United States Attorney General

United States Attorney General
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
William Barr (cropped).jpg
Incumbent
William Barr

since February 14, 2019
United States Department of Justice
Style Mr./Madam Attorney General
Member of Cabinet
Reports to President of the United States
Seat Department of Justice Headquarters
Washington, D.C.
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
Succession Seventh[1]
Deputy Deputy Attorney General
Salary Executive Schedule, level I[2]
Website www.justice.gov

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.

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 85th and current United States Attorney General is William Barr.[3]

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".[4]

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.[5]

The title "Attorney General" is an example of a noun (attorney) followed by a postpositive adjective (general).[6] "General" is a description of the type of attorney, not a title or rank in itself (as it would be in the military).[6] 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.[6][7] For the same reason, the correct American English plural form is "attorneys general" rather than "attorney generals."[7]

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 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.[8][a]

List of Attorneys General

Parties

  Federalist (4)   Democratic-Republican (5)   Democratic (33)   Whig (4)   Republican (39)

Status
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 Augustus 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, portrait by John Maier.png John Macpherson 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
1st Term
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
2nd Term
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 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 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 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 Henry Moody Massachusetts July 1, 1904 December 17, 1906
46 CJBonaparte.jpg Charles 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 A. 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 New York October 23, 1957 January 20, 1961
64 1968 ROBERT F. KENNEDY glossy photo handout (cropped).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 April 30, 1973[10]
69 ElliotLeeRichardson.jpg Elliot Richardson Massachusetts April 30, 1973[10] 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 Levi Attorney General.jpg 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 Barr
1st Term
Washington, D.C. 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[i]
Iowa November 7, 2018 February 14, 2019
85 William Barr (cropped).jpg William Barr
2nd Term
Virginia February 14, 2019 Incumbent

Living former U.S. Attorneys General

As of November 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 (1927-12-18) December 18, 1927 (age 91)
Benjamin Civiletti 1979–1981 (1935-07-17) July 17, 1935 (age 84)
Edwin Meese 1985–1988 (1931-12-02) December 2, 1931 (age 87)
Dick Thornburgh 1988–1991 (1932-07-16) July 16, 1932 (age 87)
John Ashcroft 2001–2005 (1942-05-09) May 9, 1942 (age 77)
Alberto Gonzales 2005–2007 (1955-08-04) August 4, 1955 (age 64)
Michael Mukasey 2007–2009 (1941-07-28) July 28, 1941 (age 78)
Eric Holder 2009–2015 (1951-01-21) January 21, 1951 (age 68)
Loretta Lynch 2015–2017 (1959-05-21) May 21, 1959 (age 60)
Jeff Sessions 2017–2018 (1946-12-24) December 24, 1946 (age 72)

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.[24] Furthermore, an Executive Order defines subsequent positions, the most recent from March 31, 2017, signed by President Donald Trump.[25] 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

Copyright