United States Attorney General

Attorney General of the United States
Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg
Seal of the Department of Justice
Flag of the United States Attorney General.svg
Flag of the Attorney General
Matthew G. Whitaker official photo (cropped).jpg
Incumbent
Matthew Whitaker[a]
Acting

since November 7, 2018
United States Department of Justice
StyleMr. Attorney General
Member ofCabinet
Reports toPresident of the United States
SeatDepartment of Justice Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term lengthNo fixed term
Constituting instrument28 U.S.C. § 503
Judiciary Act of 1789
FormationSeptember 26, 1789
First holderEdmund Randolph
SuccessionSeventh[5]
DeputyDeputy Attorney General
SalaryExecutive Schedule, level I[6]
Websitewww.justice.gov

The United States Attorney General (A.G.) is the chief lawyer of the Federal government of the United States and head of the United States Department of Justice per 28 U.S.C. § 503, concerned with all legal affairs.

Under the Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution, the officeholder is nominated by the President of the United States and appointed with the advice and consent of the United States Senate. The U.S. Constitution provides that civil officers of the United States, which would include the U.S. Attorney General, may be impeached by Congress for treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors.[7] The United States Attorney General may be removed at will by the President of the United States under the Supreme Court decision Myers v. United States, which found that executive branch officials may be removed without the consent of any entity.[8] In cases of the federal death penalty, the power to seek the death penalty rests with the U.S. Attorney General.

History[]

Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789 which, among 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 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."[9]

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 significance and age of their respective departments.[10]

Presidential transition[]

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[]

Parties

  No party (1)   Federalist (3)   Democratic-Republican (5)   Democratic (34)   Whig (4)   Republican (38)

Status
  Denotes service as acting Attorneys General prior to appointment or after resignation
No. Portrait Name State of Residence Took office Left office President(s)
1 EdRand.jpg Edmund Randolph Virginia September 26, 1789 January 26, 1794 George Washington
2 William Bradford, AG.jpg William Bradford Pennsylvania January 27, 1794 August 23, 1795
3 Charles Lee, AG.png Charles Lee Virginia December 10, 1795 February 19, 1801
John Adams
4 Levi Lincoln, Sr.jpg Levi Lincoln Sr. Massachusetts March 5, 1801 March 2, 1805 Thomas Jefferson
5 John Breckinridge.jpg John Breckinridge Kentucky August 7, 1805 December 14, 1806
6 Rodneycaesara3.jpg Caesar A. Rodney Delaware January 20, 1807 December 10, 1811
James Madison
7 Williampinkney (1).jpg William Pinkney Maryland December 11, 1811 February 9, 1814
8 Richard Rush engraving.png Richard Rush Pennsylvania February 10, 1814 November 12, 1817
9 Attorney General William Wirt.jpg William Wirt Virginia November 13, 1817 March 4, 1829 James Monroe
John Quincy Adams
10 John Macpherson Berrien.jpg John M. Berrien Georgia March 9, 1829 July 19, 1831 Andrew Jackson
11 Roger Taney.jpg Roger B. Taney Maryland July 20, 1831 November 14, 1833
12 Benjamin Franklin Butler (1795–1858).jpg Benjamin Franklin Butler New York November 15, 1833 July 4, 1838
Martin Van Buren
13 Felix Grundy.jpg Felix Grundy Tennessee July 5, 1838 January 10, 1840
14 Henry D. Gilpin, Attorney General of the United States (trimmed).jpg Henry D. Gilpin Pennsylvania January 11, 1840 March 4, 1841
15 John Jordan Crittenden - Brady 1855.jpg John J. Crittenden Kentucky March 5, 1841 September 12, 1841 William Henry Harrison
John Tyler
16 Hugh S. Legaré.jpg Hugh S. Legaré South Carolina September 13, 1841 June 20, 1843
17 John Nelson, bw photo portrait, Brady-Handy collection, circa 1855-1865.jpg John Nelson Maryland July 1, 1843 March 4, 1845
18 JYMason.jpg John Y. Mason Virginia March 5, 1845 October 16, 1846 James K. Polk
19 NClifford.jpg Nathan Clifford Maine October 17, 1846 March 17, 1848
20 Isaac Toucey - Brady-Handy.jpg Isaac Toucey Connecticut June 21, 1848 March 4, 1849
21 Reverdy Johnson.jpg Reverdy Johnson Maryland March 8, 1849 July 21, 1850 Zachary Taylor
22 John Jordan Crittenden - Brady 1855.jpg John J. Crittenden Kentucky July 22, 1850 March 4, 1853 Millard Fillmore
23 Caleb Cushing.jpg Caleb Cushing Massachusetts March 7, 1853 March 4, 1857 Franklin Pierce
24 JSBlack-AG.jpg Jeremiah S. Black Pennsylvania March 6, 1857 December 16, 1860 James Buchanan
25 Edwin McMasters Stanton Secretary of War.jpg Edwin M. Stanton Pennsylvania December 20, 1860 March 4, 1861
26 Edward Bates - Brady-Handy.jpg Edward Bates Missouri March 5, 1861 November 24, 1864 Abraham Lincoln
27 James Speed.jpg James Speed Kentucky December 2, 1864 July 22, 1866
Andrew Johnson
28 Stanberry-AttorGen.jpg Henry Stanbery Ohio July 23, 1866 July 16, 1868
29 William M. Evarts - Brady-Handy.jpg William M. Evarts New York July 17, 1868 March 4, 1869
30 EbenezerRHoar.jpg Ebenezer R. Hoar Massachusetts March 5, 1869 November 22, 1870 Ulysses S. Grant
31 Amos T Akerman - crop and minor retouch.jpg Amos T. Akerman Georgia November 23, 1870 December 13, 1871
32 George Henry Williams - Brady-Handy - Restored & Cropped.jpg George Henry Williams Oregon December 14, 1871 April 25, 1875
33 Edwards Pierrepont, Brady-Handy bw photo portrait, ca1865-1880.jpg Edwards Pierrepont New York April 26, 1875 May 21, 1876
34 Alphonso Taft seated.jpg Alphonso Taft Ohio (born in Vermont) May 22, 1876 March 4, 1877
35 Hon. Charles Devens of Mass. Atty Gen. Hayes Cabinet.png Charles Devens Massachusetts March 12, 1877 March 4, 1881 Rutherford B. Hayes
36 Wayne MacVeagh - Brady-Handy.jpg Wayne MacVeagh Pennsylvania March 5, 1881 December 15, 1881 James A. Garfield
Chester A. Arthur
37 BenjaminHBrewster.jpg Benjamin H. Brewster Pennsylvania December 16, 1881 March 4, 1885
38 Augustus Hill Garland - Brady-Handy.jpg Augustus H. Garland Arkansas March 6, 1885 March 4, 1889 Grover Cleveland
39 WHHMiller.jpg William H. H. Miller Indiana March 7, 1889 March 4, 1893 Benjamin Harrison
40 Richard Olney, Bain bw photo portrait, 1913.jpg Richard Olney Massachusetts March 6, 1893 April 7, 1895 Grover Cleveland
41 Jud Harmon.jpg Judson Harmon Ohio April 8, 1895 March 4, 1897
42 AssoJstcJMcK.jpg Joseph McKenna California March 5, 1897 January 25, 1898 William McKinley
43 Griggs2.jpg John W. Griggs New Jersey January 25, 1898 March 29, 1901
44 Philander Knox, bw photo portrait, 1904.jpg Philander C. Knox Pennsylvania April 5, 1901 June 30, 1904
Theodore Roosevelt
45 WHMoody.jpg William H. Moody Massachusetts July 1, 1904 December 17, 1906
46 CJBonaparte.jpg Charles J. Bonaparte Maryland December 17, 1906 March 4, 1909
47 GWWickersham.jpg George W. Wickersham New York March 4, 1909 March 4, 1913 William Howard Taft
48 James C. McReynolds - c1913.jpg James C. McReynolds Tennessee March 5, 1913 August 29, 1914 Woodrow Wilson
49 WP Thomas Watt Gregory.jpg Thomas Watt Gregory Texas August 29, 1914 March 4, 1919
50 Alexander Mitchell Palmer.jpg Alexander Mitchell Palmer Pennsylvania March 5, 1919 March 4, 1921
51 Harry Daugherty, bw photo portrait 1920.jpg Harry M. Daugherty Ohio March 4, 1921 April 6, 1924 Warren G. Harding
Calvin Coolidge
52 Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone photograph circa 1927-1932.jpg Harlan F. Stone New York April 7, 1924 March 1, 1925
53 John Sargent, Bain bw photo portrait.jpg John G. Sargent Vermont March 7, 1925 March 4, 1929
54 William D. Mitchell cph.3b30394.jpg William D. Mitchell Minnesota March 4, 1929 March 4, 1933 Herbert Hoover
55 Homer Cummings, Harris & Ewing photo portrait, 1920.jpg Homer Stille Cummings Connecticut March 4, 1933 January 1, 1939 Franklin D. Roosevelt
56 Justice Frank Murphy.jpg Frank Murphy Michigan January 2, 1939 January 18, 1940
57 Roberthjackson.jpg Robert H. Jackson New York January 18, 1940 August 25, 1941
58 Francis Biddle cph.3b27524.jpg Francis Biddle Pennsylvania August 26, 1941 June 26, 1945
Harry S Truman
59 Tom C. Clark.gif Tom C. Clark Texas June 27, 1945 July 26, 1949
60 J. Howard McGrath.jpg J. Howard McGrath Rhode Island July 27, 1949 April 3, 1952
61 James P McGranery cropped.jpg James P. McGranery Pennsylvania April 4, 1952 January 20, 1953
62 Herbert Brownell.jpg Herbert Brownell Jr. New York January 21, 1953 October 23, 1957 Dwight D. Eisenhower
63 William P. Rogers, U.S. Secretary of State.jpg William P. Rogers Maryland October 23, 1957 January 20, 1961
64 Robert F Kennedy crop.jpg Robert F. Kennedy Massachusetts January 20, 1961 September 3, 1964 John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
65 Nicholas Katzenbach at White House, 6 May 1968.jpg Nicholas Katzenbach Illinois September 4, 1964[b] January 28, 1965
January 28, 1965 November 28, 1966
66 Ramsey Clark at the White House, 28 Feb 1968.jpg Ramsey Clark Texas November 28, 1966[b] March 10, 1967
March 10, 1967 January 20, 1969
67 John Mitchell.jpg John N. Mitchell New York January 20, 1969 February 15, 1972 Richard Nixon
68 Attorney General Richard Kleindienst.jpg Richard Kleindienst Arizona February 15, 1972 May 25, 1973
69 ElliotLeeRichardson.jpg Elliot Richardson Massachusetts May 25, 1973 October 20, 1973
Robert Bork.jpg Robert Bork[c]
Acting
Pennsylvania October 20, 1973 January 4, 1974
70 WilliamBartSaxbe2.jpg William B. Saxbe Ohio January 4, 1974 January 14, 1975
Gerald Ford
71 Edward H. Levi Illinois January 14, 1975 January 20, 1977
Dick Thornburgh.jpg Dick Thornburgh[d]
Acting
Pennsylvania January 20, 1977 January 26, 1977 Jimmy Carter
72 Attorney General Griffin Bell.jpg Griffin Bell Georgia January 26, 1977 August 16, 1979
73 Benjamin Civiletti (1979).jpg Benjamin Civiletti Maryland August 16, 1979 January 19, 1981
74 Portrait officiel de William French Smith.jpg William French Smith California January 23, 1981 February 25, 1985 Ronald Reagan
75 Portraits of Assistants to President Ronald Reagan (cropped12).jpg Edwin Meese California February 25, 1985 August 12, 1988
76 Dick Thornburgh.jpg Dick Thornburgh Pennsylvania August 12, 1988 August 15, 1991
George H. W. Bush
77 William Barr, official photo as Attorney General.jpg William P. Barr New York August 16, 1991[b] November 26, 1991
November 26, 1991 January 20, 1993
Stuart M. Gerson[e]
Acting
Washington, D.C. January 20, 1993 March 12, 1993 Bill Clinton
78 Janet Reno-us-Portrait.jpg Janet Reno Florida March 12, 1993 January 20, 2001
HolderEric.jpg Eric Holder[f]
Acting
Washington, D.C. January 20, 2001 February 2, 2001 George W. Bush
79 John Ashcroft.jpg John Ashcroft Missouri February 2, 2001 February 3, 2005
80 Alberto Gonzales - official DoJ photograph.jpg Alberto Gonzales Texas February 3, 2005 September 17, 2007
Paul D. Clement.jpg Paul Clement[g]
Acting
Washington, D.C. September 17, 2007 September 18, 2007
Peterkeisler.jpg Peter Keisler[g]
Acting
Washington, D.C. September 18, 2007 November 9, 2007
81 Michael Mukasey, official AG photo portrait, 2007.jpg Michael Mukasey New York November 9, 2007 January 20, 2009
Mark Filip.jpg Mark Filip
Acting
Illinois January 20, 2009 February 3, 2009 Barack Obama
82 Eric Holder official portrait (cropped).jpg Eric Holder Washington, D.C. February 3, 2009 April 27, 2015
83 Loretta Lynch, official portrait (cropped).jpg Loretta Lynch New York April 27, 2015 January 20, 2017
Sally Q. Yates (cropped).jpg Sally Yates[h]
Acting
Georgia January 20, 2017 January 30, 2017 Donald Trump
Dana Boente (cropped).jpg Dana Boente
Acting
Virginia January 30, 2017 February 9, 2017
84 Jeff Sessions, official portrait (cropped).jpg Jeff Sessions Alabama February 9, 2017 November 7, 2018
Matthew G. Whitaker official photo (cropped).jpg Matthew Whitaker
Acting[a]
Iowa November 7, 2018 Incumbent

Living former U.S. Attorneys General[]

As of December 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 on November 7, 2016 (served 1993–2001, born 1938)

Name Term of office Date of birth (and age)
Ramsey Clark 1967–1969 (1927-12-18) December 18, 1927 (age 90)
Benjamin Civiletti 1979–1981 (1935-07-17) July 17, 1935 (age 83)
Edwin Meese 1985–1988 (1931-12-02) December 2, 1931 (age 87)
Dick Thornburgh 1988–1991 (1932-07-16) July 16, 1932 (age 86)
William P. Barr 1991–1993 (1950-05-23) May 23, 1950 (age 68)
John Ashcroft 2001–2005 (1942-05-09) May 9, 1942 (age 76)
Alberto Gonzales 2005–2007 (1955-08-04) August 4, 1955 (age 63)
Michael Mukasey 2007–2009 (1941-07-28) July 28, 1941 (age 77)
Eric Holder 2009–2015 (1951-01-21) January 21, 1951 (age 67)
Loretta Lynch 2015–2017 (1959-05-21) May 21, 1959 (age 59)
Jeff Sessions 2017–2018 (1946-12-24) December 24, 1946 (age 71)

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.[20] Furthermore, an Executive Order defines subsequent positions, the most recent from March 31, 2017, signed by President Donald Trump.[21] The current line of succession is:

  1. United States Deputy Attorney General
  2. United States Associate Attorney General
  3. Other Officers potentially designated by the Attorney General (in no particular order):
  4. United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia
  5. United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina
  6. United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas

See also[]

Notes[]

  1. ^ a b The legality of Matthew Whitaker's appointment as Acting Attorney General has been called into question by several constitutional scholars. Among those Neal Katyal and George T. Conway III, who assert it is unconstitutional, because the Attorney General is a principal officer under the Appointments Clause, and thus requires senate consent, even in an acting capacity.[1] Maryland has filed an injunction against Whitaker's appointment on this basis.[2] John E. Bies at Lawfare regard it as an unresolved question.[3] The DOJ Office of Legal Counsel has released a legal opinion, asserting that the appointment was legal and consistent with past precedent.[4]
  2. ^ a b c Served as acting attorney general in his capacity as deputy attorney general, until his own appointment and confirmation as attorney general.
  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. ^ Served as acting attorney general in his capacity as deputy attorney general, until the appointment of a new attorney general. Thornburgh later served as attorney general from 1988–1991.
  5. ^ Served as acting attorney general in his capacity as Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ Civil Division.[11][12] Gerson was fourth in the line of succession at the Justice Department, but other senior DOJ officials had already resigned.[13] Janet Reno, President Clinton's nominee for attorney general, was confirmed on March 12,[14] and he resigned the same day.[14]
  6. ^ Served as acting attorney general in his capacity as deputy attorney general, until the appointment of a new attorney general. Holder later served as attorney general from 2009–2015.
  7. ^ a b 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.[15] 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.[16][17] According to administration officials, Clement became acting attorney general at 12:01 am September 17, 2007, and left office 24 hours later.[18] Keisler served as acting attorney general until the confirmation of Michael Mukasey on November 9, 2007.
  8. ^ Served as acting attorney general in her capacity as deputy attorney general, until she was fired after stating that the Department of Justice would not defend an executive order in court.[19]

References[]

  1. ^ "Opinion | Trump's Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  2. ^ "Maryland Says Matthew Whitaker Appointment As Acting Attorney General Is Unlawful". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  3. ^ "Matthew Whitaker's Appointment as Acting Attorney General: Three Lingering Questions". Lawfare. 2018-11-08. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  4. ^ CNN, Laura Jarrett,. "DOJ says Whitaker's appointment as acting attorney general is constitutional". CNN. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  5. ^ "3 U.S. Code § 19 - Vacancy in offices of both President and Vice President; officers eligible to act". Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  6. ^ 5 U.S.C. § 5312.
  7. ^ "Impeachment | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". history.house.gov. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
  8. ^ The common law further suggests that the U.S. President has the power to remove an official engaged in purely executive functions or whose duties immediately affect the ability to fulfill his constitutional responsibilities (Bowsher v. Synar, 1986).
  9. ^ Judiciary Act of 1789, section 35.
  10. ^ Cabinets and Counselors: The President and the Executive Branch (1997). Congressional Quarterly. p. 87.
  11. ^ Cahoon, Ben (2000). "United States Government". World Statesmen. Retrieved December 12, 2008. January 20, 1993 – March 12, 1993 Stuart M. Gerson (acting) (b. 1944)
  12. ^ 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...
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ a b 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.
  15. ^ Meyers, Steven Lee (August 27, 2007). "Embattled Attorney General Resigns". The New York Times. Retrieved August 27, 2007.
  16. ^ "President Bush Announces Judge Michael Mukasey as Nominee for Attorney General", White House press release, September 17, 2007
  17. ^ "Bush Text on Attorney General Nomination". NewsOK.com. The Oklahoman. The Associated Press. September 17, 2007. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
  18. ^ Eggen, Dan; Elizabeth Williamson (September 19, 2007). "Democrats May Tie Confirmation to Gonzales Papers". Washington Post. pp. A10. Retrieved September 19, 2007.
  19. ^ Perez, Evan; Diamond, Jeremy (January 30, 2017). "Trump fires acting AG after she declines to defend travel ban". CNN. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  20. ^ "U.S.C. Title 28 - JUDICIARY AND JUDICIAL PROCEDURE". www.gpo.gov. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  21. ^ "Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Justice". Federal Register. April 5, 2017. Retrieved June 14, 2018.

External links[]

Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
James Mattis
as Secretary of Defense
Order of Precedence of the United States
as Attorney General
Succeeded by
Ryan Zinke
as Secretary of the Interior
Current U.S. presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Secretary of Defense
Jim Mattis
7th in line Succeeded by
Secretary of the Interior
Ryan Zinke