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Historical Biography

Deputy Attorney General: James M. Cole

Portrait of Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole
Cole, James M.
35th Deputy Attorney General, -

James M. Cole was the 35th Deputy Attorney General of the United States. He served as the Department’s second-ranking official from June 2011 to January 2015.

As Deputy Attorney General, Mr. Cole enhanced coordination between the Department and financial regulatory agencies, including the SEC and IRS, and between the Department and overseas law enforcement, regulatory, and policy-making agencies in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, and other countries. He also helped formulate several high-profile initiatives, including the federal response to state decriminalization of marijuana and the “smart on crime” program to reduce the non-violent prison population and the large proportion of African Americans in federal prisons.

Mr. Cole first joined the Department in 1979 as part of the Attorney General’s Honors Program, serving initially as a trial attorney in the Criminal Division and later as Deputy Chief of the Division’s Public Integrity Section. At Public Integrity, Mr. Cole tried several notable cases, including prosecution of a U.S. District Judge, a member of Congress, and a federal prosecutor.

Mr. Cole entered private practice in 1992. While in private practice, he was chosen to serve as Special Counsel to the House Ethics Committee, in which role he led an investigation into allegations that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had improperly used tax-exempt funds for partisan purposes and misled the Committee in its inquiry. Mr. Cole’s investigation led to a bipartisan resolution that was approved by a majority of the full House, resulting in a formal reprimand of Speaker Gingrich and monetary penalties.

Mr. Cole has been an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University Law Center and has lectured at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He is a former chair of the American Bar Association’s White Collar Crime Committee and served as the Chair Elect of that association’s Criminal Justice Section. He received his B.A. from the University of Colorado (1975) and his J.D. from the University of California–Hastings (1979).

Updated February 29, 2024