United States Attorney General

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Attorney General of the United States of America
Flag of the United States Attorney General.png
Flag of the Attorney General
US-DeptOfJustice-Seal.svg
Seal of the Department of Justice
Eric Holder official portrait.jpg
Incumbent
Eric Holder

since 3 February 2009
U.S. Department of Justice
Member of Cabinet
Reports to The President
Seat Washington, D.C., U.S.
Appointer The President
Term length No fixed term
Constituting instrument Judiciary Act of 1789
Formation September 26, 1789
First holder Edmund Randolph
Succession Seventh
(presidential line of succession)
Deputy Deputy Attorney General
Salary Executive Schedule, level 1
Website www.justice.gov

The United States Attorney General (A.G.) is the head of the United States Department of Justice per 28 U.S.C. § 503, concerned with legal affairs and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. The attorney general is considered to be the chief lawyer of the U.S. government. The attorney general serves as a member of the president's cabinet, and is the only cabinet department head who is not given the title secretary.

The attorney general is nominated by the President of the United States and takes office after confirmation by the United States Senate. He or she serves at the pleasure of the president and can be removed by the president at any time; the attorney general is also subject to impeachment by the House of Representatives and trial in the Senate for "treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors."

The office of Attorney General was established by Congress by the Judiciary Act of 1789. The original duties of this officer were "to prosecute and conduct all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States shall be concerned, and to give his advice and opinion upon questions of law when required by the president of the United States, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments."[1] Only in 1870 was the Department of Justice established to support the attorney general in the discharge of his responsibilities. The Attorney General, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretary of Defense are generally regarded as the four most important cabinet officials because of the importance of their departments.[2]

The current attorney general, Eric Holder,[3] was confirmed to office by the Senate on February 2, 2009, and sworn into office on February 3, 2009.[4] Holder is the 82nd United States Attorney General and the first African-American to hold the position.

List of attorneys general[edit]

Parties

      No party       Federalist       Democratic-Republican       Democratic       Whig       Republican

Status
  Denotes service as acting Attorneys General prior to appointment or after resignation
No. Portrait Name Home State Took Office Left Office President(s)
1 EdRand.jpg Edmund Randolph Virginia September 26, 1789 January 26, 1794 George Washington
2 William Bradford, AG.jpg William Bradford Pennsylvania January 27, 1794 August 23, 1795
3 Charles Lee, AG.gif Charles Lee Virginia December 10, 1795 February 19, 1801
John Adams
4 Levi Lincoln, Sr.jpg Levi Lincoln, Sr. Massachusetts March 5, 1801 March 2, 1805 Thomas Jefferson
5 John Breckinridge.jpg John Breckinridge Kentucky August 7, 1805 December 14, 1806
6 Rodneycaesara3.jpg Caesar A. Rodney Delaware January 20, 1807 December 10, 1811
James Madison
7 Williampinkney (1).jpg William Pinkney Maryland December 11, 1811 February 9, 1814
8 Richard Rush engraving.png Richard Rush Pennsylvania February 10, 1814 November 12, 1817
9 WilliamWirt.png William Wirt Virginia November 13, 1817 March 4, 1829 James Monroe
John Quincy Adams
10 John Macpherson Berrien.jpg John M. Berrien Georgia March 9, 1829 July 19, 1831 Andrew Jackson
11 Roger Taney.jpg Roger B. Taney Maryland July 20, 1831 November 14, 1833
12 Benjamin Franklin Butler (1795–1858).jpg Benjamin Franklin Butler New York November 15, 1833 July 4, 1838
Martin Van Buren
13 Felix Grundy.jpg Felix Grundy Tennessee July 5, 1838 January 10, 1840
14 Henry D. Gilpin, Attorney General of the United States (trimmed).jpg Henry D. Gilpin Pennsylvania January 11, 1840 March 4, 1841
15 John Jordan Crittenden - Brady 1855.jpg John J. Crittenden Kentucky March 5, 1841 September 12, 1841 William Henry Harrison
John Tyler
16 Hugh S. Legaré.jpg Hugh Swinton Legaré South Carolina September 13, 1841 June 30, 1843
17 John Nelson, bw photo portrait, Brady-Handy collection, circa 1855-1865.jpg John Nelson Maryland July 1, 1843 March 4, 1845
18 JYMason.jpg John Y. Mason Virginia March 5, 1845 October 16, 1846 James K. Polk
19 NClifford.jpg Nathan Clifford Maine October 17, 1846 March 17, 1848
20 Isaac Toucey - Brady-Handy.jpg Isaac Toucey Connecticut June 21, 1848 March 4, 1849
21 Reverdy Johnson.jpg Reverdy Johnson Maryland March 8, 1849 July 21, 1850 Zachary Taylor
22 John Jordan Crittenden - Brady 1855.jpg John J. Crittenden Kentucky July 22, 1850 March 4, 1853 Millard Fillmore
23 Caleb Cushing.jpg Caleb Cushing Massachusetts March 7, 1853 March 4, 1857 Franklin Pierce
24 JSBlack-AG.jpg Jeremiah S. Black Pennsylvania March 6, 1857 December 16, 1860 James Buchanan
25 Edwin McMasters Stanton Secretary of War.jpg Edwin M. Stanton Pennsylvania December 20, 1860 March 4, 1861
26 Edward Bates - Brady-Handy.jpg Edward Bates Missouri March 5, 1861 November 24, 1864 Abraham Lincoln
27 James Speed.jpg James Speed Kentucky December 2, 1864 July 22, 1866
Andrew Johnson
28 Stanberry-AttorGen.jpg Henry Stanbery Ohio July 23, 1866 July 16, 1868
29 William M. Evarts - Brady-Handy.jpg William M. Evarts New York July 17, 1868 March 4, 1869
30 EbenezerRHoar.jpg Ebenezer R. Hoar Massachusetts March 5, 1869 November 22, 1870 Ulysses S. Grant
31 Amos T Akerman - crop and minor retouch.jpg Amos T. Akerman Georgia November 23, 1870 December 13, 1871
32 George Henry Williams - Brady-Handy - Restored & Cropped.jpg George Henry Williams Oregon December 14, 1871 April 25, 1875
33 Edwards Pierrepont, Brady-Handy bw photo portrait, ca1865-1880.jpg Edwards Pierrepont New York April 26, 1875 May 21, 1876
34 Alphonso Taft seated.jpg Alphonso Taft Ohio May 22, 1876 March 4, 1877
35 Hon. Charles Devens of Mass. Atty Gen. Hayes Cabinet.png Charles Devens Massachusetts March 12, 1877 March 4, 1881 Rutherford B. Hayes
36 Wayne MacVeagh - Brady-Handy.jpg Wayne MacVeagh Pennsylvania March 5, 1881 December 15, 1881 James A. Garfield
Chester A. Arthur
37 BenjaminHBrewster.jpg Benjamin H. Brewster Pennsylvania December 16, 1881 March 4, 1885
38 Augustus Hill Garland - Brady-Handy.jpg Augustus H. Garland Arkansas March 6, 1885 March 4, 1889 Grover Cleveland
39 WHHMiller.jpg William H. H. Miller Indiana March 7, 1889 March 4, 1893 Benjamin Harrison
40 Richard Olney, Bain bw photo portrait, 1913.jpg Richard Olney Massachusetts March 6, 1893 April 7, 1895 Grover Cleveland
41 Jud Harmon.jpg Judson Harmon Ohio April 8, 1895 March 4, 1897
42 AssoJstcJMcK.jpg Joseph McKenna California March 5, 1897 January 25, 1898 William McKinley
43 Griggs2.jpg John W. Griggs New Jersey January 25, 1898 March 29, 1901
44 Philander Knox, bw photo portrait, 1904.jpg Philander C. Knox Pennsylvania April 5, 1901 June 30, 1904
Theodore Roosevelt
45 WHMoody.jpg William H. Moody Massachusetts July 1, 1904 December 17, 1906
46 CJBonaparte.jpg Charles J. Bonaparte Maryland December 17, 1906 March 4, 1909
47 GWWickersham.jpg George W. Wickersham New York March 4, 1909 March 4, 1913 William Howard Taft
48 James C. McReynolds - c1913.jpg James C. McReynolds Tennessee March 5, 1913 August 29, 1914 Woodrow Wilson
49 WP Thomas Watt Gregory.jpg Thomas Watt Gregory Texas August 29, 1914 March 4, 1919
50 Alexander Mitchell Palmer.jpg Alexander Mitchell Palmer Pennsylvania March 5, 1919 March 4, 1921
51 Harry Daugherty, bw photo portrait 1920.jpg Harry M. Daugherty Ohio March 4, 1921 April 6, 1924 Warren G. Harding
Calvin Coolidge
52 Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone photograph circa 1927-1932.jpg Harlan F. Stone New York April 7, 1924 March 1, 1925
53 John Sargent, Bain bw photo portrait.jpg John G. Sargent Vermont March 7, 1925 March 4, 1929
54 William D. Mitchell cph.3b30394.jpg William D. Mitchell Minnesota March 4, 1929 March 4, 1933 Herbert Hoover
55 Homer Cummings, Harris & Ewing photo portrait, 1920.jpg Homer Stille Cummings Connecticut March 4, 1933 January 1, 1939 Franklin D. Roosevelt
56 Justice Frank Murphy.jpg Frank Murphy Michigan January 2, 1939 January 18, 1940
57 Roberthjackson.jpg Robert H. Jackson New York January 18, 1940 August 25, 1941
58 Francis Biddle cph.3b27524.jpg Francis Biddle Pennsylvania August 26, 1941 June 26, 1945
Harry S. Truman
59 Tom C. Clark.gif Tom C. Clark Texas June 27, 1945 July 26, 1949
60 J. Howard McGrath.jpg J. Howard McGrath Rhode Island July 27, 1949 April 3, 1952
61 James P. McGranery.jpg James P. McGranery Pennsylvania April 4, 1952 January 20, 1953
62 No image.svg Herbert Brownell, Jr. New York January 21, 1953 October 23, 1957 Dwight D. Eisenhower
63 William P. Rogers, U.S. Secretary of State.jpg William P. Rogers Maryland October 23, 1957 January 20, 1961
64 Robert F Kennedy crop.jpg Robert F. Kennedy Massachusetts January 20, 1961 September 3, 1964 John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
65 Nicholas Katzenbach at White House, 6 May 1968.jpg Nicholas Katzenbach Illinois September 4, 1964[1] January 28, 1965
January 28, 1965 November 28, 1966
66 Ramsey Clark at the White House, 28 Feb 1968.jpg Ramsey Clark Texas November 28, 1966[1] March 10, 1967
March 10, 1967 January 20, 1969
67 John Mitchell.jpg John N. Mitchell New York January 20, 1969 February 15, 1972 Richard Nixon
68 Richard Kleindienst.jpg Richard Kleindienst Arizona February 15, 1972 May 25, 1973
69 ElliotLeeRichardson.jpg Elliot Richardson Massachusetts May 25, 1973 October 20, 1973
Robert Bork.jpg Robert Bork[3]
(acting)
Pennsylvania October 20, 1973 January 4, 1974
70 William B. Saxbe.jpg William B. Saxbe Ohio January 4, 1974 January 14, 1975
Gerald Ford
71 Edward-levi.jpg Edward H. Levi Illinois January 14, 1975 January 20, 1977
Dick Thornburgh.jpg Richard L. Thornburgh[2]
(acting)
Pennsylvania January 20, 1977 January 26, 1977 Jimmy Carter
72 GriffenBell2.jpg Griffin Bell Georgia January 26, 1977 August 16, 1979
73 1Benjamin Civiletti.jpg Benjamin Civiletti Maryland August 16, 1979 January 19, 1981
74 Smith-william2.jpg William French Smith California January 23, 1981 February 25, 1985 Ronald Reagan
75 Edwin Meese publicity shot.jpg Edwin Meese California February 25, 1985 August 12, 1988
76 Dick Thornburgh.jpg Richard L. Thornburgh Pennsylvania August 12, 1988 August 15, 1991
George H. W. Bush
77 William Barr, official photo as Attorney General.jpg William P. Barr New York August 16, 1991[1] November 26, 1991
November 26, 1991 January 20, 1993
Stuart M. Gerson[4]
(acting)
Washington, D.C. January 20, 1993 March 12, 1993 Bill Clinton
78 Janet Reno-us-Portrait.jpg Janet Reno Florida March 12, 1993 January 20, 2001
HolderEric.jpg Eric Holder[2]
(acting)
Washington, D.C. January 20, 2001 February 2, 2001 George W. Bush
79 John Ashcroft.jpg John Ashcroft Missouri February 2, 2001 February 3, 2005
80 Alberto Gonzales - official DoJ photograph.jpg Alberto Gonzales Texas February 3, 2005 September 17, 2007
Paul D. Clement.jpg Paul Clement[5]
(acting)
Washington, D.C. September 17, 2007 September 18, 2007
Peterkeisler.jpg Peter Keisler[5]
(acting)
Washington, D.C. September 18, 2007 November 9, 2007
81 Michael Mukasey, official AG photo portrait, 2007.jpg Michael Mukasey New York November 9, 2007 January 20, 2009
Mark Filip.jpg Mark Filip[6]
(acting)
Illinois January 20, 2009 February 3, 2009 Barack Obama
82 Eric Holder official portrait.jpg Eric Holder Washington, D.C. February 3, 2009 Incumbent

1 Nicholas Katzenbach (1964–1965), Ramsey Clark (1966–1967) and William P. Barr (1991) served as acting attorney general in their capacity as deputy attorney general, until their own appointment as attorney general.

2 Richard L. Thornburgh (1977) and Eric Holder (2001) served as acting attorney general in their capacity as deputy attorney general, until the appointment of a new attorney general. Both subsequently served as attorney general, Thornburgh 1988–1991 and Holder 2009 to date.

3 On October 20, 1973 Solicitor General Robert Bork was instrumental in the "Saturday Night Massacre", U.S. President Richard Nixon's firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, following Cox's request for tapes of his Oval Office conversations. Nixon initially ordered U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson, to fire Cox. Richardson resigned rather than carry out the order. Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus considered the order "fundamentally wrong"[5] and also resigned, making Bork the acting attorney general. When Nixon reiterated his order, Bork complied and fired Cox. He remained acting attorney general until the appointment of William B. Saxbe on January 4, 1974.[6]

4 Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ Civil Division Stuart M. Gerson was acting attorney general from January 20, 1993 to March 12, 1993.[7][8] Gerson was fourth in the line of succession at the Justice Department (other senior DOJ officials had already resigned).[9] During his time as Acting AG, Gerson supported the Brady bill[8] and was in office in the beginnings of the Waco siege.[10] Janet Reno, President Clinton's nominee for attorney general, was confirmed on March 12,[11] and he resigned the same day.[11] Acting Attorney General Gerson's last day at the Justice Department was March 19.[10]

5 On August 27, 2007, President Bush named Solicitor General Paul Clement as the future acting attorney general, to take office upon the resignation of Alberto Gonzales, effective September 17, 2007.[12] According to administration officials, Clement took that office at 12:01 am September 17, 2007, and left office 24 hours later.[13] On September 17, President Bush announced that Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ Civil Division Peter Keisler would become acting attorney general, pending a permanent appointment of a presidential nominee.[14][15] Keisler served as acting attorney general until the nomination of Michael Mukasey on November 9, 2007.

6 Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip was asked to assume the position of acting attorney general by then President-elect Obama.[16] Filip led the Department while President Obama's nominee, then Attorney-General Designate Eric Holder, awaited confirmation by the United States Senate.[17][18] Holder was confirmed on February 2, 2009,[19] and sworn in the next day[3] thus ending Filip's tenure as the acting attorney general.

Living former attorneys general[edit]

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ Judiciary Act of 1789, section 35.
  2. ^ Cabinets and Counselors: The President and the Executive Branch (1997). Congressional Quarterly. p. 87.
  3. ^ a b MR.TADEO PREZA CANETE JR. (n.d./MARCH 22,2013). "USDOJ: Office of the Attorney General". US Department of Justice. Retrieved 2009-02-03. "Albert Gonzales. was sworn in as the 82nd United States Attorney General on February 2, 2009 by Vice-President Joe Biden. President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Eric Holder on December 1, 2008." 
  4. ^ Barrett, Devlin (February 3, 2009). "On Day 1, Holder promises break with Bush policies". Associated Press. Archived from the original on February 5, 2009. 
  5. ^ Noble, Kenneth B. (July 26, 1987). "New Views Emerge of Bork's Role in Watergate Dismissals". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  6. ^ "William Bart Saxbe". The United States Department of Justice. 
  7. ^ Cahoon, Ben (2000). "United States Government". World Statesmen. Retrieved 2008-12-12. "January 20, 1993 – March 12, 1993 Stuart M. Gerson (acting) (b. 1944)" 
  8. ^ a b Staff reporter (1993-02-21). "Stuart Gerson's Parting Shot". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-12. "As supporters of the Brady gun-control bill prepare to introduce it in Congress yet again this week, they find a welcome, if unlikely, ally in Stuart Gerson, the Acting Attorney General. Because President Clinton has had so many problems finding a new Attorney General, Mr. Gerson remains in office..." 
  9. ^ Labaton, Stephen (1993-01-25). "Notes on Justice; Who's in Charge? Bush Holdover Says He Is, but Two Clinton Men Differ". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  10. ^ a b Scruggs, Richard; Steven Zipperstein, Robert Lyon, Victor Gonzalez, Herbert Cousins, Roderick Beverly (1993-10-08). "Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas February 28 to April 19, 1993". Department of Justice. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  11. ^ a b Ifill, Gwen (1993-03-12). "Reno Confirmed in Top Justice Job". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-12. "She will replace Acting Attorney General Stuart M. Gerson, a holdover appointee from the Bush Administration. Ms. Reno said he resigned today." 
  12. ^ Meyers, Steven Lee (August 27, 2007). "Embattled Attorney General Resigns". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  13. ^ Eggen, Dan; Elizabeth Williamson (September 19, 2007). "Democrats May Tie Confirmation to Gonzales Papers". Washington Post. pp. A10. Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  14. ^ "President Bush Announces Judge Michael Mukasey as Nominee for Attorney General", White House press release, September 17, 2007
  15. ^ "Bush Text on Attorney General Nomination". NewsOK.com (The Oklahoman). The Associated Press. September 17, 2007. Retrieved September 18, 2007. 
  16. ^ Staff reporter (2009-01-15). "Obama asks U.S. Attorneys to stay 'for the time being'". CNN Political Ticker. Retrieved 2009-01-21. "In addition, Obama's transition team has asked current Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip, also a Bush appointee, to serve as Acting Attorney General replacing outgoing Attorney General Michael Mukasey." )
  17. ^ Staff reporter (2009-01-21). "Bush Appointees Holding Down the Fort While Obama Nominees Await Confirmation". FOX News. Retrieved 2009-02-04. "While Holder waits for his confirmation, Bush appointee Mark Filip is acting attorney general. A former U.S. District Court judge in Illinois, the native Chicagoan holds a law degree from Harvard and was a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. Holder was supposed to have faced a confirmation vote on Wednesday, but scheduling conflicts necessitated a delay in the Senate." 
  18. ^ "Acting Attorney General Mark Filip." United States Department of Justice. January 20, 2009. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5eJ6TAbgg)
  19. ^ Staff reporter (2009-02-03). "Obama attorney-general confirmed". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-02-03. "President Barack Obama's choice for attorney-general, Eric Holder, has been confirmed in the post by the US Senate." 

External links[edit]

United States presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Secretary of Defense
Chuck Hagel
7th in line Succeeded by
Secretary of the Interior