United States Attorney General

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United States Attorney General
Official Seal
Department of Justice
Eric Holder

since February 3, 2009
FormationSeptember 26, 1789
First holderEdmund Randolph
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United States Attorney General
Official Seal
Department of Justice
Eric Holder

since February 3, 2009
FormationSeptember 26, 1789
First holderEdmund Randolph

The United States Attorney General (AG) is the head of the United States Department of Justice (see 28 U.S.C. § 503) concerned with legal affairs and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. The attorney general is considered to be the chief lawyer of the U.S. government. The attorney general serves as a member of the president's cabinet, and is the only cabinet department head who is not given the title secretary.

The attorney general is nominated by the President of the United States and takes office after confirmation by the United States Senate. He or she serves at the pleasure of the president and can be removed by the president at any time; the attorney general is also subject to impeachment by the House of Representatives and trial in the Senate for "treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors."

The office of Attorney General was established by Congress by the Judiciary Act of 1789. 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."[1] Only in 1870 was the Department of Justice established to support the attorney general in the discharge of his responsibilities.

The current attorney general, Eric Holder,[2] was confirmed to office by the Senate on February 2, 2009, and sworn into office on February 3, 2009.[3] Holder is the 82nd United States Attorney General and the first African-American to hold the position.


List of attorneys general


      No party       Federalist       Democratic-Republican       Democratic       Whig       Republican

  Denotes service as acting Attorneys General prior to appointment or after resignation
No.PortraitNameState of ResidenceTook OfficeLeft OfficePresident(s)
1EdRand.jpgEdmund RandolphVirginiaSeptember 26, 1789January 26, 1794George Washington
2William Bradford, AG.jpgWilliam BradfordPennsylvaniaJanuary 27, 1794August 23, 1795
3Charles Lee, AG.gifCharles LeeVirginiaDecember 10, 1795February 19, 1801
John Adams
4Levi Lincoln, Sr.jpgLevi Lincoln, Sr.MassachusettsMarch 5, 1801March 2, 1805Thomas Jefferson
5John Breckinridge.jpgJohn BreckinridgeKentuckyAugust 7, 1805December 14, 1806
6Rodneycaesara3.jpgCaesar A. RodneyDelawareJanuary 20, 1807December 10, 1811
James Madison
7Williampinkney (1).jpgWilliam PinkneyMarylandDecember 11, 1811February 9, 1814
8Richard Rush engraving.pngRichard RushPennsylvaniaFebruary 10, 1814November 12, 1817
9WilliamWirt.pngWilliam WirtVirginiaNovember 13, 1817March 4, 1829James Monroe
John Quincy Adams
10John Macpherson Berrien.jpgJohn M. BerrienGeorgiaMarch 9, 1829July 19, 1831Andrew Jackson
11Roger Taney.jpgRoger B. TaneyMarylandJuly 20, 1831November 14, 1833
12Benjamin Franklin Butler (1795–1858).jpgBenjamin Franklin ButlerNew YorkNovember 15, 1833July 4, 1838
Martin Van Buren
13Felix Grundy.jpgFelix GrundyTennesseeJuly 5, 1838January 10, 1840
14Henry D. Gilpin, Attorney General of the United States (trimmed).jpgHenry D. GilpinPennsylvaniaJanuary 11, 1840March 4, 1841
15John Jordan Crittenden - Brady 1855.jpgJohn J. CrittendenKentuckyMarch 5, 1841September 12, 1841William Henry Harrison
John Tyler
16Hugh S. Legaré.jpgHugh Swinton LegaréSouth CarolinaSeptember 13, 1841June 30, 1843
17John Nelson, bw photo portrait, Brady-Handy collection, circa 1855-1865.jpgJohn NelsonMarylandJuly 1, 1843March 4, 1845
18JYMason.jpgJohn Y. MasonVirginiaMarch 5, 1845October 16, 1846James K. Polk
19NClifford.jpgNathan CliffordMaineOctober 17, 1846March 17, 1848
20Isaac Toucey - Brady-Handy.jpgIsaac TouceyConnecticutJune 21, 1848March 4, 1849
21Reverdy Johnson.jpgReverdy JohnsonMarylandMarch 8, 1849July 21, 1850Zachary Taylor
22John Jordan Crittenden - Brady 1855.jpgJohn J. CrittendenKentuckyJuly 22, 1850March 4, 1853Millard Fillmore
23Caleb Cushing.jpgCaleb CushingMassachusettsMarch 7, 1853March 4, 1857Franklin Pierce
24JSBlack-AG.jpgJeremiah S. BlackPennsylvaniaMarch 6, 1857December 16, 1860James Buchanan
25Edwin McMasters Stanton Secretary of War.jpgEdwin M. StantonPennsylvaniaDecember 20, 1860March 4, 1861
26Edward Bates - Brady-Handy.jpgEdward BatesMissouriMarch 5, 1861November 24, 1864Abraham Lincoln
27James Speed.jpgJames SpeedKentuckyDecember 2, 1864July 22, 1866
Andrew Johnson
28Stanberry-AttorGen.jpgHenry StanberyOhioJuly 23, 1866July 16, 1868
29William M. Evarts - Brady-Handy.jpgWilliam M. EvartsNew YorkJuly 17, 1868March 4, 1869
30EbenezerRHoar.jpgEbenezer R. HoarMassachusettsMarch 5, 1869November 22, 1870Ulysses S. Grant
31Amos T Akerman - crop and minor retouch.jpgAmos T. AkermanGeorgiaNovember 23, 1870December 13, 1871
32George Henry Williams - Brady-Handy - Restored & Cropped.jpgGeorge Henry WilliamsOregonDecember 14, 1871April 25, 1875
33Edwards Pierrepont, Brady-Handy bw photo portrait, ca1865-1880.jpgEdwards PierrepontNew YorkApril 26, 1875May 21, 1876
34Alphonso Taft seated.jpgAlphonso TaftOhioMay 22, 1876March 4, 1877
35Hon. Charles Devens of Mass. Atty Gen. Hayes Cabinet.pngCharles DevensMassachusettsMarch 12, 1877March 4, 1881Rutherford B. Hayes
36Wayne MacVeagh - Brady-Handy.jpgWayne MacVeaghPennsylvaniaMarch 5, 1881December 15, 1881James A. Garfield
Chester A. Arthur
37BenjaminHBrewster.jpgBenjamin H. BrewsterPennsylvaniaDecember 16, 1881March 4, 1885
38Augustus Hill Garland - Brady-Handy.jpgAugustus H. GarlandArkansasMarch 6, 1885March 4, 1889Grover Cleveland
39WHHMiller.jpgWilliam H. H. MillerIndianaMarch 7, 1889March 4, 1893Benjamin Harrison
40Richard Olney, Bain bw photo portrait, 1913.jpgRichard OlneyMassachusettsMarch 6, 1893April 7, 1895Grover Cleveland
41Jud Harmon.jpgJudson HarmonOhioApril 8, 1895March 4, 1897
42AssoJstcJMcK.jpgJoseph McKennaCaliforniaMarch 5, 1897January 25, 1898William McKinley
43Griggs2.jpgJohn W. GriggsNew JerseyJanuary 25, 1898March 29, 1901
44Philander Knox, bw photo portrait, 1904.jpgPhilander C. KnoxPennsylvaniaApril 5, 1901June 30, 1904
Theodore Roosevelt
45WHMoody.jpgWilliam H. MoodyMassachusettsJuly 1, 1904December 17, 1906
46CJBonaparte.jpgCharles J. BonaparteMarylandDecember 17, 1906March 4, 1909
47GWWickersham.jpgGeorge W. WickershamNew YorkMarch 4, 1909March 4, 1913William Howard Taft
48James C. McReynolds - c1913.jpgJames C. McReynoldsTennesseeMarch 5, 1913August 29, 1914Woodrow Wilson
49WP Thomas Watt Gregory.jpgThomas Watt GregoryTexasAugust 29, 1914March 4, 1919
50Alexander Mitchell Palmer.jpgAlexander Mitchell PalmerPennsylvaniaMarch 5, 1919March 4, 1921
51Harry Daugherty, bw photo portrait 1920.jpgHarry M. DaughertyOhioMarch 4, 1921April 6, 1924Warren G. Harding
Calvin Coolidge
52Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone photograph circa 1927-1932.jpgHarlan F. StoneNew YorkApril 7, 1924March 1, 1925
53John Sargent, Bain bw photo portrait.jpgJohn G. SargentVermontMarch 7, 1925March 4, 1929
54William D. Mitchell cph.3b30394.jpgWilliam D. MitchellMinnesotaMarch 4, 1929March 4, 1933Herbert Hoover
55Homer Cummings, Harris & Ewing photo portrait, 1920.jpgHomer Stille CummingsConnecticutMarch 4, 1933January 1, 1939Franklin D. Roosevelt
56Justice Frank Murphy.jpgFrank MurphyMichiganJanuary 2, 1939January 18, 1940
57Roberthjackson.jpgRobert H. JacksonNew YorkJanuary 18, 1940August 25, 1941
58Francis Biddle cph.3b27524.jpgFrancis BiddlePennsylvaniaAugust 26, 1941June 26, 1945
Harry S. Truman
59Tom C. Clark.gifTom C. ClarkTexasJune 27, 1945July 26, 1949
60J. Howard McGrath.jpgJ. Howard McGrathRhode IslandJuly 27, 1949April 3, 1952
61James P. McGranery.jpgJames P. McGraneryPennsylvaniaApril 4, 1952January 20, 1953
62No image.svgHerbert Brownell, Jr.New YorkJanuary 21, 1953October 23, 1957Dwight D. Eisenhower
63William P. Rogers, U.S. Secretary of State.jpgWilliam P. RogersMarylandOctober 23, 1957January 20, 1961
64Robert F Kennedy crop.jpgRobert F. KennedyMassachusettsJanuary 20, 1961September 3, 1964John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
65Nicholas Katzenbach at White House, 6 May 1968.jpgNicholas KatzenbachIllinoisSeptember 4, 1964[1]January 28, 1965
January 28, 1965November 28, 1966
66Ramsey Clark at the White House, 28 Feb 1968.jpgRamsey ClarkTexasNovember 28, 1966[1]March 10, 1967
March 10, 1967January 20, 1969
67John Mitchell.jpgJohn N. MitchellNew YorkJanuary 20, 1969February 15, 1972Richard Nixon
68Richard Kleindienst.jpgRichard KleindienstArizonaFebruary 15, 1972May 25, 1973
69ElliotLeeRichardson.jpgElliot RichardsonMassachusettsMay 25, 1973October 20, 1973
Robert Bork[3]ConnecticutOctober 20, 1973December 17, 1973
70William B. Saxbe.jpgWilliam B. SaxbeOhioDecember 17, 1973January 14, 1975
Gerald Ford
71Edward-levi.jpgEdward H. LeviIllinoisJanuary 14, 1975January 20, 1977
Richard L. Thornburgh[2]PennsylvaniaJanuary 20, 1977January 26, 1977Jimmy Carter
72GriffenBell2.jpgGriffin BellGeorgiaJanuary 26, 1977August 16, 1979
731Benjamin Civiletti.jpgBenjamin CivilettiMarylandAugust 16, 1979January 19, 1981
74Smith-william2.jpgWilliam French SmithCaliforniaJanuary 23, 1981February 25, 1985Ronald Reagan
75Edwin Meese publicity shot.jpgEdwin MeeseCaliforniaFebruary 25, 1985August 12, 1988
76Dick Thornburgh.jpgRichard L. ThornburghPennsylvaniaAugust 12, 1988August 15, 1991
George H. W. Bush
77William Barr, official photo as Attorney General.jpgWilliam P. BarrNew YorkAugust 16, 1991[1]November 26, 1991
November 26, 1991January 20, 1993
Stuart M. Gerson[4]Washington, D.C.January 20, 1993March 12, 1993Bill Clinton
78Janet Reno-us-Portrait.jpgJanet RenoFloridaMarch 12, 1993January 20, 2001
Eric Holder[2]Washington, D.C.January 20, 2001February 2, 2001George W. Bush
79John Ashcroft.jpgJohn AshcroftMissouriFebruary 2, 2001February 3, 2005
80Alberto Gonzales - official DoJ photograph.jpgAlberto GonzalesTexasFebruary 3, 2005September 17, 2007
Paul Clement[5]Washington, D.C.September 17, 2007September 18, 2007
Peter Keisler[5]Washington, D.C.September 18, 2007November 9, 2007
81Michael Mukasey, official AG photo portrait, 2007.jpgMichael MukaseyNew YorkNovember 9, 2007January 20, 2009
Mark Filip[6]IllinoisJanuary 20, 2009February 3, 2009Barack Obama
82Eric Holder official portrait.jpgEric HolderDistrict of ColumbiaFebruary 3, 2009Incumbent

Acting attorneys general

1 Nicholas Katzenbach (1964–1965), Ramsey Clark (1966–1967) and William P. Barr (1991) served as acting attorney general in their capacity as deputy attorney general, until their own appointment as attorney general.

2 Richard L. Thornburgh (1977) and Eric Holder (2001) served as acting attorney general in their capacity as deputy attorney general, until the appointment of a new attorney general. Both subsequently served as attorney general, Thornburgh 1988–1991 and Holder 2009 to date.

3 On October 20, 1973 Solicitor General Robert Bork was instrumental in the "Saturday Night Massacre", U.S. President Richard Nixon's firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, following Cox's request for tapes of his Oval Office conversations. Nixon initially ordered U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson, to fire Cox. Richardson resigned rather than carry out the order. Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus considered the order "fundamentally wrong"[4] and also resigned, making Bork the acting attorney general. When Nixon reiterated his order, Bork complied and fired Cox. He remained acting attorney general until the appointment of William B. Saxbe on December 17, 1973.

4 Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ Civil Division Stuart M. Gerson was acting attorney general from January 20, 1993 to March 12, 1993.[5][6] Gerson was fourth in the line of succession at the Justice Department (other senior DOJ officials had already resigned).[7] During his time as Acting AG, Gerson supported the Brady bill[6] and was in office in the beginnings of the Waco siege.[8] Janet Reno, President Clinton's nominee for attorney general, was confirmed on March 12,[9] and he resigned the same day.[9] Acting Attorney General Gerson's last day at the Justice Department was March 19.[8]

5 On August 27, 2007, President Bush named Solicitor General Paul Clement as the future acting attorney general, to take office upon the resignation of Alberto Gonzales, effective September 17, 2007.[10] According to administration officials, Clement took that office at 12:01 am September 17, 2007, and left office 24 hours later.[11] On September 17, President Bush announced that Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ Civil Division Peter Keisler would become acting attorney general, pending a permanent appointment of a presidential nominee.[12][13] Keisler served as acting attorney general until the nomination of Michael Mukasey on November 9, 2007.

6 Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip was asked to assume the position of acting attorney general by then President-elect Obama.[14] Filip led the Department while President Obama's nominee, then Attorney-General Designate Eric Holder, awaited confirmation by the United States Senate.[15][16] Holder was confirmed on February 2, 2009,[17] and sworn in the next day[2] thus ending Filip's tenure as the acting attorney general.

Living former attorneys general

See also


  1. ^ Judiciary Act of 1789, section 35.
  2. ^ a b MR.TADEO PREZA CANETE JR. (n.d./DECEMBER 01,2008). "USDOJ: Office of the Attorney General". US Department of Justice. http://www.usdoj.gov/ag/. Retrieved 2009-02-03. "Eric H. Holder Jr. was sworn in as the 82nd United States Attorney General on February 3, 2009 by Vice-President Joe Biden. President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Mr. Holder on December 1, 2008."
  3. ^ Margasak, Larry (February 2, 2009). "Senate confirms Holder as first black AG". Associated Press. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/holder_confirmation. Retrieved February 2, 2009.[dead link]
  4. ^ Noble, Kenneth B. (July 26, 1987). "New Views Emerge of Bork's Role in Watergate Dismissals". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE2DE163FF935A15754C0A961948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=print. Retrieved 2009-09-30.
  5. ^ Cahoon, Ben (2000). "United States Government". World Statesmen. http://worldstatesmen.org/USA_govt.html#Justice. Retrieved 2008-12-12. "January 20, 1993 – March 12, 1993 Stuart M. Gerson (acting) (b. 1944)"
  6. ^ a b Staff reporter (1993-02-21). "Stuart Gerson's Parting Shot". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE1DE1331F932A15751C0A965958260. Retrieved 2008-12-12. "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..."
  7. ^ Labaton, Stephen (1993-01-25). "Notes on Justice; Who's in Charge? Bush Holdover Says He Is, but Two Clinton Men Differ". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE3DF1F38F936A15752C0A965958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
  8. ^ a b Scruggs, Richard; Steven Zipperstein, Robert Lyon, Victor Gonzalez, Herbert Cousins, Roderick Beverly (1993-10-08). "Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas February 28 to April 19, 1993". Department of Justice. http://www.usdoj.gov/05publications/waco/waconine.html. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  9. ^ a b Ifill, Gwen (1993-03-12). "Reno Confirmed in Top Justice Job". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CEED71130F931A25750C0A965958260. Retrieved 2008-12-12. "She will replace Acting Attorney General Stuart M. Gerson, a holdover appointee from the Bush Administration. Ms. Reno said he resigned today."
  10. ^ Meyers, Steven Lee (August 27, 2007). "Embattled Attorney General Resigns". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/27/washington/27cnd-gonzales.html?_r=1&hp=&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1188217220-bs39MOr+UJpRTDAYWymL9g. Retrieved 2007-08-27.
  11. ^ Eggen, Dan; Elizabeth Williamson (September 19, 2007). "Democrats May Tie Confirmation to Gonzales Papers". Washington Post: pp. A10. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/18/AR2007091801379.html?nav=rss_politics. Retrieved September 19, 2007.
  12. ^ "President Bush Announces Judge Michael Mukasey as Nominee for Attorney General", White House press release, September 17, 2007
  13. ^ "Bush Text on Attorney General Nomination". New York Times. September 17, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Bush-Mukasey-Text.html. Retrieved September 18, 2007.[dead link]
  14. ^ Staff reporter (2009-01-15). "Obama asks U.S. Attorneys to stay 'for the time being'". CNN Political Ticker. http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/01/14/obama-asks-us-attorneys-to-stay-for-the-time-being/. Retrieved 2009-01-21. "In addition, Obama's transition team has asked current Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip, also a Bush appointee, to serve as Acting Attorney General replacing outgoing Attorney General Michael Mukasey.")
  15. ^ Staff reporter (2009-01-21). "Bush Appointees Holding Down the Fort While Obama Nominees Await Confirmation". FOX News. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/first100days/2009/01/21/bush-appointees-holding-fort-obama-nominees-await-confirmation. Retrieved 2009-02-04. "While Holder waits for his confirmation, Bush appointee Mark Filip is acting attorney general. A former U.S. District Court judge in Illinois, the native Chicagoan holds a law degree from Harvard and a was a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. Holder was supposed to have faced a confirmation vote on Wednesday, but scheduling conflicts necessitated a delay in the Senate."
  16. ^ "Acting Attorney General Mark Filip." United States Department of Justice. January 20, 2009. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5eJ6TAbgg)
  17. ^ Staff reporter (2009-02-03). "Obama attorney-general confirmed". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7866427.stm. Retrieved 2009-02-03. "President Barack Obama's choice for attorney-general, Eric Holder, has been confirmed in the post by the US Senate."

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