Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 1, 2014
Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building

Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building

July 1, 1870: The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) formally comes into existence. When the country was new, the Attorney General (AG) was a one-man job. He gave legal advice to Congress as well as the President. By 1819, due to work overload, Congress was no longer advised by the AG. Eventually a bureaucracy grew up around the job. To give official sanction to the increase in both work and personnel, William Lawrence headed the House Committee on the Judiciary and began to study the issue in 1869. It was hoped a “Law Department” headed by the AG could be created.

The first time it was proposed in February 1868 was unsuccessful. Lawrence was heavily involved in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson and could not devote the time to get backing for the DOJ Bill. A second try was put forth in February 1870 when Thomas Jenckes again introduced a bill to create a Department of Justice. This time it passed in both the Senate and the House and President Ulysses S. Grant signed it into law on June 22, 1870. The DOJ began officially with several new powers. The Act to Establish the Department of Justice gave it the supervision of all US attorneys, the prosecution of all federal crimes, and barred the use of private attorneys by the federal government.

The building to house the DOJ was designed by Milton Bennett Medary and completed in 1935 and contains over one million square feet of space. The building was renamed in 2001 adding Robert F Kennedy to the Department of Justice Building name. It is sometimes simply called Main Justice. There are four leadership offices: Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, Associate Attorney General, and Solicitor General. There are currently eight divisions within the DOJ (the ninth, the War Division, is no longer active) and six different law enforcement agencies are also administered by them. The US Marshals Service, FBI, Bureau of Prisons, ATF, DEA, and Office of the Inspector General are all part of the DOJ. There are several other offices and programs receiving oversight.

Today, Eric Holder is the Attorney General and James M Cole is Deputy Attorney General. There are about 113,500 employees and the Department has an annual budget of about $27.2 billion. Nearly half that ($13 billion) goes to law enforcement. The next largest budget item, $8.2 billion, comes under prisons. Litigation costs $3.3 billion and state and local assistance eat up another $2.1 billion. Administration uses the remaining $0.6 billion.

Seeking of the truth should be not only part of the Justice Department and part of our judicial system, but also should be… a goal of reporters today. – John Ensign

I think the Justice Department needs to be the final protector of the people of the United States of America. – Sheila Jackson Lee

All of us want to have meaning in our lives and want to feel like we’re doing something that makes a difference. I believe we’re doing that in the Justice Department. – John Ashcroft

Due process and judicial process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. – Eric Holder

Also on this day: Four Score and Seven Years Ago – In 1861, the Battle of Gettysburg begins.
Can I Get a Witness? – In 1879, The Watchtower was first published.
Russians Reading – In 1862, the Russian State Library is founded.
Close Call – In 1770 Lexell’s Comet missed Earth.

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