U.S. Department of Justice
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is an umbrella organization that shelters many other government agencies and departments. The head of the DOJ is the attorney general of the United States, a position appointed by the president. The DOJ began in 1789 with a staff of one, the attorney general. Originally, the attorney general worked part time, as it was not even a full-time job.
The mission statement of the Department of Justice outlines the following departmental goals and objectives: “To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”
The first attorney general was Edmund Randolph. He kept precarious peace between bitter rivals Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. After he left office, Randolph went back into private practice. His most famous case involved defending Aaron Burr against charges of treason. Burr, most famous now for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, supposedly intended to create a rebel army that would have carved a massive new country out of portions of the American Southwest. Burr was acquitted.
While he was attorney general, Randolph's mandate was “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.”
Of course, it was only a matter of time before the workload became too much for one person to perform efficiently. Private lawyers were employed to help the attorney general. Then, in 1870, Congress passed the Act to Establish the Department of Justice, setting the new department up as “an executive department of the government of the United States” with the attorney general as the head. Since its establishment more than a century ago, the U.S. Department of Justice has become the world's largest law office and the central agency for enforcement of federal laws.