United States Attorney General
|Attorney General of the United States of America|
Seal of the Department of Justice
Flag of the Attorney General
|United States Department of Justice|
|Reports to||The President|
|Seat||Washington, D.C., United States|
|Term length||No fixed term|
|Constituting instrument||Judiciary Act of 1789|
|Formation||September 26, 1789|
|First holder||Edmund Randolph|
|Succession||Seventh in the United States Presidential Line of Succession|
|Deputy||Deputy Attorney General|
|Salary||Executive Schedule, level 1|
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." 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.
The last person to hold the office of Attorney General, Eric Holder, was confirmed to office by the Senate on February 2, 2009, and sworn into office on February 3, 2009. Holder is the 82nd United States Attorney General and the first African-American to hold the position. On September 25, 2014, he announced his resignation pending the appointment and approval of a successor. President Obama nominated Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to succeed him.
List of Attorneys General
|No.||Portrait||Name||Home State||Took Office||Left Office||President(s)|
|1||Edmund Randolph||Virginia||September 26, 1789||January 26, 1794||George Washington|
|2||William Bradford||Pennsylvania||January 27, 1794||August 23, 1795|
|3||Charles Lee||Virginia||December 10, 1795||February 19, 1801|
|4||Levi Lincoln, Sr.||Massachusetts||March 5, 1801||March 2, 1805||Thomas Jefferson|
|5||John Breckinridge||Kentucky||August 7, 1805||December 14, 1806|
|6||Caesar A. Rodney||Delaware||January 20, 1807||December 10, 1811|
|7||William Pinkney||Maryland||December 11, 1811||February 9, 1814|
|8||Richard Rush||Pennsylvania||February 10, 1814||November 12, 1817|
|9||William Wirt||Virginia||November 13, 1817||March 4, 1829||James Monroe|
|John Quincy Adams|
|10||John M. Berrien||Georgia||March 9, 1829||July 19, 1831||Andrew Jackson|
|11||Roger B. Taney||Maryland||July 20, 1831||November 14, 1833|
|12||Benjamin Franklin Butler||New York||November 15, 1833||July 4, 1838|
|Martin Van Buren|
|13||Felix Grundy||Tennessee||July 5, 1838||January 10, 1840|
|14||Henry D. Gilpin||Pennsylvania||January 11, 1840||March 4, 1841|
|15||John J. Crittenden||Kentucky||March 5, 1841||September 12, 1841||William Henry Harrison|
|16||Hugh Swinton Legaré||South Carolina||September 13, 1841||June 30, 1843|
|17||John Nelson||Maryland||July 1, 1843||March 4, 1845|
|18||John Y. Mason||Virginia||March 5, 1845||October 16, 1846||James K. Polk|
|19||Nathan Clifford||Maine||October 17, 1846||March 17, 1848|
|20||Isaac Toucey||Connecticut||June 21, 1848||March 4, 1849|
|21||Reverdy Johnson||Maryland||March 8, 1849||July 21, 1850||Zachary Taylor|
|22||John J. Crittenden||Kentucky||July 22, 1850||March 4, 1853||Millard Fillmore|
|23||Caleb Cushing||Massachusetts||March 7, 1853||March 4, 1857||Franklin Pierce|
|24||Jeremiah S. Black||Pennsylvania||March 6, 1857||December 16, 1860||James Buchanan|
|25||Edwin M. Stanton||Pennsylvania||December 20, 1860||March 4, 1861|
|26||Edward Bates||Missouri||March 5, 1861||November 24, 1864||Abraham Lincoln|
|27||James Speed||Kentucky||December 2, 1864||July 22, 1866|
|28||Henry Stanbery||Ohio||July 23, 1866||July 16, 1868|
|29||William M. Evarts||New York||July 17, 1868||March 4, 1869|
|30||Ebenezer R. Hoar||Massachusetts||March 5, 1869||November 22, 1870||Ulysses S. Grant|
|31||Amos T. Akerman||Georgia||November 23, 1870||December 13, 1871|
|32||George Henry Williams||Oregon||December 14, 1871||April 25, 1875|
|33||Edwards Pierrepont||New York||April 26, 1875||May 21, 1876|
|34||Alphonso Taft||Ohio||May 22, 1876||March 4, 1877|
|35||Charles Devens||Massachusetts||March 12, 1877||March 4, 1881||Rutherford B. Hayes|
|36||Wayne MacVeagh||Pennsylvania||March 5, 1881||December 15, 1881||James A. Garfield|
|Chester A. Arthur|
|37||Benjamin H. Brewster||Pennsylvania||December 16, 1881||March 4, 1885|
|38||Augustus H. Garland||Arkansas||March 6, 1885||March 4, 1889||Grover Cleveland|
|39||William H. H. Miller||Indiana||March 7, 1889||March 4, 1893||Benjamin Harrison|
|40||Richard Olney||Massachusetts||March 6, 1893||April 7, 1895||Grover Cleveland|
|41||Judson Harmon||Ohio||April 8, 1895||March 4, 1897|
|42||Joseph McKenna||California||March 5, 1897||January 25, 1898||William McKinley|
|43||John W. Griggs||New Jersey||January 25, 1898||March 29, 1901|
|44||Philander C. Knox||Pennsylvania||April 5, 1901||June 30, 1904|
|45||William H. Moody||Massachusetts||July 1, 1904||December 17, 1906|
|46||Charles J. Bonaparte||Maryland||December 17, 1906||March 4, 1909|
|47||George W. Wickersham||New York||March 4, 1909||March 4, 1913||William Howard Taft|
|48||James C. McReynolds||Tennessee||March 5, 1913||August 29, 1914||Woodrow Wilson|
|49||Thomas Watt Gregory||Texas||August 29, 1914||March 4, 1919|
|50||Alexander Mitchell Palmer||Pennsylvania||March 5, 1919||March 4, 1921|
|51||Harry M. Daugherty||Ohio||March 4, 1921||April 6, 1924||Warren G. Harding|
|52||Harlan F. Stone||New York||April 7, 1924||March 1, 1925|
|53||John G. Sargent||Vermont||March 7, 1925||March 4, 1929|
|54||William D. Mitchell||Minnesota||March 4, 1929||March 4, 1933||Herbert Hoover|
|55||Homer Stille Cummings||Connecticut||March 4, 1933||January 1, 1939||Franklin D. Roosevelt|
|56||Frank Murphy||Michigan||January 2, 1939||January 18, 1940|
|57||Robert H. Jackson||New York||January 18, 1940||August 25, 1941|
|58||Francis Biddle||Pennsylvania||August 26, 1941||June 26, 1945|
|Harry S. Truman|
|59||Tom C. Clark||Texas||June 27, 1945||July 26, 1949|
|60||J. Howard McGrath||Rhode Island||July 27, 1949||April 3, 1952|
|61||James P. McGranery||Pennsylvania||April 4, 1952||January 20, 1953|
|62||Herbert Brownell, Jr.||New York||January 21, 1953||October 23, 1957||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|63||William P. Rogers||Maryland||October 23, 1957||January 20, 1961|
|64||Robert F. Kennedy||Massachusetts||January 20, 1961||September 3, 1964||John F. Kennedy|
|Lyndon B. Johnson|
|65||Nicholas Katzenbach||Illinois||September 4, 1964||January 28, 1965|
|January 28, 1965||November 28, 1966|
|66||Ramsey Clark||Texas||November 28, 1966||March 10, 1967|
|March 10, 1967||January 20, 1969|
|67||John N. Mitchell||New York||January 20, 1969||February 15, 1972||Richard Nixon|
|68||Richard Kleindienst||Arizona||February 15, 1972||May 25, 1973|
|69||Elliot Richardson||Massachusetts||May 25, 1973||October 20, 1973|
|Pennsylvania||October 20, 1973||January 4, 1974|
|70||William B. Saxbe||Ohio||January 4, 1974||January 14, 1975|
|71||Edward H. Levi||Illinois||January 14, 1975||January 20, 1977|
|–||Richard L. Thornburgh
|Pennsylvania||January 20, 1977||January 26, 1977||Jimmy Carter|
|72||Griffin Bell||Georgia||January 26, 1977||August 16, 1979|
|73||Benjamin Civiletti||Maryland||August 16, 1979||January 19, 1981|
|74||William French Smith||California||January 23, 1981||February 25, 1985||Ronald Reagan|
|75||Edwin Meese||California||February 25, 1985||August 12, 1988|
|76||Richard L. Thornburgh||Pennsylvania||August 12, 1988||August 15, 1991|
|George H. W. Bush|
|77||William P. Barr||New York||August 16, 1991||November 26, 1991|
|November 26, 1991||January 20, 1993|
|–||Stuart M. Gerson
|Washington, D.C.||January 20, 1993||March 12, 1993||Bill Clinton|
|78||Janet Reno||Florida||March 12, 1993||January 20, 2001|
|Washington, D.C.||January 20, 2001||February 2, 2001||George W. Bush|
|79||John Ashcroft||Missouri||February 2, 2001||February 3, 2005|
|80||Alberto Gonzales||Texas||February 3, 2005||September 17, 2007|
|Washington, D.C.||September 17, 2007||September 18, 2007|
|Washington, D.C.||September 18, 2007||November 9, 2007|
|81||Michael Mukasey||New York||November 9, 2007||January 20, 2009|
|Illinois||January 20, 2009||February 3, 2009||Barack Obama|
|82||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" 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.
4 Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ Civil Division Stuart M. Gerson was acting attorney general from January 20, 1993 to March 12, 1993. Gerson was fourth in the line of succession at the Justice Department (other senior DOJ officials had already resigned). During his time as Acting AG, Gerson supported the Brady bill and was in office in the beginnings of the Waco siege. Janet Reno, President Clinton's nominee for attorney general, was confirmed on March 12, and he resigned the same day. Acting Attorney General Gerson's last day at the Justice Department was March 19.
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. According to administration officials, Clement took that office at 12:01 am September 17, 2007, and left office 24 hours later. 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. 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. Filip led the Department while President Obama's nominee, then Attorney-General Designate Eric Holder, awaited confirmation by the United States Senate. Holder was confirmed on February 2, 2009, and sworn in the next day thus ending Filip's tenure as the acting attorney general.
Living former Attorneys General
As of December 2014[update], there are nine living former US Attorneys General, the oldest being Ramsey Clark (1967-1969, born 1927). The most recent Attorney General to die was Nicholas Katzenbach (1965–1966), on May 8, 2012.
|Name||Term of office||Date of birth|
|Ramsey Clark||1967–1969||December 18, 1927|
|Benjamin Civiletti||1979–1981||July 17, 1935|
|Edwin Meese||1985–1988||December 2, 1931|
|Dick Thornburgh||1988–1991||July 16, 1932|
|William P. Barr||1991–1993||May 23, 1950|
|Janet Reno||1993–2001||July 21, 1938|
|John Ashcroft||2001–2005||May 9, 1942|
|Alberto Gonzales||2005–2007||August 4, 1955|
|Michael Mukasey||2007–2009||July 28, 1941|
- Subpoena duces tecum
- Subpoena ad testificandum
- United States Deputy Attorney General
- United States Associate Attorney General
- United States Assistant Attorney General
- United States Solicitor General
- Living former members of the United States Cabinet
- List of Attorneys General of the Confederate States of America
- Executive Order 13557 for "Order of Succession Within the Department of Justice"
- Judiciary Act of 1789, section 35.
- Cabinets and Counselors: The President and the Executive Branch (1997). Congressional Quarterly. p. 87.
- 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.
- Barrett, Devlin (February 3, 2009). "On Day 1, Holder promises break with Bush policies". Associated Press. Archived from the original on February 5, 2009.
- Wilber, Del Quentin; Schoenberg, Tom (September 25, 2014). "Holder Said to Plan to Resignation as Attorney General". Bloomberg News. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
- Noble, Kenneth B. (July 26, 1987). "New Views Emerge of Bork's Role in Watergate Dismissals". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-30.
- "William Bart Saxbe". The United States Department of Justice.
- Cahoon, Ben (2000). "United States Government". World Statesmen. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
January 20, 1993 – March 12, 1993 Stuart M. Gerson (acting) (b. 1944)
- 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...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Meyers, Steven Lee (August 27, 2007). "Embattled Attorney General Resigns". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-27.
- Eggen, Dan; Elizabeth Williamson (September 19, 2007). "Democrats May Tie Confirmation to Gonzales Papers". Washington Post. pp. A10. Retrieved September 19, 2007.
- "President Bush Announces Judge Michael Mukasey as Nominee for Attorney General", White House press release, September 17, 2007
- "Bush Text on Attorney General Nomination". NewsOK.com (The Oklahoman). The Associated Press. September 17, 2007. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
- 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.)
- 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.
- "Acting Attorney General Mark Filip." United States Department of Justice. January 20, 2009. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5eJ6TAbgg)
- 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.
|United States presidential line of succession|
Secretary of Defense
|7th in line||Succeeded by
Secretary of the Interior