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The United States attorney general (AG) leads the
United States Department of Justice The United States Department of Justice (DOJ), also known as the Justice Department, is a of the government tasked with the enforcement of federal and in the United States. It is equivalent to the or of other countries. The department is h ...
, and is the chief lawyer of the
federal government of the United States The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government or U.S. government) is the national government of the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or U ...
. The attorney general serves as the principal advisor to the
president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the Federal government of the United States#Executive branch, executive branch of the Federal gover ...

president of the United States
on all legal matters. The attorney general is a statutory member of the
Cabinet of the United States The Cabinet of the United States is a body consisting of the vice president of the United States The vice president of the United States (VPOTUS) is the second-highest officer in the executive branch The executive (short for executive br ...
. Under the
Appointments Clause The Appointments Clause is part of Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. This founding document, originally comprisi ...
of the
United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the Supremacy Clause, supreme law of the United States, United States of America. This founding document, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first ...

United States Constitution
, the officeholder is nominated by the
president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the Federal government of the United States#Executive branch, executive branch of the Federal gover ...

president of the United States
, then appointed with the
advice and consent Advice and consent is an English phrase frequently used in enacting formulae of bill Bill(s) may refer to: Common meanings * Banknote A banknote (often known as a bill (in the US and Canada), paper money, or simply a note) is a type o ...
of the
United States Senate The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress The United States Congress is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, politi ...
. The attorney general is supported by the Office of the Attorney General, which includes executive staff and several deputies.
Merrick Garland Merrick Brian Garland (born November 13, 1952) is an American attorney and jurist serving as the 86th United States Attorney General, United States attorney general since March 2021. He served as a United States federal judge, United States circ ...

Merrick Garland
has been the United States attorney general since March 11, 2021.


History

Congress Congresses are formal meetings of the representatives of different countries A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, ...

Congress
passed the
Judiciary Act of 1789 The Judiciary Act of 1789 (ch. 20, ) was a United States federal statute adopted on September 24, 1789, in the first session of the First United States Congress. It established the federal judiciary of the United States. Article Three of the Unit ...

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 A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of just ...

Supreme Court
in which the United States shall be concerned, and to give his advice and opinion upon
questions of law In , a question of law, also known as a point of law, is a question that must be answered by applying relevant legal principles to interpretation of the law. Such a question is distinct from a question of fact, which must be answered by reference to ...
when required by the president of the United States, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments". Some of these duties have since been transferred to the
United States solicitor general United may refer to: Places * United, Pennsylvania United is located in Mount Pleasant Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. It is a community located near Norvelt, Pennsylvania. History In 1881, the United Coal Company, United Coal & Cok ...
and the
White House counsel The White House counsel is a senior staff appointee of the president of the United States whose role is to advise the president on all legal issues concerning the president and their administration. The White House counsel also oversees the Offi ...
. The
Department of Justice A justice ministry, ministry of justice, or department of justice is a ministry or other government agency A government or state agency, sometimes an appointed commission, is a permanent or semi-permanent organization in the machinery of governme ...
was established in 1870 to support the attorneys general in the discharge of their responsibilities. The attorney general, the secretary of state, the
secretary of the treasury The United States secretary of the treasury is the head of the United States Department of the Treasury, which is concerned with all financial and monetary matters relating to the federal government, and, until 2003, also included several major ...
, and the
secretary of defense A defence minister or minister of defence is a cabinet official position in charge of a ministry of defense, which regulates the armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force ...
are regarded as the four most important
Cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transparent glass sheets or transparent polycarbonate sheets * Filing ...
officials in the United States because of the size and importance of their respective departments. Attorney General is a LevelI position in the Executive Schedule, thus earning a salary of
US$ The United States dollar (symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, ...
221,400, as of January 2021. The title "attorney general" is an example of a noun (''attorney'') followed by a
postpositive adjective A postpositive adjective or postnominal adjective is an adjective In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language) ...
(''general''). "General" is a description of the type of attorney, not a title or rank in itself ( as it would be in the military). Even though the attorney general (and the similarly titled
solicitor general A solicitor general or solicitor-general, in common law countries, is usually a legal officer who is the chief representative of a regional or national government in courtroom proceedings. In systems that have an Attorney general, attorney-general ...
) is often referred to as "General" or "General ast name by senior government officials, this is considered incorrect in standard
American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American English is the m ...
usage. For the same reason, the correct American English plural form is "attorneys general" rather than "attorney generals".


Presidential transition

It is the practice for the attorney general, along with the other Cabinet secretaries and high-level political appointees of the President, to tender a resignation with effect on the
Inauguration Day ) The inauguration of the president of the United States is a ceremony to mark the commencement of a new four-year term of the president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of gov ...
(January 20) of a new president. The
deputy attorney general The Deputy Attorney General (DAG) is the second-highest-ranking official in a department of justice or of law, in various governments of the world. In those governments, the Deputy Attorney General oversees the day-to-day operation of the departmen ...
is also expected to tender a resignation, but is commonly requested to stay on and act as the attorney general pending the of the new attorney general. For example, upon the inauguration of President
Donald Trump Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is an American politician A politician is a person active in party politics A political party is an organization that coordinates candidate A candidate, or nominee, is the prospective reci ...

Donald Trump
on January 20, 2017, then-Attorney General
Loretta Lynch Loretta Elizabeth Lynch (born May 21, 1959) is an American lawyer who served as the 83rd attorney general of the United States The United States attorney general (AG) leads the United States Department of Justice, and is the chief lawyer of the ...

Loretta Lynch
left her position, so then-Deputy Attorney General
Sally Yates Sally Quillian Yates (born Sally Caroline Quillian; 1960) is an American lawyer. From 2010 to 2015, she was United States Attorney United States attorneys represent the United States federal government in United States district courts and Un ...

Sally Yates
, who had also tendered her resignation, was asked to stay on to serve as the acting attorney general until the confirmation of the new attorney general
Jeff Sessions Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (born December 24, 1946) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 84th United States Attorney General The United States attorney general (AG) leads the United States Department of Justice, a ...

Jeff Sessions
, who had been nominated for the office in November 2016 by then-
President-elect An ''officer-elect'' refers to a person who has been elected to a position but has not yet been installed. For example, a president President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) A president is a leader of an organization, c ...
Donald Trump.


List of attorneys general


Parties

(1) (4) (5) (34) (4) (40) (1)


Status


Living former U.S. attorneys general

As of , there are nine living former U.S. attorneys general, the oldest being
Edwin Meese Edwin Meese III (born December 2, 1931) is an American attorney, law professor, author and member of the Republican Party (United States), Republican Party who served in official capacities within the Ronald Reagan's Governorship of Ronald Reaga ...
(served 1985–1988, born 1931). The most recent attorney general to die was
Ramsey Clark William Ramsey Clark (December 18, 1927 – April 9, 2021) was an American lawyer, activist and federal government A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing p ...
on April 9, 2021 (served 1966–1969, born 1927). The most recently serving attorney general to die was
Janet Reno Janet Wood Reno (July 21, 1938 – November 7, 2016) was an American lawyer who served as the Attorney General of the United States The United States attorney general (AG) leads the United States Department of Justice, and is the chief lawye ...
on November 7, 2016 (served 1993–2001, born 1938).


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 In the United States, an executive order is a directive Directive may refer to: * Directive (European Union), a legislative act of the European Union * Directive (programming), a computer language construct that specifies how a compiler shou ...
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 The United States deputy attorney general is the second highest-ranking official in the United States Department of Justice The United States Department of Justice (DOJ), also known as the Justice Department, is a United States federal executive ...
#
United States Associate Attorney General The Associate Attorney General of the United States is the third-ranking official in the United States Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. The Associate Attorney General advises and assists the United States Attorney General, Attorn ...
#Other officers potentially designated by the attorney general (in no particular order): #*
Solicitor General of the United States The solicitor general of the United States is the fourth-highest-ranking official in the United States Department of Justice. Elizabeth Prelogar has been serving in the role since October 28, 2021. The United States solicitor general represent ...
#*Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division #*Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division #*Assistant Attorney General,
Civil Rights Division The United States Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division is the institution within the federal government responsible for enforcing federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of racism, race, sexism, s ...
#*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 The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that focuses on crime prevention through research and development, assistance to state, local, and Native Americans in the United States, tribal criminal j ...
#*Assistant Attorney General,
Office of Legal Counsel The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) is an office in the United States Department of Justice The United States Department of Justice (DOJ), also known as the Justice Department, is a United States federal executive departments, federal executive dep ...
#*Assistant Attorney General,
Office of Legal PolicyThe Office of Legal Policy (OLP) is a division within the United States Department of Justice The United States Department of Justice (DOJ), also known as the Justice Department, is a United States federal executive departments, federal executive d ...
#*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


See also

* for "Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Justice"


Notes


References


External links

* , - {{Americas topic, title =Attorneys General of the Americas, prefix=Attorney General of 1789 establishments in the United States Cabinet of the United States Attorneys-General