE A - GENERAL MILITARY LAW
PART I - ORGANIZATION AND GENERAL MILITARY POWERS
CHAPTER 5 - JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
U.S. Code as of: 01/19/04
Section 154. Vice Chairman
(a) Appointment. - (1) There is a Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, from the officers of the regular components of the armed forces.
(2) The Chairman and Vice Chairman may not be members of the same armed force. However, the President may waive the restriction in the preceding sentence for a limited period of time in order to provide for the orderly transition of officers appointed to serve in the positions of Chairman and Vice Chairman.
(3) The Vice Chairman serves at the pleasure of the President for a term of two years and may be reappointed in the same manner for two additional terms. However, in time of war there is no limit on the number of reappointments.
(b) Requirement for Appointment. - (1) The President may appoint an officer as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff only if the officer -
(A) has the joint specialty under section 661 of this title; and
(B) has completed a full tour of duty in a joint duty assignment (as defined in section 664(f) of this title) as a general or flag officer.
(2) The President may waive paragraph (1) in the case of an officer if the President determines such action is necessary in the national interest.
When talking about what the Constitution says this page should use the actual language from the Constitution and the laws written under it. The Constitution does not claim that anyone serves at the pleasure of the President and he has no power under it to hire and fire at his discretion. The plain language of the Constitution requires the President act with the advise and consent of the Senate. The sole power of removal mentioned in the constitution is impeachment. Only when Congress actually uses that language in a law and to the extent that it does so is it applicable. The concept of a unitary executive who does as he wishes within his executive branch is counter to the basic premise of the Constitution that all power stems from We the People through our Congress. Rktect (talk) 10:31, 7 September 2008 (UTC)
The case law on this is [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=167&invol=324

U.S. Supreme Court PARSONS v. U. S., 167 U.S. 324 (1897) 167 U.S. 324 PARSONS v. UNITED STATES. No. 270. May 24, 1897]

On the 19th of May, 1789, in the house of representatives, Mr. Madison moved 'that it is the opinion of this committee that there shall be established an executive department, to be denominated the 'Department of Foreign Affairs,' at the head of which there shall be an officer, to be called the 'Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs,' who shall be appointed by the president by and with the advice and consent of the senate, and to be removable by the president.' Subse- [167 U.S. 324, 329] quently a bill was introduced embodying those provisions. Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, said that 'he had doubts whether the officer could be removed by the president; he apprehended that he could only be removed by an impeachment before the senate,

the objection of undertaking to confer upon the president a power which before he had not

In Ex parte Hennen, 13 Pet. 230, at page 259, which was a case involving the validity of an appointment of a clerk of the district court of Louisiana by the district judge thereof, it was said by Mr. Justice Thompson, in speaking of the power of removal:

'In the absence of all constitutional provision or statutory regulation, it would seem to be a sound and necessary rule to consider the power of removal as incident to the power of appointment. This power of removal from office was a subject much disputed, and upon which a great diversity of opinion was entertained in the early history of this government. This related, however, to the power of the president to remove officers appointed with the concurrence of the senate; and the great question was whether the removal was to be by the president alone, or with the concurrence of the senate, both constituting the appointing power. No one denied the power of the president and senate, jointly, to remove, where the tenure of the office was not fixed by the constitution, which was a full recognition of the principle that the power of removal was incident to the power of appointment.

in the case of Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch, 137, it was held that a justice of the peace in the District of Columbia was not removable at the will of the president, as his office was one created by congress, and the term was limited in the act.

In the District of Columbia congress is given by the constitution power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases. Const. U. S. art. 1, 8, subd. 17. The view that the president had no power of removal in other cases outside of the District, as has been seen, is one that had never been taken by the executive department of the government, nor even by congress, prior to 1867, when the first tenure of office act was passed.

The case of U. S. v. Guthrie, 17 How. 284, has also been cited upon the same point. ... The question whether or not the president had power to remove a territorial judge during his statutory term of office was argued, but was not decided in the case. The prevailing opinion was very brief, and was delivered by Mr. Justice Daniel, and it simply discussed and denied the power of the court to issue the writ. Mr. Justice McLean delivered his own opinion in regard to the power of the president to remove, in which he said that he differed from the opinion of the court in answering the question as it did, and he was of the opinion that the ques- [167 U.S. 324, 337] tion as to the power of the president to remove was before the court, and that such power of removal was not committed solely to the president.

The case of McAllister v. U. S., 141 U.S. 174 , 11 Sup. Ct. 949, has also been cited ... 'The decision in the present case is a recognition of the complete authority of congress over territorial offices, in virtue of 'those general powers which that body possesses over the territories of the United States,' as Marbury v. Madison was a recognition of the power of congress over the term of office of a justice of the peace for the District of Columbia.'

The act was a portion of the legislation passed by congress at that time for the purpose of keeping those men in office who were then supposed to be friendly to the views of congress upon that great subject. On the same day ( March 2, 1867) congress passed the army appropriation act (14 Stat. 486, c. 170), [167 U.S. 324, 340] by which the headquarters of the general of the army were established at Washington, and all orders and instructions relating to military operations issued by the president to the secretary of war were directed to be issued through the general of the army. Other provisions were also therein contained for the purpose of restraining the action of the president in the exercise of his power to remove or suspend the general of the army. Reference to the subject is made in Blake v. U. S., 103 U.S. 227 , 236.

The president, as is well known, vetoed the tenure of office act, because he said it was unconstitutional, in that it assumed to take away the power of removal constitutionally vested in the president of the United States,-a power which had been uniformly exercised by the executive department of the government from its foundation. Upon the return of the bill to congress it was passed over the president's veto by both houses, and became a law. The continued and uninterrupted practice of the government from 1789 was thus broken in upon and changed by the passage of this act, so that, if constitutional, thereafter all executive officers whose appointments had been made with the advice and consent of the senate could not be removed by the president without the concurrence of the senate in such order of removal.

The measure was resorted to as one of self-defense against the alleged aggressions and unrestrained power of the executive department

The conduct of President Johnson in regard to the provisions of this act, and his contest with Secretary Stanton in relation to the office of secretary of war, led to his impeachment by the house and his trial before the senate, resulting in his acquittal. [167 U.S. 324, 341] In November, 1868, a new president was elected, who came into office on the 4th of March, 1869. His relations with congress were friendly, and the motive for the passage of the act of 1867 had ceased to operate. Within five days after the meeting of congress a bill was introduced in the house to repeal the act of 1867, and was passed by that body. In the senate, however, the repeal failed, but the act was modified by the act passed on the 5th of April, 1869 (16 Stat. 6), and the first section of the original act was modified so as to provide as follows:

'That every person holding any civil office to which he has been or hereafter may be appointed by and with the advice and consent of the senate, and who shall have become duly qualified to act therein, shall be entitled to hold such office during the term for which he shall have been appointed, unless sooner removed by and with the advice and consent of the senate, or by the appointment, with the like advice and consent, of a successor in his place, except as herein otherwise provided.' Assuming the constitutionality of these acts, it is seen that under the act of 1869 a person who had been appointed to an office by and with the advice and consent of the senate could yet be removed by and with such advice and consent, or by the appointment, with the like advice and consent, of a successor in his place, except as provided in the second section of the act, which provided for appointments during the recess of the senate, and for the designation of persons to fill vacancies which might happen during that time. No further legislation upon the subject of removals or appointments was enacted for some years, although repeated but unsuccessful attempts were made to repeal the act of 1869, and to leave the president untrammeled by any statute upon the subject. With the legislation of 1869 in force, this appellant would, under the facts of this case, have been legally removed by the appointment of his successor in the way it occurred.

A revision of the statutes having been undertaken since 1869, section 769 was placed therein as the substance of the statute of 1820. The section is quoted above. It does not [167 U.S. 324, 342] contain the affirmative recognition of the power of removal which is contained in the act of 1820.

it is conceded that the president might remove an officer like a district attorney within the four years for which he was commissioned, provided his removal was concurred in by the senate or was effected by the appointment of his successor by and with the advice and consent of the senate ... to thereby enable him to remove an officer when, in his discretion, he regards it for the public good, although the term of office may have been limited by the words of the statute creating the office.

See also [Myers v. United States]
See also [http://newdeal.feri.org/court/295US602.htm Humphrey's Executor v. United States 295 U.S. 602 (1935)

Argued on May 1, 1935, Decided on May 27, 1935]

The result of what we now have said is this: whether the power of the President to remove an officer shall prevail over the authority of Congress to condition the power by fixing a definite term and precluding a removal except for cause will depend upon the character of the office; the Myers decision, affirming the power of the President [p*632] alone to make the removal, is confined to purely executive officers, and, as to officers of the kind here under consideration, we hold that no removal can be made during the prescribed term for which the officer is appointed except for one or more of the causes named in the applicable statute. To the extent that, between the decision in the Myers case, which sustains the unrestrictable power of the President to remove purely executive officers, and our present decision that such power does not extend to an office such as that here involved, there shall remain a field of doubt, we leave such cases as may fall within it for future consideration and determination as they may arise. In accordance with the foregoing, the questions submitted are answered.

Bottom line it is up to Congress to set the rules for removals and they can and have placed the power of removal in the President or not as they see fit to advise and consent. Rktect (talk) 16:21, 7 September 2008 (UTC)


I don't think it's uncivil to provide sources that indicate you're incorrect. I also don't think it's uncivil to say you're cluttering the talk page with commentary. You should provide links to material and avoid long recitations of source text. At the very least, it is neither improper nor incorrect. You are wrong. Let me again go through why.
First, we are discussing the removal of the Attorney General. We're not talking about any other office and we're not talking about how the AG is appointed. Quotations about the advice and consent necessary for appointment are not relevant. Cases about dismissing a justice of the peace -- someone who isn't an executive official -- are not relevant. I don't know why you even mentioned the Tenure of Office Act, which was repealed in 1887 and was an act of which the Court said, "that the Tenure of Office Act of 1867, insofar as it attempted to prevent the President from removing executive officers who had been appointed by him by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, was invalid."
Second, I am not disputing the power of the House to impeach the President, the Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States. The House does have that power; but the President has independent authority to dismiss the Attorney General and all executive branch officials with executive duties.
Third, your original research notwithstanding, you've provided cases from the 1870s and I provided cases from 1926 and 1936 that contradict and overrule those cases. Seriously, what is left to argue? Even your own cite of Humphrey's Executor included a sentence that contradicts your claims: "the Myers decision, affirming the power of the President [p*632] alone to make the removal, is confined to purely executive officers..."
Fourth, confusing the power of the President to dismiss executive branch officials appointed by him with the "unitary executive theory" is incorrect. The latter theory is not the subject of this article and applies to different areas whereas the dismissal of executive branch officials is limited and backed by precedent.
Fifth, when talking about the Constitution, what you think its text says is not as important as what the U.S. Supreme Court says its text actually means. As we all know, "it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is." The Supreme Court has addressed this precise issue at least twice: Myers v. United States (1926) and Humphrey's Executor v. United States (1935). Those cases are the controlling law. Citing older cases which have been overruled is not persuasive evidence. Both cases I listed uphold -- as a fundamental power of the President -- the right to dismiss executive officers without the consent of the Senate, even if the Senate needed to confirm their original appointment.
Bottom line is this: The President has the authority, independent of Congress, to dismiss executive branch officials at any time. The Congress cannot change that fact by statute. (The Congress can set limitations on the President's dismissal of quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative officials.) The Attorney General of the United States is an executive branch officials and is subject to removal from office at the pleasure of the President. This debate is over. The cases I've listed are controlling - you even said "See also" to them but you don't appear to have read their holding. Your opinion does not constitute a source and your historical listing of cases does not support your position. You may disagree with the law but it is what it is. Let's end this discussion. JasonCNJ (talk) 20:34, 7 September 2008 (UTC)
The President has no authority independent of Congress. His power derives from article II of the Constitution which provides the phrase with the advice and consent of the Senate to decribe his authority to do anything except issue a pardon for crimes against the United States. The Congress makes all the laws and has all the power. The President is tasked to preserve protect and defend the constitution and the laws of the United States. He has no power to make laws, or rules or issue orders for anyone whose position is created by Congress and that includes the Attorney General of the United States.
The caselaw covers a period between the 19th of May, 1789 and the present day. Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch, 137; U. S. v. Guthrie, 17 How. 284; McAllister v. U. S., 141 U.S. 174 , 1820; 11 Sup. Ct. 949; Blake v. U. S., 103 U.S. 227 , 236; 1867; U.S. Supreme Court PARSONS v. U. S., 167 U.S. 324 (1897) 167 U.S. 324 PARSONS v. UNITED STATES. No. 270. May 24, 1897;Myers v. United States; 1926; Humphrey's Executor v. United States; 1935
Bottom line the Congress can at any time, and has as with the Act of Tenure, decide to change by statute any damm thing it likes. Rktect (talk) 23:14, 7 September 2008 (UTC)
Parsons were overruled by Myers v. United States (1926). It is not good law. The Marbury case you cited mentioned the dismissal of a justice of the peace, which has nothing to do with the current instance, and its holding was about the inability of Congress to add original jurisdiction to the Court. Have you even read Myers or Humphrey's Executor??? How on Earth can you continue to advance an argument when Myers said that the President has the authority to dismiss executive officials without obtaining the consent of Congress? Game. Set. Match.
Congress is strictly limited by the Constitution and the Court already mentioned in Myers that laws which require the Senate's consent for the President to affect a dismissal of an executive branch official are unconstitutional. Congress cannot, as you state, "change by statute any damn thing it likes." Not only was the Tenure of Office Act repealed by Congress nine years after its passage, it was specifically listed in Myers as something that would have been "invalid."
Stop trying to advance a point that the Supreme Court of the United States has already dismissed. JasonCNJ (talk) 02:05, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
You are right that Parsons was overruled. If you read it you will note its frequent references to things being decided and no longer subject to change. The reason I cited all of the changes back and forth since Marbury vs Madison including the Acts of Tenure was to make that point. Congress makes the laws. It can if it wishes pass things like the Patriot Act, the Detainee Treatment Act, the Military Commissions Act, FISA, and other acts which substantially change the Constitution and the relative status of the judiciary and the executive branches and then argue that they are settled precedent. The Congress can and has changed the number of justice on the Supreme Court. It can impeach sitting justices of the Supreme Court and then oversee the addition of new justices of a different political stripe. What is valid and invalid are subject to change. It can turn the building which houses the Supreme Court into a post office, cut their salaries to the minimum wage, and refuse to fund any staff for the White House. During the Acts of Tenure Congress passed legislation to require all of the offices of the Executive branch departments be located in Washington DC. Congress can do any damm thing it likes and only We the People have the power to hold it to account. Rktect (talk) 19:49, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
So you're admitting this entire exchange was just an opportunity for you to talk about your feelings on Congressional power? That's why I suggested you were cluttering up the talk page. I didn't engage in this debate to discuss with you how you think that Congress is the ultimate source of lawful authority. (It's not, by the way.) Unless and until the Supreme Court of the United States overturns its Myers and Humphrey's Executor decisions, "what is valid and invalid" on this point is not subject to change. Congress cannot constitutionally pass another Tenure of Office Act, Congress cannot lower the salaries of any judge or Justice of the Supreme Court, and Congress cannot do "anything it damn wants." I suggest deleting this entire thread from the talk page, frankly; you don't even assert ANY source for your claim that the AG does not "serve at the pleasure of the President." Ugh. JasonCNJ (talk) 14:42, 9 September 2008 (UTC)

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What do they do?[edit]

A more detailed explanation of what this possition does needs to be made. There is a sentence about the original job description, but no clear explanation of the possition's current responsibilities. This becomes especially important when attempting to define the difference between the attorney general and other possitions such as solicitor general. Piratejosh85 (talk) 01:07, 15 February 2009 (UTC)

Thinking more about this, I think there should be a "Duties" section, much like there is on the page for the Department of Justice —Preceding unsigned comment added by Piratejosh85 (talkcontribs) 07:15, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

I agree. There is only cursory information here on the role, privileges, and responsibilities of the Attorney General. While it's great to have a list of all who have filled the role, maybe that should get its own article, and have someone flesh out more about the job itself. 65.0.192.177 (talk) 04:44, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

I respectfully submit that while the United States Attorney General is commonly referred to as the Chief Law enforcement officer in the country, he is not. The chief law enforcement officer of the country, and yes, the chief executive officer of the county, is actually the President of the United States. Every law enforcement officer is the country is ultimately required to preserve protect and defend the constitution, the basic law of the land. The United States Attorney General is the second highest law enforcement officer in the land. This may be verified through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Brunswick, GA. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Liveryman99 (talkcontribs) 21:33, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Acting AGs in List[edit]

I think we should remove the Acting AGs from the list in this article. First, it's confusing -- the list in entitled "Attorneys General of the United States" and acting AGs, by their very title, are not Attorneys General of the United States. Second, it's unimportant. None of the Acting AGs make law or policy; they're just placeholders while someone the President actually wants is being considered. Short of notable actions by an Acting AG (like Bork, for instance, firing Cox during Watergate) there is no real purpose served by listing Acting AGs.

What do you all think?

JasonCNJ (talk) 04:55, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

  • They should stay on this list.
  • They each were the Attorney General-in-fact, and the actual and true head of the Department of Justice, during their period of service. Several have notable subsequent careers, among them, Eric Holder and Robert Bork.
  • Bork was the Soliciter General, and became acting AG in a famous and historic manner: On October 20, 1973, the "Saturday Night Massacre", President Richard Nixon' demanded the firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, following Cox's request for tapes of Nixon's Oval Office conversations. Nixon initially ordered his Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, to fire Cox. Richardson resigned rather than carry out the order. The Deputy AG, William Ruckelshaus also resigned rather than carry out the order. At that time there was no Associate AG office. Bork, as Solicitor General, the number three in command of the DOJ, fired Cox, and became the acting AG.
  • Further, two of the most recent acting A.Gs were surprised by moves of George W. Bush; Paul D. Clement, the then-Solicitor General learned the day before becoming an interim A.G. that it would be for a single day and that Peter Keisler, who was departing from his position as Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division, was persuaded to stay on as acting A.G. until a new AG was confirmed, after the resignation of Alberto Gonzales became effective. That transition is notable in a period of great turmoil in the Justice Department, of which the Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy and the Warrantless wiretap program are only two aspects that intimately involved the highest leadership of the Department of Justice.
  • And last, it is actually interesting and notable that President Obama asked a Republican Deputy Attorney General, Mark Filip, to stay on as the Acting AG, as it is intereting that Clinton had a Republican acting AG, when he had trouble getting his first nominees confirmed, at the start of his first term.
    -- Yellowdesk (talk) 00:29, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
I'm sorry, I didn't notice this earlier. I proposed removing Acting AGs in February....they were actually removed not by me but by another editor a few weeks ago. It's notable in my mind that two separate editors had the same opinion about removing Acting AGs from this list.
First, you haven't actually stated a legitimate reason to keep them in the list. That some of them had later significance in American political history is not a reason to put them on this list. (It may be a reason for other articles on them to mention their prior service as Acting AG.)
Second, I specifically excluded the Bork term since the Saturday Night Massacre was a particular incident of note involving the very office of "Acting AG." But my original contention -- which you have not refuted -- that Acting AGs do not set Departmental policy and are just there as placeholders is still fact.
That you think an appointment is "interesting" or "surprising" does not mean the information is suitable for inclusion in an encyclopedia entry on U.S. Attorneys General. The Clement-Keisler transition was not "notable" in any sense of the word...the Gonzales resignation was notable and the subsequent nomination of Mukasey was notable...but the idea that Clement-Keisler had some notable quality is not established by any sources at all. You are certainly entitled to your opinions but that you consider something interesting is not sufficient grounds for inclusion.
While I hesitate to even go down this road, how on Earth is it significant that President Obama and President Clinton, upon entering their respective terms of office, asked a top DOJ official of the previous administration to stay on temporarily pending the confirmation of their successors? Not only is there no source to back up that this is "unusual," common sense would dictate that a new President would want a placeholder in office while his nominee was getting reviewed. Both Clinton and Obama were preceded by a Republican administration so the fact that the holdover appointments were Republicans is not newsworthy or unusual.
This article is supposed to be about the United States Attorney General. AGs are confirmed by the Senate, set policy for the Department, and serve as the next in a long line of notable predecessors. The Office of Attorney General predates the Department itself and is considered the highest law enforcement officer in the Government. The "Acting AG" shares none of the history, responsibility, policy-setting prerogative of the main office. In fact, the only notable Acting AG in recent memory was Bork himself, who drew notability only for the fact that the actual AG and Deputy AG resigned rather than execute an order from the President. For these reasons, I submit that posting the information of Acting AGs in the table of "Attorneys General" is inappropriate.
Given that two editors have expressed the idea that placing Acting AGs in the table is wrong, I am going to revert your edits once. I'd prefer to work out disputes on this area via this talk page where we can get some additional comments to determine community consensus. If we don't get enough attention, maybe we can submit an RfC. Please note: I do not oppose the inclusion of a section on Acting AGs or other article information about them, I just do not think putting them in the AGs table is proper.
JasonCNJ (talk) 06:15, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

I don't care one way or the other, but it would be nice to have this uniform for Cabinet and Cabinet-level department heads. Perhaps this could be dealt with somewhere more central or notices could be placed on the relevant talk pages? Also, if the actings are not to be in the main list, they could be put in a separate list lower on the page (I think other lists do this). Forgive me if any of this repeats someone else's contribution. -Rrius (talk) 17:59, 1 August 2009 (UTC)


JasonCNJ's "fact" that an acting A.G. doesn't create policy is unsubstantiated.
Many minor and major decisions must continue to be made, each in their own way, "policy", and there are many laws in which the Attorney General is the sole authorized officer to permit, request or stop a legal, enforcement, or judicial action. It is the case that an acting A.G. will tend to tread lightly, but there are occasions in with the A.G. must act on the basis of their experience and judgement, or, perhaps, is willing to stand on their judgment because they have nothing to lose.
Two examples for Stuart M. Gerson:

An example how minor decisions become major ones: Clinton's acting A.G., Stuart M. Gerson was in office during the start of the Waco Siege, on February 28, 1993. (Janet Reno was sworn in March 12, 1993. The Waco Siege continued through April 19 1993. If Reno's confirmation was delayed, for whatever reason, Gerson would have been in charge during the entire episode.

If the Robert Bork decision to fire Archibald Cox was not policy, there is no such thing as policy.

-- Yellowdesk (talk) 04:21, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

I don't know how I just saw this until now but, alas, if these are your reasons, I will absolutely be reverting this edit. Oh, where to begin?!
You wrote, It is the case that an acting A.G. will tend to tread lightly, but there are occasions in with the A.G. must act on the basis of their experience and judgement,
Once again, simply asserting it is not substantive evidence of anything other than your opinion. Your "examples" are (a) not examples and (b) original research. If you have independence, verifiable sources that discuss the trend of Acting AGs to make federal policy, please cite it. If not, this information simply does not count for wikipedia purposes.
Your first example is an editorial from the New York Times about one statement from an Acting AG on a piece of legislation. He expressed his opinion on legislation that was different from the previous Administration (but in line with the current Administration which kept him on.) This opinion piece is not an independent example of a newsworthy source but rather the opinion piece of the NYT editorial board, which had previously endorsed the Brady bill, that the opinion was proper. This is not evidence for much of anything other than Acting AGs sometimes have opinions.
Your second example is: If Reno's confirmation was delayed, for whatever reason, Gerson would have been in charge during the entire episode.
So, if something that did NOT happen would have happened, such an action might have been a major decision/story. How can you assert any of that matters?? The facts are that Reno was confirmed, Reno was in charge at the end of the Waco siege, and Reno took responsibility for the entire event. Her Acting AG predecessor has nothing to do with the story -- your "evidence" is that if Reno had NOT been confirmed then the Acting AG MAY have had a notable policy decision. That's hardly reliable; it's complete conjecture, opinion, and unverified.
The best example for a "notable" decision involving an Acting AG is Robert Bork. Such an action was adequately covered by various news sources. But all those sources indicate the same thing: President Richard Nixon made the decision to fire Cox and looked for an officer to execute his decision. The AG and Deputy AG both refused -- Bork's decision was ministerial and he did NOT make the policy or decision to fire Cox.
Your "evidence" is not evidence of anything. Acting AGs do not make policy, do not serve as "Attorneys General of the United States" and do not belong in a list of those people. I will remove them unless you can provide actual sources (verifiable, non-original research, independent) indicating that Acting AGs (or even a large portion of them) have ever made substantive federal legal policy.
JasonCNJ (talk) 20:38, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
My apologies, I reverted to the wrong version before -- I will remove the Acting AGs for good manually now. JasonCNJ (talk) 20:45, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Does anyone intend to try to make this unified across the other current and former Cabinet and Cabinet-level department head lists? If so, here are the ones that include acting secretaries:

-Rrius (talk) 22:25, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

I had a similar thought while I was working on the s-boxes. Some of these various department head lists include "acting" while others keep a separate list, or no mention. I tend to agree with JasonCNJ that the "acting" do not belong in the same list as the actual department heads. To me the key distinction is that the "acting" were not confirmed by congress. Is there a Wikiproject that covers this or shall we reach an agreement here and implement it? Celestra (talk) 14:59, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
I've asked about this over at WP:WikiProject United States Government to see if we can gather a broader consensus. Celestra (talk) 15:50, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

While I agree that Acting AG's "tread lightly", in my opinion, they still are "in charge" and qualify for moderated inclusion in the list (as the table does by differentiating with color and no number). -Wervo (talk) 04:19, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

If acting AG's are incorporated, it appears that the list is incomplete, as James Comey is not on the list, who to my knowledge was acting for John Ashcroft during a famous incident at George Washington University Hospital.84.143.172.89 (talk) 12:14, 19 January 2014 (UTC)

Robert Smith[edit]

In this list miss Robert Smith (cabinet), why? Thanks--AnjaManix (talk) 14:36, 24 January 2010 (UTC)

If Smith was appointed by Jefferson and confirmed by the Senate, then why is he considered to only be an Acting AG? Could someone clear this up? Thismightbezach (talk) 15:23, 4 May 2010 (UTC)

Article expansion and eventual split[edit]

I am planning on expanding this article to talk about the AG's role, the history of the position, etc. As part of this I would like to move the lists to 'List of Attorneys General of the United States'. Any objections? Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin 04:53, 3 June 2011 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Rober-houdin (talkcontribs)

James Speed[edit]

His bar should be extended into Lincoln, no? Or Lincoln's should be extended into his, rather. --Rajah (talk) 11:14, 20 June 2011 (UTC)

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Parties[edit]

The office of Attorney General, much like all cabinet offices, is appointed and thus non-partisan; do we really need to know their declared affiliation? --Golbez (talk) 18:07, 9 April 2013 (UTC)