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A Brief History


More than 200 years ago, President George Washington signed into law the Judiciary Act of 1789, which directed that the President of the United States appoint in each federal district “a meet person learned in the law to act as an attorney for the United States.”  This person, the United States Attorney, was “to prosecute in [each] district all delinquents for crimes and offenses cognizable under the authority of the United States, and all civil actions in which the United States shall be concerned.”

The District of Virginia was one of the original 13 judicial districts created by the Judiciary Act of 1789.  The Eastern District of Virginia was created in 1871 following the division of the District of Virginia into two districts.  In the Eastern District, the United States Attorney’s Office presently has offices in Alexandria, Newport News, Norfolk, and Richmond.

From its early days and throughout its history, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia has led the nation in investigating and prosecuting cases of national and international significance.

Long known for aggressively prosecuting terrorism and espionage cases, the Eastern District continues that tradition while its top priorities also include battling economic espionage, piracy, theft of intellectual property, trafficking of weapons and narcotics, child exploitation, gangs and international criminal organizations, cybercrime, and public corruption.

Reflecting the size and diversity of the District as well as the increasingly international nature of crime, the cases handled by the Eastern District are far-reaching, arising from investigations that span the country and the globe.  The Eastern District of Virginia is at the forefront of protecting national security, using its international crime expertise to tackle these new and emerging international crime threats by spearheading innovative litigation and law enforcement efforts.

Trials of corrupt government officials, foreign bankers aiding U.S. tax evasion, government contractors committing crimes overseas, supporters of terrorist groups, and corporate executives trying to sell trade secrets abroad are only a few of the recent, successful prosecutions that distinguish the Eastern District of Virginia.

In the civil arena, besides handling a wide array of trial and appellate matters on behalf of the federal government, the Eastern District has collected significant sums through affirmative litigation, which often exceed the operating costs of our office, and which are returned to the public fisc.

Prominent Alumni

Eastern District alumni have made tremendous contributions in the public and private sector. Throughout their work, they have continued to be guided by the finest traditions of this District –traditions of honor, duty, and excellence. Those serving the Eastern District have gone on to serve as United States District Court Judges, United States Magistrate Judges, State Judges, Federal Public Defenders, and State Prosecutors.

Those serving as United States Attorney have included: John Marshall, who was appointed by President Washington to serve as the first United States Attorney for the District of Virginia and who later became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; William Wirt, an accomplished author who previously served as appointed counsel in the trial of Aaron Burr for treason and who later became the Attorney General of the United States; John Wise and Edmund Waddill, who both later served in Congress; Henry Hudson and Lawrence Groner, who both later served as federal judges; Richard Cullen, who later became the Attorney General of Virginia; Paul McNulty, who later became the Deputy Attorney General of the United States; and Justin Williams, whose memory this office honors each year by awarding the Justin Williams Award for Excellence to the Assistant United States Attorney who best demonstrates the values and traditions embodied by Justin.

Updated March 23, 2015