The 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, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. United States Attorneys are appointed by the President of the United States and are confirmed by the United States Senate. The United States Attorneys serve at the discretion of the President of the United States. Each United States Attorney is the chief federal law enforcement officer of the United States within his or her particular jurisdiction.
The 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 that are administratively uncollectible.
The United States Attorney's Office conducts the majority of the criminal prosecutions handled by the Department of Justice. We receive criminal referrals from federal investigative agencies, state and local investigative agencies, and occasionally from citizens. After careful consideration of each criminal matter, the U.S. Attorney decides the appropriateness of bringing criminal charges and, when deemed appropriate, initiates prosecution. We investigate and prosecute a wide range of criminal activities and handle a diverse workload of criminal matters. That caseload includes violent crime, child pornography and exploitation, complex drug and money laundering activities, civil rights violations, public corruption, complex financial institution fraud, computer fraud, identity theft, tax fraud, environmental crime, organized crime, and cases involving multiple defendants and international organizations.
We also conduct the majority of the civil litigation handled by the Department of Justice. Our work in the civil arena entails the initiation of civil actions, or affirmative litigation, to assert and protect the interests of the United States. We also defend the interests of the government in lawsuits filed against the United States, referred to as defensive litigation. Our office handles other civil cases, such as when the United States is a third-party plaintiff or defendant, a creditor, or an intervener.
Finally, our office pursues the collection of debts owed to the Federal government. In this regard, we investigate, identify, and pursue financial assets that are subject to forfeiture or otherwise can be used to satisfy outstanding obligations. As a result, our office collects significant sums, which often exceed the operating costs of our office, and which are returned to the public fisc.