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Judiciary Act of 1789 U.S. Attorney creation

Judiciary Act of 1789 - United States Attorneys Established

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland history dates to the signing of the Judiciary Act of 1789 that established the federal justice system. Pursuant to the Act, President George Washington appointed Richard Potts as the first Presidentially appointed United States Attorney for the District of Maryland. From its inception, the Office has grown into a force for vindicating the rights of citizens and addressing criminal conduct that tears at the fabric of a just society.

A hallmark of the Office continues to be upholding the rule of law and the premise of the American justice system that no one is above the law. The Office has a long history of investigating and prosecuting public corruption cases to hold those who have access to power accountable for its criminal abuse. These prosecutions include a Vice President, members of the United States Congress, a Governor of Maryland, county executives, mayors, and numerous state and local officeholders in Annapolis.  Public officials, lobbyists, police officers, and prison guards throughout the state have all faced the consequences of their misdeeds in abusing the public trust and been held accountable by the Maryland United States Attorney’s Office. 

The Office has also a lengthy history of prosecuting those who lead violent national street gangs, corporate executives who defraud vulnerable victims, and those who place the safety of Maryland and our nation at risk. The Office also deploys resources in the civil context to bring to justice those who have defrauded the United States in government contracting, and to defend the public treasury when the United States is sued. Building on these proud traditions, the Office today continues to focus on corruption, fraud, and violence, while also expanding its priorities into protecting the civil rights of all Marylanders as well as ensure their safety through a focus on combating terrorism and cybercrimes both domestic and abroad. In so doing, the Office continues its high standards of professionalism as it protects the most vulnerable against predators, protects communities from the most violent, and protects our national security.

Throughout its history, individuals who have served in the Office have distinguished themselves as leaders in government, law schools, the bar, and the judiciary, including, for example: a former United States Attorney General, a Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, a United States Senator, a Maryland Attorney General, a Mayor of Baltimore, a President of the University of Baltimore, a State Court of Appeals Judge, and former Deputy United States Attorney Generals, just to name a few. In both the public and private sector, alumni of the Office have assumed important leadership roles contributing to the essential functioning of the justice system.   

The strength of the Office is built upon the dedication, competence, integrity, and commitment of the individuals who work here. The Office’s history confirms that its people have been comprised of extraordinary professionals dedicated to public service. Their fidelity to service is essential to the continued prevalence of the rule of law and viability of our democratic Republic.


United States Attorneys serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. There are 93 United States Attorneys stationed throughout the United States and its territories. United States Attorneys are appointed by, and serve at the discretion of, the President of the United States, with advice and consent of the United States Senate. Each United States Attorney is the chief federal law enforcement officer of the United States within his or her district, and exercises wide discretion in the use of resources to further the priorities of the district and needs of its communities.

United States Attorneys have three statutory responsibilities under Title 28, Section 547 of the United States Code:

  • the prosecution of criminal cases brought by the federal government;
  • the prosecution and defense of civil cases in which the United States is a party; and
  • the collection of debts owed the federal government which are administratively uncollectible.
Updated August 25, 2023