District attorney

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District Attorney
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Law, Law Enforcement
Competencies Advocacy skills, analytical mind, sense of justice
Education required
Law degree, Bar exam
Related jobs
Prosecutor, State's attorney, Commonwealth's attorney, United States Attorney
See also: Prosecutor

The district attorney (DA) represents the state government in the prosecution of criminal offenses, and is the chief law enforcement officer and legal officer of their jurisdiction. The district attorney supervises a staff of prosecutors, with titles including assistant, administrative, and executive district attorneys. Depending upon the system in place, district attorneys may be appointed by the chief executive of the jurisdiction or elected by the voters of the jurisdiction. The title “district attorney” is used by several major jurisdictions within the United States, including California, Massachusetts, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas.

History and role[edit]

The United States Judiciary Act of 1789, Section 35, provided for the appointment of a person in each judicial district to prosecute federal crimes and to represent the United States in all civil actions to which it was a party. Initially, there were 13 districts to cover the 11 States that had by that time ratified the constitution. Each State was a district, except for Massachusetts and Virginia which formed two. Districts were added when additional States were admitted. The statute did not confer a title upon these local agents of federal authority, but subsequent statutes and court decisions referred to them most frequently as “district attorneys.” In 1948, the Judicial Code adopted the term “United States attorneys.”[1]

This term for a prosecutor originates with the traditional use of the term "district" for multi-county prosecutorial jurisdictions in several U.S. states. For example, New York appointed prosecutors to multi-county districts prior to 1813. Even after those states broke up such districts and started appointing or electing prosecutors for individual counties, they continued to use the title "district attorney" for the most senior prosecutor in a county rather than switch to "county attorney."

At the local level in other jurisdictions, officers such as the commonwealth's attorney, state's attorney, county attorney, circuit solicitor, or county prosecutor carry out functions similar to those performed by a district attorney.

Other jurisdictions[edit]

In the United Kingdom, positions equivalent to a district attorney are the Chief Crown prosecutors (or Crown prosecutors in the case of deputy or assistant district attorneys) of the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales, the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland, and the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland. In many other countries, the title of the chief prosecuting officer is Director of Public Prosecutions. In Canada, the term used is Crown Attorney, Crown Counsel or Crown Prosecutor, depending on the province. Execept in Ontario, it is an appointed position.

Assistant District Attorney[edit]

The Assistant District Attorney (ADA), or prosecutor, is the public official who represents the state government on behalf of the District Attorney (DA) in the prosecution of alleged criminals. The prosecution is the legal party responsible for presenting the case against an individual suspected of breaking the law, initiating and directing further criminal investigations, guiding and recommending the sentencing of offenders, and are the only attorneys allowed to participate in grand jury proceedings.[2]

An administrative assistant district attorney (AADA), executive assistant district attorney (EADA), chief assistant district attorney (CADA), or first assistant district attorney (FADA) respectively, are some of the titles given to the leadership of senior ADAs working under the DA.[citation needed] The FADA is generally considered the second-in-command for the office, and usually report directly to the DA. The exact roles and job assignments for each title vary with each individual office, but generally include management of the daily activities and supervision of specialized divisions within the office. Often, a senior ADA may oversee or prosecute some of the larger crimes within the jurisdiction. In some offices, the EADA has the responsibility of hiring lawyers and support staff, as well as supervising press-releases and overseeing the work of the office.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ History of Federal Judiciary
  2. ^ [1]Standards on Prosecutorial Investigations

External links[edit]