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. In its early years, the DOJ vigorously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members.
The Department of Justice administers several federal law enforcement agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The department is responsible for investigating instances of financial fraud, representing the United States government in legal matters (such as in cases before the Supreme Court), and running the federal prison system. The department is also responsible for reviewing the conduct of local law enforcement as directed by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
The department is headed by the United States Attorney General, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate and is a member of the Cabinet. The current Attorney General is Jeff Sessions.
The office of the Attorney General was established by the Judiciary Act of 1789 as a part-time job for one person, but grew with the bureaucracy. At one time the Attorney General gave legal advice to the U.S. Congress as well as the President, but in 1819 the Attorney General began advising Congress alone to ensure a manageable workload. Until March 3, 1853, the salary of the Attorney General was set by statute at less than the amount paid to other Cabinet members. Early Attorneys General supplemented their salaries by running private law practices, often arguing cases before the courts as attorneys for paying litigants.
Following unsuccessful efforts (in 1830 and 1846) to make Attorney General a full-time job, in 1869, the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, led by Congressman William Lawrence, conducted an inquiry into the creation of a "law department" headed by the Attorney General and also composed of the various department solicitors and United States attorneys. On February 19, 1868, Lawrence introduced a bill in Congress to create the Department of Justice. President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill into law on June 22, 1870.
The Department of Justice officially began operations on July 1, 1870. Just prior to the Civil War, in February 1861, the Confederate States of America established a Department of Justice. Though "[t]he second American department of justice was brought into being on July 1, 1870, fifty years of amendments were required before it reached a status comparable to that of its Confederate predecessor."
Grant appointed Amos T. Akerman as Attorney General and Benjamin H. Bristow as America's first Solicitor General. Both Akerman and Bristow used the Department of Justice to vigorously prosecute Ku Klux Klan members in the early 1870s. In the first few years of Grant's first term in office there were 1000 indictments against Klan members with over 550 convictions from the Department of Justice. By 1871, there were 3000 indictments and 600 convictions with most only serving brief sentences while the ringleaders were imprisoned for up to five years in the federal penitentiary in Albany, New York. The result was a dramatic decrease in violence in the South. Akerman gave credit to Grant and told a friend that no one was "better" or "stronger" then Grant when it came to prosecuting terrorists. George H. Williams, who succeeded Akerman in December 1871, continued to prosecute the Klan throughout 1872 until the spring of 1873 during Grant's second term in office. William's then placed a moratorium on Klan prosecutions partially because the Justice Department, inundated by cases involving the Klan, did not have the manpower to continue prosecutions.
The "Act to Establish the Department of Justice" drastically increased the Attorney General's responsibilities to include the supervision of all United States Attorneys, formerly under the Department of the Interior, the prosecution of all federal crimes, and the representation of the United States in all court actions, barring the use of private attorneys by the federal government. The law also created the office of Solicitor General to supervise and conduct government litigation in the Supreme Court of the United States.
In 1884, control of federal prisons was transferred to the new department, from the Department of Interior. New facilities were built, including the penitentiary at Leavenworth in 1895, and a facility for women located in West Virginia, at Alderson was established in 1924.
In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order which gave the Department of Justice responsibility for the "functions of prosecuting in the courts of the United States claims and demands by, and offsenses [sic] against, the Government of the United States, and of defending claims and demands against the Government, and of supervising the work of United States attorneys, marshals, and clerks in connection therewith, now exercised by any agency or officer..."
The U.S. Department of Justice building was completed in 1935 from a design by Milton Bennett Medary. Upon Medary's death in 1929, the other partners of his Philadelphia firm Zantzinger, Borie and Medary took over the project. On a lot bordered by Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues and Ninth and Tenth Streets, Northwest, it holds over one million square feet of space. The sculptor C. Paul Jennewein served as overall design consultant for the entire building, contributing more than 50 separate sculptural elements inside and outside.
Various efforts, none entirely successful, have been made to determine the meaning of the Latin motto appearing on the Department of Justice seal, Qui Pro Domina Justitia Sequitur. It is not even known exactly when the original version of the DOJ seal itself was adopted, or when the motto first appeared on the seal. The most authoritative opinion of the DOJ suggests that the motto refers to the Attorney General (and thus, by extension, to the Department of Justice) "who prosecutes on behalf of justice (or the Lady Justice)." The motto's conception of the prosecutor (or government attorney) as being the servant of justice itself finds concrete expression in a similarly-ordered English-language inscription ("THE UNITED STATES WINS ITS POINT WHENEVER JUSTICE IS DONE ITS CITIZENS IN THE COURTS") in the above-door paneling in the ceremonial rotunda anteroom just outside the Attorney General's office in the Department of Justice Main Building in Washington, D.C. The building was renamed in honor of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 2001. It is sometimes referred to as "Main Justice."
(as formal division)
(originally called the Claims Division;
adopted current name on February 13, 1953)
|Civil Rights Division||1957|
|Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD)
(originally called the Land and Natural Resources Division;
adopted current name in 1990)
|Justice Management Division (JMD)
(originally called the Administrative Division;
adopted current name in 1985)
|National Security Division (NSD)||2007|
|War Division (defunct)||1942
Several federal law enforcement agencies are administered by the Department of Justice:
In March 2003, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service was abolished and its functions transferred to the United States Department of Homeland Security. The Executive Office for Immigration Review and the Board of Immigration Appeals, which review decisions made by government officials under Immigration and Nationality law, remain under jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. Similarly the Office of Domestic Preparedness left the Justice Department for the Department of Homeland Security, but only for executive purposes. The Office of Domestic Preparedness is still centralized within the Department of Justice, since its personnel are still officially employed within the Department of Justice.
In 2003, the Department of Justice created LifeAndLiberty.gov, a website that supported the USA PATRIOT Act. It was criticized by government watchdog groups for its alleged violation of U.S. Code Title 18 Section 1913, which forbids money appropriated by Congress to be used to lobby in favor of any law, actual or proposed. The website has since been taken offline.
|Program||Funding (in millions)|
|Management and Finance|
|Justice Information Sharing Technology||$26|
|Administrative Reviews and Appeals
|Office of the Inspector General||$89|
|United States Parole Commission||$13|
|National Security Division||$92|
|Office of the Solicitor General||$12|
|Environmental and Natural Resources Division||$112|
|Office of Legal Counsel||$7|
|Civil Rights Division||$162|
|United States Attorneys||$1,955|
|United States Bankruptcy Trustees||$226|
|Law Enforcement Activities|
|United States Marshals Service||$2,668|
|Federal Bureau of Investigation||$8,347|
|Drug Enforcement Administration||$2,018|
|Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives||$1,201|
|Federal Bureau of Prisons||$6,894|
|Office of Justice Programs||$1,427|
|Office of Community Oriented Policing Services||$248|
|Office on Violence Against Women||$410|
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