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Attorney General Merrick Garland Addresses the 115,000 Employees of the Department of Justice on His First Day


Washington, DC
United States

Former Acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson’s Remarks

Good morning.

It's my honor to welcome Merrick Garland back to the Department of Justice as the 86th Attorney General of the United States. I'd also like to recognize the Attorney General's wife Lynn, his brother-in-law Mitchell and his nieces Laura and Andrea. In many respects, this is a welcome home ceremony for the Attorney General. Before his appointment to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, he served with distinction in a number of positions here at Main Justice and as an Assistant U. S. Attorney in the District of Columbia.

I first met the Attorney General approximately 25 years ago when he was the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General. I have always admired his intellect, his integrity, his commitment to public service and his humility. He recognizes the traditions of the Department and trusts and respects its career civil servants. He sees his role as being the lawyer for the people of the United States and making decisions that are based on the law and the facts devoid of political considerations. During his confirmation hearing a few weeks ago, Attorney General Garland said: “It is a fitting time to reaffirm that the role of the Attorney General is to serve the rule of law and to ensure equal justice under the law.” As he further noted, this is a moment too, for recognizing “[the] employees of the Department and its law enforcement agencies, and their commitment to serve the cause of justice and protect the safety of our communities.”

This is an important period in the history of our venerated institution, and we are grateful to you Mr. Attorney General, for your willingness once again to answer the call to duty. We look forward to continuing to serve in the Department of Justice under your leadership.

Thank you very much.


U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Remarks

Thank you so much for those kind words, Monty.

As Monty said, we first met when I was working for the Deputy Attorney General. Monty was an Assistant U.S. Attorney. Initially a prosecutor and then a supervisor of prosecutors, Monty later jumped to the Department’s offices that make everything work. First to the Executive Office for U. S. Attorneys and then to the Justice Management Division. And for the past seven weeks, Monty has ensured that the Department continued to work and to honor its proud traditions during the leadership transition between new administrations. I am deeply grateful.

On January 7th of this year, when the President Elect announced his intention to nominate me for Attorney General, I spoke to the American people. On February 22nd, when my Senate Judiciary Committee hearing began, I spoke to the United States Congress. Today, I want to speak to you, the more than 115,000 employees of the United States Department of Justice. Now I had hoped to be standing before more of you today in this Great Hall, but the circumstances of the ongoing pandemic will not permit it. That, however, is a small disappointment compared to the hardships that many of you have suffered and the additional burdens you have borne as a consequence of the pandemic.

I have to tell you that when I walked in the door of Main Justice this morning, it really did feel like I was coming home. I first walked into this building when I was 26 years old. I was here for a job interview and I was awestruck. This is a beautiful hall and this is a beautiful building built in the midst of the Great Depression. But, it was the ideal of justice to which it is a monument that was truly awe inspiring. Everywhere I looked there were serious people pursuing the cause of Justice. I left the interview wanting the job badly. The way I'm sure each of you felt after your DOJ interview. The way we want everyone who interviews at DOJ to feel. I know that was how I felt every time I came back to interview for another Justice Department position and after leaving my first position for private practice, I did come back many times to serve in a variety of positions both career and non-career. Along the way, I worked with DOJ attorneys, agents and staff in every component of the Department and across the width and breadth of this country. Altogether, I served under five Attorneys General appointed by four Presidents. I know that some of you have notched up plenty more.

The Department of Justice has also been a large part of the lives of people who are close to me. My younger sister followed me to DOJ where she served as a career attorney in the Civil Division. More than 35 of my former law clerks went on to serve at the Justice Department in both career and non-career positions. Many of my closest friends are veterans of the Department with both career and non-career service. For all of you and for me, public service is more than a job. It is a calling. All of you have chosen the Department of Justice over other places where you might have used your skills and where you might have earned a higher salary. I am grateful beyond words for your service to this country. All of us are united by our commitment to the rule of law and to seeking equal justice under law. We are united by our commitment to protecting our country as our oath says, “from all enemies foreign and domestic,” and by our commitment to enforcing our country's laws and to ensuring the civil rights and the civil liberties of our people. The only way we can succeed and retain the trust of the American people is to adhere to the norms that have become part of the DNA of every Justice Department employee since Edward Levi’s stint as the first post-Watergate Attorney General.

As I said at the announcement of my nomination, those norms require that like cases be treated alike. That there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans; One rule for friends and another for foes; One rule for the powerful and another for the powerless; One rule for the rich and another for the poor; Or different rules depending upon one's race or ethnicity. At his swearing in, Attorney General Levi said: “If we are to have a government of laws and not of men, then it takes dedicated men and women to accomplish this through their zeal and determination, and also through fairness and impartiality. And I know that this Department always has had such dedicated men and women.” I, too, know that this Department has and always has had such dedicated people. I am honored to work with you once again. Together, we will show the American people by word and deed that the Department of Justice pursues equal justice and adheres to the rule of law.

Thank you.


Updated December 13, 2021