Justice Department

Justice Department in the United States

Executive department responsible for the enforcement of federal laws. The Justice Department was established by Congress in 1870. The head of the department is the Attorney General of the United States (more here), who, by virtue of office, is a member of the president’s cabinet. Prior to 1870, the attorney general held cabinet rank, but did not head an executive department. The principal functions of the Justice Department are to enforce federal laws and provide legal counsel to the various agencies and officers of the federal government. The department houses the solicitor general, who is responsible for conducting all cases before the Supreme Court. The department is divided into a number of divisions. The criminal division is involved in criminal prosecutions, a function typically performed by federal prosecutors known as U.S. attorneys. The department also supervises the federal prison system and federal prisoner parole. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the national police agency, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are also located in the department. Other divisions include antitrust, civil, tax, and civil rights. The last is designed to provide effective enforcement of federal civil rights laws.

See Also

Attorney General of the United States (Judicial Organization) (Judicial Organization) Solicitor General (Judicial Organization) United States Attorney (Judicial Organization).

Analysis and Relevance

As the federal government assumes a larger law enforcement function, the role of the Justice Department expands accordingly. This is especially evident with respect to new federal initiatives in the area of drug enforcement. The Justice Department is responsible for all federal criminal prosecutions and more generally coordinates appearances by the executive branch in the federal courts. It is through the Justice Department that key law enforcement policy priorities are implemented nationally. If, for example, a presidential administration wishes to direct more resources toward combating drug trafficking or enforcement of civil rights law, the attorney general can direct U.S. attorneys to make such adjustments, and they will occur throughout the country. The Justice Department thus is the medium through which federal enforcement policy is executed at the national level.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Justice Department from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Justice Department in State Statute Topics

Introduction to Justice Department (U.S.) (State statute topic)

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


Further Reading

Justice Department: 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 Justice Department. This part provides references, in relation to Justice Department, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Justice Department 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 Justice Department 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 Justice Department 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 Justice Department 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 Justice Department. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Justice Department 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 Justice Department when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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