In 1868, Congress gave the Attorney General the responsibility of representing the United States in all cases brought before the Court of Claims for any contract, agreement, or transaction with the executive departments, bureaus, or offices of executive departments. After the creation of the Department of Justice in 1870, a unit evolved within it that became known as the division for the defense of claims against the United States or the Courts of Claims Division.
The Attorney General created a new Claims Division in 1933 that consolidated responsibility for most of the litigating areas that comprise the present day Civil Division. In 1953, Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr., changed the name of the Claims Division to the Civil Division and broadened its responsibilities to include the litigation of the disbanded Customs Division.
In 1983, the Civil Division received additional responsibility for immigration and consumer protection litigation. With respect to its responsibility for consumer protection, the Civil Division litigates both criminal and civil actions under a number of federal statutes that are set out in 28 C.F.R. 0.45(j). In 1986, Congress enacted the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, and in 1990, it enacted the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. The Attorney General delegated implementation of these programs to the Civil Division.
The Civil Division represents the United States in any civil or criminal matter within its scope of responsibility – protecting the United States Treasury, ensuring that the federal government speaks with one voice in its view of the law, preserving the intent of Congress, and advancing the credibility of the government before the courts.
The major functions of the Division are to:
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