The Attorney General’s Role as Chief Litigator for the United States

Headnotes: 

The following memorandum describes the development and present scope of the Attorney General’s role in representing the United States and its agencies in litigation. It discusses the policy reasons for the centralization of litigation authority in the Department of Justice, and analyzes the Attorney General’s relationship with client agencies. It also touches on the Attorney General’s authority to settle and compromise cases, and on his authority over litigation in international courts. It concludes that, absent clear legislative directives to the contrary, the Attorney General has plenary authority and responsibility over all litigation to which the United States or one of its agencies is a party, and that his discretion is circumscribed only by the President’s constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Updated July 9, 2014