Why is the head of the Department of Justice not called the Secretary of Justice?


In the United States, the Attorney General leads the Department of Justice. This stands in contrast to other federal executive departments whose leaders hold the title of "Secretary".

Is there any particular reason why isn't the Attorney General called the Secretary of Justice?

This question is inspired by the comments on this answer.


Posted 2020-12-24T03:16:30.580

Reputation: 41 470



The position of U.S. Attorney General was established in 1789, while the U.S. Department of Justice was established in 1870, nearly a century later.

For awhile after the ratification of the Constitution, the role of the Attorney General was to advise the executive and legislative branches (equally) on legal matters, not be the person in charge of the law's execution. Calls for reform of the AG position began shortly after the new system of government was established; the political climate in the Grant presidency aligned in just the right way to finally cement those desired changes.

In other words, it was not the original intention of the position for the AG to serve as a 'secretary' in the same sense as Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, etc.


Posted 2020-12-24T03:16:30.580

Reputation: 526

Related info - the UK still has an "Attorney General" position that is much closer to the original USA one and that dates back to at least 1243. Being the chief legal advisor to the Crown and the Government is the main duty of the role. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attorney_General_for_England_and_Wales

– Tim B – 2020-12-24T18:30:05.883