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1. Origin and Mission

The Department of Justice was organized in 1870.1 It affords means for the enforcement of federal laws for providing legal counsel in federal cases, and for the construction of the laws under which the other departments act. The department represents the United States in legal matters generally and gives advice and opinions when requested by the President or by the heads of the executive departments and the Veterans' Bureau.

2. History

The office of Attorney General was created to provide a "meet person" "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 touching any matters that may concern their departments." Control and direction of the various United States attorneys rested upon the Solicitor for the Treasury Department. Since that time, these duties have been consolidated under the Department of Justice, and it has supervision of federal prisons. Prior to 1870 the Attorney General was a member of the Cabinet, but was not the head of a department.

The Act of 18701 authorized the appointment of a Solicitor General. The several law officers of the executive departments, and the Examiner of Claims in the Department of State, were transferred to the Department of Justice. As federal jurisdiction was enlarged, the intervening period was marked by several additions to its personnel, authorized by Congress, creating new bureaus and divisions. The first of such expansions was the Act of Congress which vested the control of federal penal institutions in the Attorney General.3 An Assistant Attorney-General for assignment to the Interior Department was authorized in 1871; an Assistant Attorney General for the Post Office Department in 1872.4 A Law Clerk to act as examiner of titles was permanently established in 1873.5 In that year, the Attorney General employed an official called "Agent," or "Special Agent," and later as "General Agent," for the conduct of investigation in the detection of crimes. A Bureau of French Spoliation Claims was established in 1885 for cases arising out of claims against the United States under the

*Acknowledgments are due George E. Strong, Esq., recently Special Assistant Attorney General and Administrative Assistant and Chief Clerk, Department of Justice, for revising this chapter after recent organizational changes.

1 Act June 22, 1870; R. S. § 346 (Comp. St. § 515).

2 Act Sept. 24, 1789 (1 Stat. 73).

3 Act Jan. 10, 1871 (16 Stat. 398 [Comp. St. §§ 3523-3527]).

4 Act June 8, 1872 (17 Stat. 283, 284). See 16 Stat. 432 (Comp. St. § 517).

5 R. S. § 351 (Comp. St. § 526).

French Spoliation Act. Another Assistant Attorney General was provided for in 1891, in connection with claims arising from Indian depredations. The title of Examiner of Claims was changed to Solicitor for the Department of State; and the office of Attorney in Charge of Pardons was created in 1891.8 In 1894 a Division of Accounts was established. A clerk for Disbursements was provided for in 1897. A Commission under the Direction of the Attorney General was appointed to revise and codify the criminal and penal laws of the United States, and later to revise laws concerning the jurisdiction and practice of the United States Courts.10 The office of Private Secretary to the Attorney General was created in 1898, and that of Assistant Attorney in charge of Dockets in 1890. The Attorney General for Porto Rico was required by the Organic Act of April 12, 1900, Providing for Civil Government of Porto Rico, to report to the Department of Justice, but was later directed to report to the Secretary of War.12 An Attorney General for the Spanish Treaty Claims Commission was provided for in 1901, and that office was discontinued in 1910 at the conclusion of the hearing of the Spanish Treaty Claims.18 A special Assistant Attorney General was placed in charge of the Bureau of Insular and Territorial Affairs established in 1902.14 In 1903, the office of Assistant to the Attorney General was created in charge of suits, and other matters under the federal anti-trust and interstate commerce laws.15 The Solicitor of Customs was provided for in 1906. This office was abolished by the Act of August 5, 1909, which authorized the President to appoint an Assistant Attorney General in charge of government interests in all matters of reappraisement and classification of imported goods.16 In 1908, a Bureau of Investigation was established as an enlargement of the activities previously had under the General Agent's Office, created in 1873. A librarian was provided for in 1907.17 The office of Superintendent of Prisons was created in 1908.18 The office of Assistant Attorney in Charge of Dockets was discontinued, and that of Attorney in Charge of Titles created, by Act of March 4, 1909.19 A Public Land Division was organized on November 16, 1909. The office of Special Commissioner for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic was created in

6 Act Jan. 20, 1885 (23 Stat. 283).

Act March 3, 1891 (26 Stat. 851, 854).

8 26 Stat. 908, 945, 946.

928 Stat. 162, 210; Act Feb. 26, 1896 (29 Stat. 17, 24); Act May 28, 1896 (29 Stat. 140, 176).

10 Act June 4, 1897 (30 Stat. 11, 58); Act March 3, 1899 (30 Stat. 1074, 1116); Act June 30, 1906 (34 Stat. 697, 754).

11 Act March 15, 1898 (30 Stat. 277, 313); Act Feb. 24, 1899 (30 Stat. 846, 886).

12 31 Stat. 77, 82 (Comp. St. § 3747); 36 Stat. 11. See Check List of United States Public Documents, p. 1460, W 75.

13 31 Stat. 877, 878. See Check List, supra, p. 598, J 10.

14 32 Stat. 5, 24. The office of Special Assistant Attorney General was discontinued by Act March 3, 1905 (33 Stat. 1156, 1206 [Comp. St. § 6719]).

15 Act March 3, 1903 (32 Stat. 1062).

16 36 Stat. 11, 108 (Comp. St. § 519).

17 Act Feb. 26, 1907 (34 Stat. 935, 986).

18 Act May 22, 1908 (35 Stat. 184, 236). 19 35 Stat. 845, 899.

1910, and consolidated with the Division of Investigation on January 1, 1914.20 Boards of Parole were provided for in 1910.21 By Act of March 4, 1911, there was provision for the office of Chief of Division of Investigation.22 The Attorney General organized a special "War Emergency Division," through which he supervised substantially all the war activities of the department during the World War.

When Attorney General Palmer assumed office on March 5, 1919, he effected a reorganization of the department, which, among other things, abolished the "War Emergency Division" and created a division to deal with Radicalism.

Such reorganization was altered by Attorney General Daugherty in 1921. A War Frauds section was organized, under the immediate direction of the Attorney General.23

3. Activities

The following is a general classification of the duties of the department:

(a) Prosecutes all suits and attends to other matters arising under the federal Anti-Trust Laws;

(b) Alien Property Custodian matters;

(c) Civil and criminal war contract litigation;

(d) Shipping Board cases in the courts;

(e) Exercises supervision over the federal prisons;

(f) Receives applications in behalf of federal prisoners for executive clemency, except those of the Army and Navy; prepares memoranda and recommendations thereon for submission to the Executive.

(g) Has general charge of defending suits against the United States in the Court of Claims and in the District Courts. This includes use by the government of patented inventions, trade-marks, or a copyright, as well as interference proceedings in patent matters and claims arising under the settlement of war con


(h) Has charge of all suits and proceedings under the public land laws, including those instituted to set aside conveyances and allotted land cases involving water rights, reclamation and irrigation projects,24 oil lands and forest reserves, boundary disputes, and Indian litigation, condemnation proceedings instituted by the government, and examinations of titles to land acquired by the United States and titles and land litigation in the District of Columbia.25

(i) Has charge of litigation involving admiralty, finance, foreign relations, and insular affairs, including civil proceedings under the National Banking Act, the Federal Reserve Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act, and other like litigation; also minor regulations of commerce, such as those regulating hours of service, safety

20 36 Stat. 825 (Comp. St. §§ 8812-8819).

21 Act June 25, 1910 (36 Stat. 819 [Comp. St. §§ 10535-10544]).

22 36 Stat. 1170, 1225.

23 Act May 22, 1922 (42 Stat. 543).

24 R. S. § 359 (Comp. St. § 533). See People of State of New York v. State of New Jersey, 256 U. S. 296, 41 S. Ct. 492, 65 L. Ed. 937; Kern River Co. v. U. S., 257 U. S. 147, 42 S. Ct. 60, 66 L. Ed. 175.

25 Act July 16, 1914 (38 Stat. 497); Act June 1, 1922, c. 204, tit. II (42 Stat. 611 [Comp. St. Ann. Supp. 1923, § 525a]).


appliances on railroads, quarantine acts, pure food, meat inspection, game bird, insecticide, and fungicide acts, etc.

(j) Has charge of federal criminal cases generally, including matters involving criminal practice and procedure, such as questions concerning indictments, grand juries, search warrants, passports, alien enemies, extradition, etc.; also cases involving crimes on the high seas, crimes arising under the National Banking Act and under the naturalization laws; and generally directs district attorneys with respect to the conduct of criminal cases.

(k) Has general conduct of cases under the National Prohibition Acts and also those involving taxation, war risk insurance, federal employees' compensation, and civil pensions.

(1) Has charge of protecting the interests of the government in matters of reappraisement and classification of imported goods before the several boards of United States General Appraisers and the Court of Customs Appeals.

(m) Investigates alleged offenses against the laws of the United States, excepting those arising under national prohibition and counterfeiting laws, which are otherwise provided for by special legislation, and directs the work of the special agents and bank accountants who are employed for the purpose of detecting crimes and collecting evidence for use in proposed or pending suits or prosecutions.26

(n) Passes upon matters relating to applications for positions and appointments in the department or pertaining to the federal courts; prepares nominations of United States attorneys, marshals, and federal judges for submission to the Senate; also commissions and appointments for the officers of the department in Washington, and for United States attorneys, marshals, and other court officers.

(0) Compiles the register of the Department of Justice (including the offices of the United States courts) and matter relating to that department for the Official Register of the United States, the Congressional Directory, etc.

(p) All vouchers, claims, pay rolls, and accounts, are prepared in, and audited and approved for payment by, the department over these appropriations, salaries of Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States and the judges and other officials of the courts in the District of Columbia, as well as the salaries of judges retired under the provisions of the Judicial Code, are paid out of departmental appropriations.

(q) Certifies through the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department all applications for refund of deductions from salaries under the provisions of the Retirement Act of May 22, 1920.27

(r) Pays the salaries of, but otherwise exercises no supervision over, the Solicitor for the Department of State; 28 Solicitor for the Department of the Interior; 29 Solicitor for the Department of Commerce; 30 Solicitor for the De

26 Act June 1, 1922, c. 204, title II (Comp. St. Ann. Supp. 1923, § 525b).

27 41 Stat. 614 (Comp. St. Ann. Supp. 1923, § 32871⁄2 et seq.).

28 Act March 3, 1891, c. 541, § 1 (Comp. St. § 523).

29 Act July 16, 1914, c. 141, § 1 (Comp. St. § 523a).

30 Act March 18, 1904, c. 716, § 1 (Comp. St. § 524).

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