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Our History

Although not yet a state, Kentucky was included as one of 15 original federal judicial districts created by Congress in the Judiciary Act of 1789. President George Washington appointed the first United States Attorney in Kentucky, George Nicholas, on September 29, 1789. The Commonwealth of Kentucky was a single district until 1901 when Congress divided the state into Western and Eastern districts.

Early U.S. Attorneys in Kentucky include John Breckinridge, who later served as U.S. Senator, and as Thomas Jefferson’s Attorney General; Joseph Hamilton Daviess, who prosecuted Aaron Burr and later died at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811; Robert Trimble, appointed U.S. Attorney by James Madison and later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by John Quincy Adams; John J. Crittenden, who later served as Governor of Kentucky, U.S. Senator, and Attorney General of the United States under three Presidents; James Harlan, appointed U.S. Attorney by Abraham Lincoln, he was the father of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan; and Benjamin Bristow, appointed U.S. Attorney by President U.S. Grant, he later practiced law in Louisville with future Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, served as the first Solicitor General of the United States in the new Department of Justice, and helped found the American Bar Association.

Updated October 13, 2021