|United States Attorney General|
Seal of the Department of Justice
Flag of the Attorney General
|United States Department of Justice|
|Style||Mr. Attorney General|
|Reports to||President of the United States|
|Seat|| Department of Justice Headquarters |
|Appointer||The President |
with Senate advice and consent
|Term length||No Fixed Term|
|Constituting instrument||28 U.S.C. § 503|
|Formation||September 26, 1789|
|First holder||Edmund Randolph|
|Deputy||Deputy Attorney General|
|Salary||Executive Schedule, level I|
The United States Attorney General (A.G.) is the head of the U.S. Department of Justice, a member of the U.S. president's Cabinet, and the chief lawyer of the federal government of the United States.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ), also known as the Justice Department, is a federal executive department of the U.S. government, responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice in the United States, equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries. The department was formed in 1870 during the Ulysses S. Grant administration.
The Cabinet of the United States is part of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States. The Cabinet's role, inferred from the language of the Opinion Clause of the Constitution, is to serve as an advisory body to the president of the United States. Additionally, the Twenty-fifth Amendment authorizes the vice president, together with a majority of certain members of the Cabinet, to declare the president "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office". Among the senior officers of the Cabinet are the vice president and the secretary of state and other heads of the federal executive departments, all of whom—if eligible—are in the line of succession. Members of the Cabinet serve at the pleasure of the president, who can dismiss them at will for no cause. All federal public officials, including Cabinet members, are also subject to impeachment by the House of Representatives and trial in the Senate for "treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors".
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories and several island possessions. The federal government is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive and judicial, whose powers are vested by the U.S. Constitution in the Congress, the president and the federal courts, respectively. The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of Congress, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court.
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. In cases of the federal death penalty, the power to seek the death penalty rests with the U.S. Attorney General.
The Appointments Clause is part of Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, which empowers the President of the United States to nominate and, with the advice and consent (confirmation) of the United States Senate, appoint public officials. Although the Senate must confirm certain principal officers, Congress may by law delegate the Senate's advice and consent role when it comes to "inferior" officers.
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 executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.
The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress which, along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C.
The 85th and current United States Attorney General is William Barr.
William "Bill" Pelham Barr is an American lawyer and government official serving as the 85th United States Attorney General, in the Donald Trump administration since February 14, 2019. He also served as the 77th Attorney General from 1991 to 1993, in the George H. W. Bush administration.
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".
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, and consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct election, though vacancies in the Senate may be filled by a gubernatorial appointment. Congress has 535 voting members: 435 representatives and 100 senators. The House of Representatives has six non-voting members representing Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia in addition to its 435 voting members. Although they cannot vote in the full house, these members can address the house, sit and vote in congressional committees, and introduce legislation.
The Judiciary Act of 1789 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 III, Section 1 of the Constitution prescribed that the "judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and such inferior Courts" as Congress saw fit to establish. It made no provision for the composition or procedures of any of the courts, leaving this to Congress to decide.
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States of America, established pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all federal and state court cases that involve a point of federal law, and original jurisdiction over a narrow range of cases, including suits between two or more states and those involving ambassadors. The Court holds the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the Constitution. Presidential directives can be struck down by the Court for violating either the Constitution or statutory law. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The Court may decide cases having political overtones, but it has ruled that it does not have power to decide non-justiciable political questions.
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.
The secretary of state is a senior official of the federal government of the United States of America, and as head of the United States Department of State, is principally concerned with foreign policy and is considered to be the U.S. government's minister of foreign affairs.
The 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 federal law enforcement agencies. This position in the federal government of the United States is analogous to the minister of finance in many other countries. The secretary of the treasury is a member of the president's Cabinet, and is nominated by the president of the United States. Nominees for secretary of the treasury undergo a confirmation hearing before the United States Senate Committee on Finance before being voted on by the United States Senate.
The secretary of defense (SecDef) is the leader and chief executive officer of the United States Department of Defense, the executive department of the Armed Forces of the U.S. The secretary of defense's position of command and authority over the U.S. military is second only to that of the president and Congress, respectively. This position corresponds to what is generally known as a defense minister in many other countries. The secretary of defense is appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, and is by custom a member of the Cabinet and by law a member of the National Security Council.
The title "Attorney General" is an example of a noun (attorney) followed by a postpositive adjective (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) is often referred to as "General" or "General [last name]" by senior government officials, this is considered incorrect in standard American English usage. For the same reason, the correct American English plural form is "attorneys general" rather than "attorney generals."
It is the practice for the Attorney General, along with the other Cabinet secretaries and high-level political appointees of the President, to give resignation with effect on the Inauguration Day (January 20) of a new President. The Deputy Attorney General, who is also expected 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 then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch left her position, so the then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who had also tendered her resignation, was asked to stay on to serve as 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.
Federalist (4) Democratic-Republican (5) Democratic (33) Whig (4) Republican (39)
|No.||Portrait||Name||State of Residence||Took office||Left office||President(s)|
|1||Edmund Randolph||Virginia||September 26, 1789||January 26, 1794||George Washington|
|2||William Bradford||Pennsylvania||January 27, 1794||August 23, 1795|
|3||Charles Lee||Virginia||December 10, 1795||February 19, 1801|
|4||Levi Lincoln Sr.||Massachusetts||March 5, 1801||March 2, 1805||Thomas Jefferson|
|5||John Breckinridge||Kentucky||August 7, 1805||December 14, 1806|
|6||Caesar Augustus Rodney||Delaware||January 20, 1807||December 10, 1811|
|7||William Pinkney||Maryland||December 11, 1811||February 9, 1814|
|8||Richard Rush||Pennsylvania||February 10, 1814||November 12, 1817|
|9||William Wirt||Virginia||November 13, 1817||March 4, 1829||James Monroe|
|John Quincy Adams|
|10||John Macpherson Berrien||Georgia||March 9, 1829||July 19, 1831||Andrew Jackson|
|11||Roger B. Taney||Maryland||July 20, 1831||November 14, 1833|
|12||Benjamin Franklin Butler||New York||November 15, 1833||July 4, 1838|
|Martin Van Buren|
|13||Felix Grundy||Tennessee||July 5, 1838||January 10, 1840|
|14||Henry D. Gilpin||Pennsylvania||January 11, 1840||March 4, 1841|
|15|| John J. Crittenden |
|Kentucky||March 5, 1841||September 12, 1841||William Henry Harrison|
|16||Hugh S. Legaré||South Carolina||September 13, 1841||June 20, 1843|
|17||John Nelson||Maryland||July 1, 1843||March 4, 1845|
|18||John Y. Mason||Virginia||March 5, 1845||October 16, 1846||James K. Polk|
|19||Nathan Clifford||Maine||October 17, 1846||March 17, 1848|
|20||Isaac Toucey||Connecticut||June 21, 1848||March 4, 1849|
|21||Reverdy Johnson||Maryland||March 8, 1849||July 21, 1850||Zachary Taylor|
|22|| John J. Crittenden |
|Kentucky||July 22, 1850||March 4, 1853||Millard Fillmore|
|23||Caleb Cushing||Massachusetts||March 7, 1853||March 4, 1857||Franklin Pierce|
|24||Jeremiah S. Black||Pennsylvania||March 6, 1857||December 16, 1860||James Buchanan|
|25||Edwin Stanton||Pennsylvania||December 20, 1860||March 4, 1861|
|26||Edward Bates||Missouri||March 5, 1861||November 24, 1864||Abraham Lincoln|
|27||James Speed||Kentucky||December 2, 1864||July 22, 1866|
|28||Henry Stanbery||Ohio||July 23, 1866||July 16, 1868|
|29||William M. Evarts||New York||July 17, 1868||March 4, 1869|
|30||Ebenezer R. Hoar||Massachusetts||March 5, 1869||November 22, 1870||Ulysses S. Grant|
|31||Amos T. Akerman||Georgia||November 23, 1870||December 13, 1871|
|32||George Henry Williams||Oregon||December 14, 1871||April 25, 1875|
|33||Edwards Pierrepont||New York||April 26, 1875||May 21, 1876|
|34||Alphonso Taft||Ohio (born in Vermont)||May 22, 1876||March 4, 1877|
|35||Charles Devens||Massachusetts||March 12, 1877||March 4, 1881||Rutherford B. Hayes|
|36||Wayne MacVeagh||Pennsylvania||March 5, 1881||December 15, 1881||James A. Garfield|
|Chester A. Arthur|
|37||Benjamin H. Brewster||Pennsylvania||December 16, 1881||March 4, 1885|
|38||Augustus Garland||Arkansas||March 6, 1885||March 4, 1889||Grover Cleveland|
|39||William H. H. Miller||Indiana||March 7, 1889||March 4, 1893||Benjamin Harrison|
|40||Richard Olney||Massachusetts||March 6, 1893||April 7, 1895||Grover Cleveland|
|41||Judson Harmon||Ohio||April 8, 1895||March 4, 1897|
|42||Joseph McKenna||California||March 5, 1897||January 25, 1898||William McKinley|
|43||John W. Griggs||New Jersey||January 25, 1898||March 29, 1901|
|44||Philander C. Knox||Pennsylvania||April 5, 1901||June 30, 1904|
|45||William Henry Moody||Massachusetts||July 1, 1904||December 17, 1906|
|46||Charles Bonaparte||Maryland||December 17, 1906||March 4, 1909|
|47||George W. Wickersham||New York||March 4, 1909||March 4, 1913||William Howard Taft|
|48||James C. McReynolds||Tennessee||March 5, 1913||August 29, 1914||Woodrow Wilson|
|49||Thomas Watt Gregory||Texas||August 29, 1914||March 4, 1919|
|50||A. Mitchell Palmer||Pennsylvania||March 5, 1919||March 4, 1921|
|51||Harry M. Daugherty||Ohio||March 4, 1921||April 6, 1924||Warren G. Harding|
|52||Harlan F. Stone||New York||April 7, 1924||March 1, 1925|
|53||John G. Sargent||Vermont||March 7, 1925||March 4, 1929|
|54||William D. Mitchell||Minnesota||March 4, 1929||March 4, 1933||Herbert Hoover|
|55||Homer Stille Cummings||Connecticut||March 4, 1933||January 1, 1939||Franklin D. Roosevelt|
|56||Frank Murphy||Michigan||January 2, 1939||January 18, 1940|
|57||Robert H. Jackson||New York||January 18, 1940||August 25, 1941|
|58||Francis Biddle||Pennsylvania||August 26, 1941||June 26, 1945|
|Harry S Truman|
|59||Tom C. Clark||Texas||June 27, 1945||July 26, 1949|
|60||J. Howard McGrath||Rhode Island||July 27, 1949||April 3, 1952|
|61||James P. McGranery||Pennsylvania||April 4, 1952||January 20, 1953|
|62||Herbert Brownell Jr.||New York||January 21, 1953||October 23, 1957||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|63||William P. Rogers||New York||October 23, 1957||January 20, 1961|
|64||Robert F. Kennedy||Massachusetts||January 20, 1961||September 3, 1964||John F. Kennedy|
|Lyndon B. Johnson|
|65||Nicholas Katzenbach||Illinois||September 4, 1964||January 28, 1965|
|January 28, 1965||November 28, 1966|
|66||Ramsey Clark||Texas||November 28, 1966||March 10, 1967|
|March 10, 1967||January 20, 1969|
|67||John N. Mitchell||New York||January 20, 1969||February 15, 1972||Richard Nixon|
|68||Richard Kleindienst||Arizona||February 15, 1972||April 30, 1973|
|69||Elliot Richardson||Massachusetts||April 30, 1973||October 20, 1973|
|–|| Robert Bork |
|Pennsylvania||October 20, 1973||January 4, 1974|
|70||William B. Saxbe||Ohio||January 4, 1974||January 14, 1975|
|71||Edward H. Levi||Illinois||January 14, 1975||January 20, 1977|
|–|| Dick Thornburgh |
|Pennsylvania||January 20, 1977||January 26, 1977||Jimmy Carter|
|72||Griffin Bell||Georgia||January 26, 1977||August 16, 1979|
|73||Benjamin Civiletti||Maryland||August 16, 1979||January 19, 1981|
|74||William French Smith||California||January 23, 1981||February 25, 1985||Ronald Reagan|
|75||Edwin Meese||California||February 25, 1985||August 12, 1988|
|76||Dick Thornburgh||Pennsylvania||August 12, 1988||August 15, 1991|
|George H. W. Bush|
|77|| William Barr |
|Washington, D.C.||August 16, 1991||November 26, 1991|
|November 26, 1991||January 20, 1993|
|–|| Stuart M. Gerson |
|Washington, D.C.||January 20, 1993||March 12, 1993||Bill Clinton|
|78||Janet Reno||Florida||March 12, 1993||January 20, 2001|
|–|| Eric Holder |
|Washington, D.C.||January 20, 2001||February 2, 2001||George W. Bush|
|79||John Ashcroft||Missouri||February 2, 2001||February 3, 2005|
|80||Alberto Gonzales||Texas||February 3, 2005||September 17, 2007|
|–|| Paul Clement |
|Washington, D.C.||September 17, 2007||September 18, 2007|
|–|| Peter Keisler |
|Washington, D.C.||September 18, 2007||November 9, 2007|
|81||Michael Mukasey||New York||November 9, 2007||January 20, 2009|
|–|| Mark Filip |
|Illinois||January 20, 2009||February 3, 2009||Barack Obama|
|82||Eric Holder||Washington, D.C.||February 3, 2009||April 27, 2015|
|83||Loretta Lynch||New York||April 27, 2015||January 20, 2017|
|–|| Sally Yates |
|Georgia||January 20, 2017||January 30, 2017||Donald Trump|
|–|| Dana Boente |
|Virginia||January 30, 2017||February 9, 2017|
|84||Jeff Sessions||Alabama||February 9, 2017||November 7, 2018|
|–|| Matthew Whitaker |
|Iowa||November 7, 2018||February 14, 2019|
|85|| William Barr |
|Virginia||February 14, 2019||Incumbent|
As of August 2019, there are ten 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). William Barr, who served from 1991–1993, returned to the post and is currently serving, excluding him from this list.
|Name||Term of office||Date of birth (and age)|
|Ramsey Clark||1967–1969||December 18, 1927|
|Benjamin Civiletti||1979–1981||July 17, 1935|
|Edwin Meese||1985–1988||December 2, 1931|
|Dick Thornburgh||1988–1991||July 16, 1932|
|John Ashcroft||2001–2005||May 9, 1942|
|Alberto Gonzales||2005–2007||August 4, 1955|
|Michael Mukasey||2007–2009||July 28, 1941|
|Eric Holder||2009–2015||January 21, 1951|
|Loretta Lynch||2015–2017||May 21, 1959|
|Jeff Sessions||2017–2018||December 24, 1946|
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 defines subsequent positions, the most recent from March 31, 2017, signed by President Donald Trump. The current line of succession is:
The United States Secretary of Labor is a member of the Cabinet of the United States, and as the head of the United States Department of Labor, controls the department, and enforces and suggests laws involving unions, the workplace, and all other issues involving any form of business-person controversies.
The Solicitor General of the United States is the fourth-highest-ranking official in the United States Department of Justice. The current Solicitor General, Noel Francisco, took office on September 19, 2017.
Paul Drew Clement is an American lawyer. He is a former United States Solicitor General and current partner at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis after its acquisition of his previous firm Bancroft PLLC. He is also a Distinguished Lecturer in Law at Georgetown University and an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law. He was nominated by President George W. Bush on March 14, 2005, for the post of Solicitor General, confirmed by the United States Senate on June 8, 2005, and took the oath of office on June 13. Clement replaced Theodore Olson.
The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) is an office in the United States Department of Justice that assists the Attorney General's position as legal adviser to the President and all executive branch agencies.
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Matthew George Whitaker is an American lawyer and politician who served as the Acting United States Attorney General from November 7, 2018, to February 14, 2019. He was appointed to that position by President Donald Trump after Jeff Sessions resigned at Trump's request. Whitaker had previously served as Chief of Staff to Sessions from September 2017 to November 2018.
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January 20, 1993 – March 12, 1993 Stuart M. Gerson (acting) (b. 1944)
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...
She will replace Acting Attorney General Stuart M. Gerson, a holdover appointee from the Bush Administration. Ms. Reno said he resigned today.
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as Secretary of Defense
| Order of Precedence of the United States |
as Attorney General
as Secretary of the Interior
|U.S. presidential line of succession|
Secretary of Defense
|7th in line||Succeeded by|
Secretary of the Interior