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United States Department of Justice

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Annual budget
$27.1 billion (2013)

1 July 1870


Number of employees
113,543 (2012)

United States Department of Justice httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

Federal government of the United States

July 1, 1870; 146 years ago

Washington, D.C., United States

"Qui Pro Domina Justitia Sequitur" (Latin: "Who prosecutes on behalf of justice (or the Lady Justice)"

Department executives
Jeff Sessions, Attorney General; Vacant, Deputy Attorney General


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 has responsibility to investigate instances of financial fraud, to represent the United States in legal matters such as in the Supreme Court, and to run the federal prison system. The department also has responsibilities to review actions of local law enforcement conduct 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 U.S. Attorney General was initially a one-person, part-time job. It was established by the Judiciary Act of 1789, but this grew with the bureaucracy. At one time the Attorney General gave legal advice to the U.S. Congress as well as the President, but this Congressional advice-giving had stopped by 1819 on account of the workload involved. 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 salary by engaging in extensive private practice of law, often arguing cases before the courts as attorneys for paying litigants.

Following unsuccessful efforts (in 1830 and 1846) to put the Attorney General's Office on a full-time footing, 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 then 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. Akerman's successor, George H. Williams, in December 1871, continued to prosecute the Klan throughout 1872 until the Spring of 1873 during Grant's second term in office. William's clemency and moratorium on Klan prosecutions was due in part that the Justice Department, having been inundated by Klan outrage cases, did not have the effective manpower to continue the 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 did create a new office, that of Solicitor General, to supervise and conduct government litigation in the Supreme Court of the United States.

With the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887, the federal government began to take on some law enforcement responsibilities, with the Department of Justice tasked to carry out these duties.

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 conveyed, to the Department of Justice, the 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."

Leadership offices

  • Office of the Attorney General
  • Office of the Deputy Attorney General
  • Office of the Associate Attorney General
  • Office of the United States Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General
  • Office of the Solicitor General of the United States
  • Law enforcement agencies

    Several federal law enforcement agencies are administered by the Department of Justice:

  • United States Marshals Service (USMS) – The office of U.S. Marshal was established by the Judiciary Act of 1789. The U.S. Marshals Service was established as an agency in 1969, and it was elevated to full bureau status under the Justice Department in 1974.
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – On July 26, 1908, a small investigative force was created within the Justice Department under Attorney General Charles Bonaparte. The following year, this force was officially named the Bureau of Investigation by Attorney General George W. Wickersham. In 1935, the bureau adopted its current name.
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) – the Three Prisons Act of 1891 created the federal prison system. Congress created the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1930 by Pub. L. No. 71–218, 46 Stat. 325, signed into law by President Hoover on May 14, 1930.
  • National Institute of Corrections
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) – Except for a brief period during Prohibition, ATF's predecessor bureaus were part of the Department of the Treasury for more than two hundred years. ATF was first established by Department of Treasury Order No. 221, effective July 1, 1972; this order "transferred the functions, powers, and duties arising under laws relating to alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives from the Internal Revenue Service to ATF. In 2003, under the terms of the Homeland Security Act, ATF was split into two agencies – the new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was transferred to the Department of Justice, while the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) was retained by the Department of the Treasury.
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
  • Offices

  • Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)
  • Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA)
  • Executive Office of the United States Trustee (EOUST)
  • Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM)
  • Office of the Chief Information Officer
  • Office of Dispute Resolution
  • Office of the Federal Detention Trustee (OFDT)
  • Office of Immigration Litigation
  • Office of Information Policy
  • Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR)
  • Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison (merged with Office of Legislative Affairs on April 12, 2012)
  • Office of Justice Programs (OJP)
  • Bureau of Justice Assistance
  • Bureau of Justice Statistics
  • Community Capacity Development Office
  • National Institute of Justice
  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
  • Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking Office (SMART)
  • Office for Victims of Crime
  • Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education
  • Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)
  • Office of Legal Policy (OLP)
  • Office of Legislative Affairs
  • Office of the Pardon Attorney
  • Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties (OPCL)
  • Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR)
  • Office of Public Affairs
  • Office on Sexual Violence and Crimes against Children
  • Office of Tribal Justice
  • Office on Violence Against Women
  • Professional Responsibility Advisory Office (PRAO)
  • United States Attorneys Offices
  • United States Trustees Offices
  • Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)
  • Community Relations Service
  • Other offices and programs

  • Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the United States
  • INTERPOL, U.S. National Central Bureau
  • National Drug Intelligence Center (former)
  • Obscenity Prosecution Task Force (former)
  • United States Parole Commission
  • 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, 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.

    Finances and budget

    The Justice Department was authorized a budget for Fiscal Year 2015 of approximately $31 billion. The budget authorization is broken down as follows:


    United States Department of Justice Wikipedia

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