Justice Department

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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The Department of Justice (DOJ) is the EXECUTIVE BRANCH department responsible for handling the legal work of the federal government. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the DOJ is the largest legal organization in the United States, with more than 100,000 employees nationwide and a budget of approximately $30 billion.

The DOJ comprises many administrative units whose responsibilities involve either representing the United States' interests in court or enforcing federal laws. Many of the department's activities involve traditional legal and investigative functions, such as filing suits on behalf of the United States or apprehending criminals. Other department functions are administrative. For example, the Office of Policy Development is devoted to long-term policy planning.

Department Leadership

At the top of the department is the attorney general, who is appointed by the president and must be confirmed by the Senate. A key member of the president's cabinet, the attorney general supervises the many divisions, bureaus, and offices of the DOJ. Unlike other cabinet members, however, the attorney general also functions as a practicing attorney, serving as the president's legal adviser.

Below the attorney general are the deputy attorney general, the associate attorney general, and the SOLICITOR GENERAL. Although the deputy attorney general is officially the second-highest position at the DOJ, the office of associate attorney general, created in 1977, is often considered to be equally powerful. The deputy attorney general and the associate attorney general divide the department's administrative responsibilities between them, providing direction to the organizational units in the department. They also advise the attorney general on policy matters. The solicitor general is primarily responsible for supervising and conducting government litigation before the federal appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Department Structure

The DOJ is composed of several different units, including divisions, bureaus, and offices. The government's legal business is handled by the department's six litigating divisions: Antitrust, Civil, CIVIL RIGHTS, Criminal, Environment and Natural Resources, and Tax. Each of these divisions is headed by an assistant attorney general. These divisions handle cases involving the United States that have a broad legal impact.

Nationwide, the government is represented by ninety-five U.S. attorneys, who conduct all federal court cases and some federal investigations in their districts. Each state has at least one

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U.S. attorney, and some of the larger states are divided into districts that each have a U.S. attorney. The U.S. attorneys handle the majority of cases in which the federal government is a party. Although the U.S. attorneys report to the DOJ, they traditionally operate with a fair amount of independence and autonomy. Each U.S. attorney is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate to a four-year term.

Several bureaus within the DOJ are concerned with various aspects of law enforcement. The U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE (USMS) is the country's oldest law enforcement agency, having begun as a group of 13 marshals appointed by GEORGE WASHINGTON; today the USMS has 95 marshals and is primarily responsible for providing court security, transporting prisoners, apprehending fugitives, protecting witnesses, and executing federal court orders. The FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI) is the government's major investigatory agency and the largest unit within the DOJ; the FBI pursues information concerning federal violations, collects evidence in cases involving the United States, and performs other duties assigned by law or by the president. The DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION (DEA) combats drug trafficking, investigating major drug dealers...

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