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The United States Department of Justice (often referred to as the Justice Department or DOJ), is the United States federal executive department responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice, equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries.

The Department is led by the 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 Eric Holder.

Duties

  1. Responsible for investigating and prosecuting violations of federal laws.
  2. Represents the United States as a party in all legal matters, including cases before the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker.
  3. Enforces all immigration laws, provides information, and processes applications for citizenship
  4. Maintains the federal prison system, halfway houses, and community programs.


History

The Attorney General was initially a one-person, part-time job, 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 had stopped by 1819 on account of the workload involved.

In 1867, 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 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. This first bill was unsuccessful, however, as Lawrence could not devote enough time to ensure its passage owing to his occupation with the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.

A second bill was introduced to Congress by Rhode Islandmarker Representative Thomas Jenckes on February 25, 1870, and both the Senate and House passed the bill. 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.

The bill, called the "Act to Establish the Department of Justice", did little to change the Attorney General's responsibilities, and his salary and tenure remained the same. The law did create a new office, that of Solicitor General, to supervise and conduct government litigation in the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker.

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

In 1872, control of federal prisons was transferred to the new department, from the Department of Interiormarker. New facilities were built, including the penitentiary at Leavenworthmarker in 1895, and a facility for women located in West Virginiamarker, at Alderson was established in 1924.

By 2008 several current and former assistant U.S. attorneys were known to have engaged in a wide variety of criminal conduct including association with prostitution rings, sexual battery, sexual abuse of children, and failures to make mandatory conflict of interest disclosures. A separate Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) within the DOJ is responsible for investigating attorney employees of the DOJ who have been accused of misconduct or criminal activity with respect to their professional functions as DOJ attorneys. Former U.S. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft acknowledged challenges facing the Department of Justice:
In the real world of limited resources, we know that we can only detect, investigate and prosecute a small percentage of those officials who are corrupt.


I remain convinced that there is no more important area in the fight against corruption than the challenge for us within the law enforcement and justice sectors to keep our own houses clean.


Headquarters

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 to the Department of Justice) "who prosecutes on behalf of justice (or the Lady Justice)".

The building was renamed in honor of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 2001. It is sometimes referred to as "Main Justice."

Organization

Leadership offices



Divisions



Law enforcement agencies

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



Offices



Other offices and programs



In March 2003, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service was abolished and its functions transferred to the United States Department of Homeland Securitymarker. 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.

Also in 2003, the Department of Justice created the website LifeAndLiberty.gov which supported the PATRIOT ACT. LifeAndLiberty.gov currently promotes reenacting the PROTECT AMERICA ACT before it expires. This web site has received criticism from government watchdog groups.

References

  1. Law and Politics Worldwide, August 20 2003
  2. .gov Watch, October 18, 2007


External links




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