United States Department of Justice
Seal of the U.S. Department of Justice
Flag of the U.S. Department of Justice

The Robert F. Kennedy Building is the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Agency overview
FormedJuly 1, 1870; 154 years ago (1870-07-01)
TypeExecutive department
JurisdictionU.S. federal government
HeadquartersRobert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C., United States
38°53′36″N 77°1′30″W / 38.89333°N 77.02500°W / 38.89333; -77.02500
Motto"Qui Pro Domina Justitia Sequitur" (Latin: "Who prosecutes on behalf of justice (or the Lady Justice)")[1][2]
Employees113,114 (2019)[3]
Annual budget$37.7 billion (FY 2023)
Agency executives

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ), also known as the Justice Department, is a federal executive department of the United States government tasked with the enforcement of federal law and administration of justice in the United States. It is equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries. The department is headed by the U.S. attorney general, who reports directly to the president of the United States and is a member of the president's Cabinet. The current attorney general is Merrick Garland, who has served since March 2021.[5]

The Justice Department contains most of the United States' federal law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The department also has eight divisions of lawyers who represent the U.S. federal government in litigation: the Criminal, Civil, Antitrust, Tax, Civil Rights, Environment and Natural Resources, National Security, and Justice Management Divisions. The department also includes the U.S. Attorneys' Offices for each of the 94 U.S. federal judicial districts.

The U.S. Congress created the Justice Department in 1870 during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. The Justice Department's functions originally date to 1789, when Congress created the office of the Attorney General.


The office of the attorney general was established by the Judiciary Act of 1789 as a part-time job for one person, but grew with the bureaucracy. At one time, the attorney general gave legal advice to the U.S. Congress, as well as the president; however, in 1819, the attorney general began advising Congress alone to ensure a manageable workload.[6] Until 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 salaries by running private law practices, often arguing cases before the courts as attorneys for paying litigants.[7] The lightness of the office is exemplified by Edward Bates (1793–1869), Attorney General under Abraham Lincoln (1861 to 1864). Bates had only a small operation, with a staff of six. The main function was to generate legal opinions at the request of Lincoln and cabinet members, and handle occasional cases before the Supreme Court. Lincoln's cabinet was full of experienced lawyers who seldom felt the need to ask for his opinions. Bates had no authority over the US Attorneys around the country. The federal court system was handled by the Interior Department; the Treasury handled claims. Most of the opinions turned out by Bates's office were of minor importance. Lincoln gave him no special assignments and did not seek his advice on Supreme Court appointments. Bates did have an opportunity to comment on general policy as a cabinet member with a strong political base, but he seldom spoke up.[8]

Following unsuccessful efforts in 1830 and 1846 to make attorney general a full-time job,[9] 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 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 signed the bill into law on June 22, 1870.[10]

Grant appointed Amos T. Akerman as attorney general and Benjamin H. Bristow as America's first solicitor general the same week that Congress created the Department of Justice. The Department's immediate function was to preserve civil rights. It set about fighting against domestic terrorist groups who had been using both violence and litigation to oppose the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.[11]

Thomas Nast illustration entitled "Halt," published October 17, 1874

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" than Grant when it came to prosecuting terrorists.[12] George H. Williams, who succeeded Akerman in December 1871, continued to prosecute the Klan throughout 1872 until the spring of 1873, during Grant's second term in office.[13] Williams then placed a moratorium on Klan prosecutions partially because the Justice Department, inundated by cases involving the Klan, did not have the manpower to continue prosecutions.[13]

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.[14] The law also created the office of Solicitor General to supervise and conduct government litigation in the Supreme Court of the United States.[15]

With the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887, the federal government took on some law enforcement responsibilities, and the Department of Justice was tasked with performing these.[16]

In 1884, control of federal prisons was transferred to the new department, from the Department of the 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.[17]

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order which gave the Department of Justice 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..."[18]


Main article: Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building

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 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2) of space.

Various efforts, none entirely successful, have been made to determine the original intended meaning of the Latin motto appearing on the Department of Justice seal, Qui Pro Domina Justitia Sequitur (literally "Who For Lady Justice Strives"). 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)".[19]

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.[20] The building was renamed in honor of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 2001. It is sometimes referred to as "Main Justice".[21]


Organizational chart for the Department of Justice (click to enlarge)

Leadership offices


Division Year established
(as formal division)
Antitrust Division 1919[22]
Civil Division[a] 1933[23]
Civil Rights Division 1957[25]
Criminal Division 1919[26]
Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD)[b] 1909[27]
Justice Management Division (JMD)[c] 1945[28]
National Security Division (NSD) 2006[29]
Tax Division 1933[30]

The Justice Department also had a War Division during World War II. It was created in 1942 and disestablished in 1945.[31]

Law enforcement agencies

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


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 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 LifeAndLiberty.gov, 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.[41] The website has since been taken offline.

On October 5, 2021, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco has announced the formation of a "Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team" during the Aspen Cyber Summit.[42]

Finances and budget

In 2015, the Justice Department's budget was as follows:[43]

Program Funding (in millions)
Management and Finance
General Administration $129
Justice Information Sharing Technology $26
Administrative Reviews and Appeals
Executive Office for Immigration Review
Office of the Pardon Attorney
Office of the Inspector General $89
United States Parole Commission $13
National Security Division $92
Legal Activities
Office of the Solicitor General $12
Tax Division $109
Criminal Division $202
Civil Division $298
Environmental and Natural Resources Division $112
Office of Legal Counsel $7
Civil Rights Division $162
Antitrust Division $162
United States Attorneys $1,955
United States Bankruptcy Trustees $226
Law Enforcement Activities
United States Marshals Service $2,668
Federal Bureau of Investigation $8,347
Drug Enforcement Administration $2,018
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives $1,201
Federal Bureau of Prisons $6,894
Interpol-Washington Office $32
Grant Programs
Office of Justice Programs $1,427
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services $248
Office on Violence Against Women $410
Mandatory Spending
Mandatory Spending $4,011
TOTAL $31,201

See also


  1. ^ The Civil Division was originally called the Claims Division; it adopted its current name on February 13, 1953.[23][24]
  2. ^ The ENRD was originally called the Land and Natural Resources Division; it adopted its current name in 1990.[27]
  3. ^ The JMD was originally called the Administrative Division; it adopted its current name in 1985.[28]


  1. ^ Revision of Original Letter Dated 14 February 1992 Archived September 19, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, United States Department of Justice.
  2. ^ Madan, Rafael (Fall 2008). "The Sign and Seal of Justice" (PDF). Ave Maria Law Review. 7: 123, 191–192. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  3. ^ "2020 Budget Summary". The United States Department of Justice. Archived from the original on April 13, 2019. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  4. ^ "Meet the Acting Solicitor General". justice.gov. January 20, 2021. Archived from the original on January 21, 2021. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  5. ^ @TheJusticeDept (March 11, 2021). "Judge Merrick Garland takes his oath of office as the 86th Attorney General of the United States as he is sworn in by Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus" (Tweet). Retrieved March 11, 2021– via Twitter.
  6. ^ "United States Department of Justice: About DOJ". September 16, 2014. Archived from the original on July 12, 2014. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  7. ^ Madan, Rafael (Fall 2008). "The Sign and Seal of Justice" (PDF). Ave Maria Law Review. 7: 123, 127–136. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  8. ^ John P. Frank, "Edward Bates, Lincoln's Attorney General", American Journal of Legal History 10#1 (1966) pp 34-50.
  9. ^ Madan, Rafael (Fall 2008). "The Sign and Seal of Justice" (PDF). Ave Maria Law Review. 7: 123, 132–134. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  10. ^ "Public Acts of the Forty First Congress". Archived from the original on December 25, 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2021.
  11. ^ Chernow, Ron (2017). Grant. Penguin Press. p. 700.
  12. ^ Smith 2001, pp. 542–547.
  13. ^ a b Williams (1996), The Great South Carolina Ku Klux Klan Trials, 1871–1872, p. 123
  14. ^ "Act to Establish the Department of Justice". Memory.loc.gov. Archived from the original on December 25, 2016. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
  15. ^ "About DOJ – DOJ – Department of Justice". September 16, 2014. Archived from the original on November 22, 2020. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  16. ^ Langeluttig, Albert (1927). The Department of Justice of the United States. Johns Hopkins Press. pp. 9–14.
  17. ^ Langeluttig, Albert (1927). The Department of Justice of the United States. Johns Hopkins Press. pp. 14–15.
  18. ^ Executive Order 6166, Sec. 5 (June 12, 1933), at [1] Archived October 18, 2020, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ Madan, Rafael (Fall 2008). "The Sign and Seal of Justice" (PDF). Ave Maria Law Review. 7: 123, 125, 191–192, 203. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  20. ^ Madan, Rafael (Fall 2008). "The Sign and Seal of Justice" (PDF). Ave Maria Law Review. 7: 123, 192–203. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  21. ^ "PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM DIRECTS DESIGNATION OF MAIN JUSTICE BUILDING AS THE "ROBERT F. KENNEDY JUSTICE BUILDING"". U.S. Department of Justice. Archived from the original on July 13, 2015. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  22. ^ History of the Antitrust Division Archived July 13, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, United States Department of Justice.
  23. ^ a b Gregory Sisk & Michael F. Noone, Litigation with the Federal Government (4th ed.) (American Law Institute, 2006), pp. 10–11.
  24. ^ Former Assistant Attorneys General: Civil Division Archived January 31, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, U.S. Department of Justice.
  25. ^ Kevin Alonso & R. Bruce Anderson, "Civil Rights Legislation and Policy" in Postwar America: An Encyclopedia of Social, Political, Cultural, and Economic History (2006, ed. James Ciment), p. 233.
  26. ^ Organization, Mission and Functions Manual: Criminal Division Archived December 3, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, United States Department of Justice.
  27. ^ a b Arnold W. Reitze, Air Pollution Control Law: Compliance and Enforcement (Environmental Law Institute, 2001), p. 571.
  28. ^ a b Cornell W. Clayton, The Politics of Justice: The Attorney General and the Making of Legal Policy (M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1992), p. 34.
  29. ^ National Security Cultures: Patterns of Global Governance (Routledge, 2010; eds. Emil J. Kirchner & James Sperling), p. 195.
  30. ^ Nancy Staudt, The Judicial Power of the Purse: How Courts Fund National Defense in Times of Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2011), p. 34.
  31. ^ Civilian Agency Records: Department of Justice Records Archived October 23, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, National Archived and Records Administration.
  32. ^ Larry K. Gaines & Victor E. Kappeler, Policing in America (8th ed. 2015), pp. 38–39.
  33. ^ United States Marshals Service Then ... and Now (Office of the Director, United States Marshals Service, U.S. Department of Justice, 1978).
  34. ^ The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide (Oryz Press, 1999, ed. Athan G. Theoharis), p. 102.
  35. ^ Mitchel P. Roth, Prisons and Prison Systems: A Global Encyclopedia (Greenwood, 2006), pp. 278–79.
  36. ^ Dean J. Champion, Sentencing: A Reference Handbook (ABC-CLIO, Inc.: 2008), pp. 22–23.
  37. ^ James O. Windell, Looking Back in Crime: What Happened on This Date in Criminal Justice History? (CRC Press, 2015), p. 91.
  38. ^ a b Transfer of ATF to U.S. Department of Justice[permanent dead link], Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
  39. ^ Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Bureau Archived April 7, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Federal Register.
  40. ^ a b Malykhina, Elena (April 25, 2014). "Justice Department Names New CIO". Government. InformationWeek. Archived from the original on April 26, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  41. ^ Dotgovwatch.com Archived November 9, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, October 18, 2007
  42. ^ "DOJ Forms Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team - October 6, 2021". Daily News Brief. October 6, 2021. Archived from the original on August 9, 2022. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  43. ^ 2015 Department of Justice Budget Authority by Appropriation Archived July 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, United States Department of Justice, Accessed July 13, 2015