United States Attorney General
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|Attorney General of the United States|
Seal of the Department of Justice
Flag of the Attorney General
|United States Department of Justice|
Mr. Attorney General|
|Reports to||President of the United States|
with Senate advice and consent
|Term length||No fixed term|
|Constituting instrument||Judiciary Act of 1789|
|Formation||September 26, 1789|
|First holder||Edmund Randolph|
|Deputy||Deputy Attorney General|
|Salary||$205,700 annually (Executive Schedule, level I)|
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 all legal affairs, and is the chief lawyer of the United States government. In cases of the federal death penalty, the power to seek the death penalty rests with the Attorney General.
Under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, the Attorney General is nominated by the President and appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Constitution provides that civil officers of the United States, which would include the Attorney General, may be impeached by Congress for treason, bribery, or "high crimes and misdemeanors". The Attorney General may be removed at will by the President under the Supreme Court decision Myers v. United States, which found that the President may remove executive branch officials without the consent of the Senate or any other entity. The common law further suggests that the President has the power to remove an official engaged in purely executive functions or an official whose duties immediately affect the President's ability to fulfill his constitutional responsibilities, (Bowsher v. Synar, 1986).
Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789 which, besides other things, established the Office of the Attorney General. 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 or her 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."
The Department of Justice was established in 1870 to support the Attorney General in the discharge of their 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 in the United States because of the importance and age of their respective departments.
It is the practice for the Attorney General, along with many other public officials, to give resignation with effect on the Inauguration Day (January 20) of a new President. The Deputy Attorney General, who is also required to tender their resignation, is commonly requested to stay on and act as Attorney General pending the confirmation by the Senate of the new Attorney General.
For example, on the inauguration of President Donald Trump on January, 20, 2017, the tenure of the then Attorney General Loretta Lynch was brought to an end, and the Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who had also tendered her resignation, was asked to stay on and be Acting Attorney General until the confirmation of the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had been nominated for the office in November 2016 by then-President-elect Donald Trump.
List of Attorneys General
|No.||Portrait||Name||State of Residence||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 S. Legaré||South Carolina||September 13, 1841||June 20, 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 (born in Vermont)||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|
|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||Dick 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||April 27, 2015|
|83||Loretta Lynch||New York||April 27, 2015||January 20, 2017|
|Georgia||January 20, 2017||January 30, 2017||Donald Trump|
|Virginia||January 30, 2017||February 9, 2017|
|84||Jeff Sessions||Alabama||February 9, 2017||Incumbent|
Living former U.S. Attorneys General
As of August 2018, there are eleven, living former US Attorneys General, the oldest being Ramsey Clark (served 1967–1969, born 1927). The most recent Attorney General to die was Janet Reno (served 1993–2001, born 1938) on November 7, 2016.
|Name||Term of office||Date of birth (and age)|
|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|
|John Ashcroft||2001–2005||May 9, 1942|
|Alberto Gonzales||2005–2007||August 4, 1955|
|Michael Mukasey||2007–2009||July 28, 1941|
|Eric Holder||2009–2015||January 21, 1951|
|Loretta Lynch||2015–2017||May 21, 1959|
Line of succession
U.S.C. Title 28, §508 establishes the first two positions in the line of succession, while allowing the Attorney General to designate other high-ranking officers of the Department of Justice as subsequent successors. Furthermore, an Executive Order defines subsequent positions, the most recent from March 31, 2017, signed by President Donald Trump. The current line of succession is:
- United States Deputy Attorney General
- United States Associate Attorney General
- Other Officers potentially designated by the Attorney General (in no particular order):
- Solicitor General of the United States
- Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division
- Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division
- Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division
- Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division
- Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division
- Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division
- Assistant Attorney General, Justice Management Division
- Assistant Attorney General, Tax Division
- Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs
- Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel
- Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Policy
- Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legislative Affairs
- United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia
- United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina
- United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas
- 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
- List of living former members of the United States Cabinet
- Executive Order 13787 for "Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Justice"
- 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 2009–2015.
- 3 On October 20, 1973, Solicitor General Robert Bork became acting attorney general following the "Saturday Night Massacre", in which U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus both resigned.
- 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.
- "3 U.S. Code § 19 - Vacancy in offices of both President and Vice President; officers eligible to act".
- 5 U.S.C. § 5312.
- "Impeachment | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". history.house.gov. Retrieved 2018-07-29.
- Judiciary Act of 1789, section 35.
- Cabinets and Counselors: The President and the Executive Branch (1997). Congressional Quarterly. p. 87.
- "U.S.C. Title 28 - JUDICIARY AND JUDICIAL PROCEDURE". www.gpo.gov. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
- "Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Justice". Federal Register. 2017-04-05. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
- Cahoon, Ben (2000). "United States Government". World Statesmen. Retrieved December 12, 2008.
January 20, 1993 – March 12, 1993 Stuart M. Gerson (acting) (b. 1944)
- Staff reporter (February 21, 1993). "Stuart Gerson's Parting Shot". New York Times. Retrieved December 12, 2008.
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 (January 25, 1993). "Notes on Justice; Who's in Charge? Bush Holdover Says He Is, but Two Clinton Men Differ". The New York Times. Retrieved December 12, 2008.
- Scruggs, Richard; Steven Zipperstein; Robert Lyon; Victor Gonzalez; Herbert Cousins; Roderick Beverly (October 8, 1993). "Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas February 28 to April 19, 1993". Department of Justice. Archived from the original on May 30, 2009. Retrieved January 27, 2010.
- Ifill, Gwen (March 12, 1993). "Reno Confirmed in Top Justice Job". New York Times. Retrieved December 12, 2008.
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 August 27, 2007.
- 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 (January 15, 2009). "Obama asks U.S. Attorneys to stay 'for the time being'". CNN Political Ticker. Retrieved January 21, 2009.
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 (January 21, 2009). "Bush Appointees Holding Down the Fort While Obama Nominees Await Confirmation". FOX News. Archived from the original on April 29, 2009. Retrieved February 4, 2009.
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 https://www.webcitation.org/5eJ6TAbgg)
- Staff reporter (February 3, 2009). "Obama attorney-general confirmed". BBC News. Retrieved February 3, 2009.
President Barack Obama's choice for attorney-general, Eric Holder, has been confirmed in the post by the US Senate.
- Staff (n.d.). "USDOJ: Office of the Attorney General". US Department of Justice. Retrieved February 3, 2009.
Alberto Gonzales. was sworn in as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States on March 22, 2013 by Vice-President Joe Biden. President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Mr. Gonzales on December 1, 2012.
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as Secretary of Defense
| Order of Precedence of the United States
as Attorney General
as Secretary of the Interior
|Current U.S. presidential line of succession|
Secretary of Defense
|7th in line||Succeeded by|
Secretary of the Interior