Attorney General

Attorney General in the United States

The cabinet member who heads the Department of Justice. The Attorney General of the United States (Judicial Personnel issue) is the chief law officer at the federal level. The attorney general acts as the principal legal counsel to the president and is responsible for representing the United States in all legal matters. The attorney general has a number of critical executive functions. All federal criminal prosecutions are initiated by the Justice Department through United States Attorneys. The priority assigned to enforcement of particular laws is a judgment of the attorney general. The Justice Department also supervises the federal prison system and the parole of federal prisoners. Also falling under the control of the attorney general are the two principal police agencies at the federal level, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The attorney general also possesses substantial discretion in such policy areas as civil rights, immigration, and internal security. Formal opinions by the attorney general on federal questions govern agencies but can be challenged in court.

See Also

Justice Department (Judicial Personnel issue) Solicitor General (Judicial Personnel issue) State Attorney General (Judicial Personnel issue) United States Attorney (Judicial Personnel issue).

Analysis and Relevance

The position of attorney general is one of the most powerful in the federal government. The attorney general is a political appointee of the president and is typically a trusted political ally. As head of the Justice Department, the attorney general is in a position to implement a president’s program in the politically sensitive area of law enforcement. If, for example, a presidential administration wishes to intensify the war against drug trafficking, the attorney general can make enforcement changes through the DEA and U.S. attorneys. In other words, the Justice Department is the medium through which federal law enforcement policy is executed. The role of the federal government in law enforcement has grown substantially in the 1980s, and the influence of the attorney general has expanded accordingly. Finally, the attorney general plays a key role in federal judicial selection. As part of the presidential administration, the attorney general is personally responsible for identifying appropriate Supreme Court nominees for a president. A deputy is generally assigned responsibility for identification of prospective nominees for the lower federal courts, but the attorney general participates in defining the general characteristics of any candidate. It was, for example, at the direction of first William French Smith and later Edwin Meese that President Ronald Reagan was able to ideologically reshape the lower federal Judiciary (U.S.) during his two terms as president.

Attorney General Definition

A member of the president’s cabinet. His duties are to prosecute and conduct all suits in the supreme court in which the United States shall be concerned, and give his advice upon questions of law when required by the president, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments, touching matters that may concern their departments. Act Sept. 24, 1789.

Origins in the English Law

In English Law it was a great officer, under the king, made by letters patent, whose office was to exhibit informations, and prosecute for the English crown in matters criminal; to file bills in the English exchequer in any matter concerning the king’s revenue. Others might bring bills against the kings’ attorney (see 3 Sharswood, Bl. Comm. 27; Termes de la Ley.) In American Law the attorney general, or similar officer, appears for the people, as in England he appears for the crown.

Attorney General in the U.S.

“In the U.S. the post was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789. The attorney general, who is appointed by the president with the consent of the Senate, is a member of the cabinet. Among the duties of the office are the administration of the Department of Justice, the examination of titles of property acquired by the U.S. for public purposes, the presentation of cases in the courts on behalf of the government, the prosecution of criminal cases involving the government, the direction of the system of federal penitentiaries, and the supervision of special matters involving national defense. The attorney general also provides legal advice to the president and the heads of executive departments. These opinions are not confidential; rather, they are published and provide precedents and guidelines for future action. Serving under the attorney general is the solicitor general, who represents the government in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Each of the states has an official with duties similar to those of the U.S. attorney general. In some, the state official is appointed by the governor and in others the official is popularly elected.” (1)

Presidential Memoranda

Presidential Memoranda in relation with Transfer of Detainee to Control of the Attorney General (February 27, 2009):

“Based on the information available to me, including the memorandum from the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General dated February 26, 2009, and the joint recommendation contained therein, I hereby determine that it is in the interest of the United States that Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri be released from detention by the Secretary of Defense and transferred to the control of the Attorney General for the purpose of criminal proceedings against him.
Accordingly, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, I hereby direct you to transfer Mr. al-Marri to the control of the Attorney General upon the Attorney General’s request.

This memorandum supersedes the Presidential directive of June 23, 2003, to the Secretary of Defense, which ordered the detention of Mr. al-Marri as an enemy combatant. Upon Mr. al-Marri’s transfer to the control of the Attorney General, the authority to detain Mr. al-Marri provided to the Secretary of Defense in the June 23, 2003, order shall cease.”

Attorney General in Other Legal Encyclopedias

Link Description
Attorney General Attorney General in the World Legal Encyclopedia.
Attorney General Attorney General in the European Legal Encyclopedia.
Attorney General Attorney General in the Asian Legal Encyclopedia.
Attorney General Attorney General in the UK Legal Encyclopedia.
Attorney General Attorney General in the Australian Legal Encyclopedia.

Back to Top

Explore other Reference Works

Resource Description
Attorney General in the Dictionaries Attorney General in our legal dictionaries
https://lawi.us/attorney-general The URI of Attorney General (more about URIs)

Back to Top

Notice

This explanation about the origins of Attorney General is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary .

Concept of Attorney General

In the U.S., in the context of State Government and/or Local Government, Attorney General has the following meaning: The top lawyer for state government, responsible for law enforcement and defending the state in court. Most states elect their attorney general. (Source of this definition of Attorney General : University of Texas)

Attorney General

Attorney General Background

attorney general

Resources

See Also

  • State Government
  • Local Government
  • Local Government Law

Attorney General Background

Resources

Notes and References

  1. Encarta Online Encyclopedia

See Also

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Attorney General from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Attorney General’s List

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, President Harry S. Truman’s Executive Order 9835 inaugurated a comprehensive investigation of all federal employees and made any negative information a potential basis for a security dismissal. A list of subversive organizations was to be prepared by the attorney general.

Concept of Attorney General

In the U.S., in the context of State Government and/or Local Government, Attorney General has the following meaning: The top lawyer for state government, responsible for law enforcement and defending the state in court. Most states elect their attorney general. (Source of this definition of Attorney General : University of Texas)

Attorney General

Attorney General Background

Resources

See Also

  • State Government
  • Local Government
  • Local Government Law

Attorney General Background

Resources

See Also

Justice Department; Officers of the Court; Supreme Court of the United States; Question of Law; Washington, George.

Further Reading (Articles)

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY APPOINTS FOUR NEW MEMBERS TO ATTORNEY GENERAL’S ADVISORY COMMITTEE, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; January 3, 2008

ATTORNEY GENERAL APPOINTS FOUR NEW U.S. ATTORNEYS TO ADVISORY COMMITTEE., States News Service; May 6, 2010

ATTORNEY GENERAL CUOMO’S STATEWIDE COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP INITIATIVE RETURNS TO MONROE COUNTY, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; November 18, 2008

Attorneys General Raise Funds for GOP; Corporations in State Suits Are Solicited, The Washington Post; March 30, 2000; George Lardner Jr. Susan Schmidt

Attorney General Holder Appoints Eight New Us Attorneys to Advisory Committee, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; January 30, 2014

Attorney General Chiesa Announces New Leadership Team, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; August 1, 2012

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER APPOINTS 8 NEW U.S. ATTORNEYS TO ADVISORY COMMITTEE, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; December 16, 2011

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER APPOINTS FOUR NEW U.S. ATTORNEYS TO ADVISORY COMMITTEE, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; May 7, 2010

Attorney Involvement, Collector; July 1, 2010; Pavlik, Andrew

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER APPOINTS EIGHT NEW U.S. ATTORNEYS TO ADVISORY COMMITTEE., States News Service; December 14, 2011

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER APPOINTS THREE NEW U.S. ATTORNEYS TO ADVISORY COMMITTEE, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; February 2, 2010

Attorneys Beware: Metadata’s Impact on Privilege, Work Product, and the Ethical Rules, The University of Memphis Law Review; July 1, 2005; Steele, Campbell C

Attorney General Holder Appoints U.S. Attorney Sharpe to Advisory Committee, States News Service; April 29, 2013

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER EXPANDS U.S. ATTORNEY ADVISORY COMMITTEE., States News Service; October 26, 2009

Attorneys General for Sale?, Multinational Monitor; June 1, 2001; Wheat, Andrew

Attorney Fees under the Turkish Attorneyship Law: An Overview., Mondaq Business Briefing; June 7, 2010; Ozeke, Herguner Bilgen

ATTORNEY GENERAL-ELECT ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES SENIOR LEGAL STAFF APPOINTMENTS CITING SCHNEIDERMAN’S COMMITMENT TO LEGAL EXCELLENCE, STATE’S LEADING LEGAL VOICES PRAISE FIRST ROUND OF CHOICES AS “EXTRAORDINARY” AND “OUTSTANDING” TOP-TIER TALENT TO SERVE AS FIRST DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, SOLICITOR GENERAL, COUNSEL, EXECUTIVE DEPUTY ATTORNEYS GENERAL FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE, CRIMINAL JUSTICE,., States News Service; December 22, 2010

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER EXPANDS U.S. ATTORNEY ADVISORY COMMITTEE APPOINTS NINE NEW U.S. ATTORNEYS., States News Service; October 26, 2009;

Government attorneys.(Florida Legal Elite[TM])(Directory), Florida Trend; July 1, 2008

ATTORNEY GENERAL COX TO SPEAKER: HANDS OFF ATTORNEY GENERAL’S CONSTITUTIONAL POWERS, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; July 28, 2006

Attorney General in State Statute Topics

Introduction to Attorney General (State)

The purpose of Attorney General is to provide a broad appreciation of the Attorney General legal topic. Select from the list of U.S. legal topics for information (other than Attorney General).

Concept of Attorney General

In the U.S., in the context of State Government and/or Local Government, Attorney General has the following meaning: The top lawyer for state government, responsible for law enforcement and defending the state in court. Most states elect their attorney general. (Source of this definition of Attorney General : University of Texas)

Attorney General

Attorney General Background

Resources

See Also

  • State Government
  • Local Government
  • Local Government Law

Attorney General Background

Resources

Further Reading

 

Attorney General in State Statute Topics

Introduction to Attorney General (U.S.)

The purpose of Attorney General is to provide a broad appreciation of the Attorney General legal topic. Select from the list of U.S. legal topics for information (other than Attorney General).

Concept of Attorney General

In the U.S., in the context of State Government and/or Local Government, Attorney General has the following meaning: The top lawyer for state government, responsible for law enforcement and defending the state in court. Most states elect their attorney general. (Source of this definition of Attorney General : University of Texas)

Attorney General

Attorney General Background

Resources

See Also

  • State Government
  • Local Government
  • Local Government Law

Attorney General Background

Resources

Further Reading

Attorney General: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Attorney General. This part provides references, in relation to Attorney General, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Attorney General by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Attorney General and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Attorney General or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Attorney General and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Attorney General. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Attorney General should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Attorney General when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

Leave a Comment