The U.S. Department of Justice, created in 1870, is headed by the U.S. Attorney General, who directs all the affairs and activities of the department. The Department of Justice conducts the United States’ case in appeals before the Supreme Court whenever the United States in involved. The Solicitor General usually argues special cases for the government in the Supreme Court, while members of his or her staff represent the government in other cases. The Justice Department also represents the government in legal matters generally, giving legal advice and opinions to the president and the heads of executive departments when requested.

The Attorney General supervises these activities and also directs the U.S. attorneys and U.S. marshals in the judicial districts around the country. (There is one U.S. district attorney and one U.S. marshal for every federal judicial district.) The Deputy Attorney General is primarily concerned with criminal law or investigative matters; he or she also directs the Executive Office of United States Attorneys. The Associate Attorney General generally supervises criminal matters. An Assistant Attorney General for Administration is responsible for matters relating to the internal administration of the department. The assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel serves as legal adviser to the president and the heads of executive branch agencies.

Divisions within the Department of Justice include the Antitrust Division, the Civil Rights Division, the Civil Division, the Criminal Division, the Environment and Natural Resources Division, and the Tax Division. The divisions may institute investigations or supervise or direct litigation in federal courts. Other bureaus and administrative units within the Department of Justice are the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, and the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

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