Created by the Judiciary Act of 1789, the position of United States Attorney provided for the appointment in each judicial district of a "[p]erson learned in the law to act as attorney for the United States... whose duty it shall be 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..." This same act also established the position of Attorney General of the United States, specified the structure of the Supreme Court of the United States, and created inferior courts, including a district court system which make up the United States federal judiciary. Prior to the creation of the Department of Justice in 1870, the U.S. Attorneys were independent of the Attorney General and did not come under the Attorney General's supervision and authority.
The U.S. Attorney is appointed by the President of the United States for a term of four years or at pleasure of the President, with appointments subject to confirmation by the Senate. A U.S. Attorney shall continue in office beyond the appointed term until a successor is appointed and qualified.
The United States Department of Justice is called “the largest law firm in the world” and “the people’s law firm.” Each United States Attorney represents the Department of Justice, serves as the chief federal law enforcement officer in each judicial district and is responsible for coordinating multiple agency investigations within that district.
Most of the trial work in which the United States is a party is conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office. The Office has three primary statutory responsibilities under Section 507 of Title 28 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.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana is one of 94 United States Attorney’s Offices nationwide. The Western District is the largest of the three districts in the State of Louisiana. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has staffed offices in Shreveport and Lafayette with unstaffed branch offices in Alexandria, Lake Charles and Monroe. The office is organized into two legal divisions – Criminal and Civil, and one non-legal division - Administrative.
The Western District of Louisiana consists of 42 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes. The District is bordered by Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi and the Mississippi River to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. With a population of over two million people, the District represents 47.23% of the state’s population and covers two-thirds of the state’s land area. It has five of the seven major urban centers in the state: Shreveport/Bossier, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, and Alexandria. Three major interstate highways cross the District, Interstate 10 (in the southern part of the district running east to west), Interstate 20 (in the northern part of the district running east to west) and Interstate 49 (in the center of the state running north to south).
The Western District is also home to two of the largest military installations in the state. Barksdale Air Force Base (which includes Global Strike Command, 8th Air Force, 2d Bomber Wing, and 917th Wing) has 17,000 employees and covers 22,000 acres, and the U.S. Army Post at Fort Polk has 10,971 permanent residents and covers approximately 100,000 acres. Fort Polk houses the Joint Readiness Training Center which trains approximately 50,000 additional troops annually. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has exclusive jurisdiction over criminal and civil matters involving civilians at Barksdale and Fort Polk.
There is a Federal Penitentiary and Correctional Center located in Pollock, Louisiana, a Federal Detention Center and Federal Correctional Institution located in Oakdale, Louisiana, and an Immigration Detention Center located in Jena, Louisiana. Major Veterans Administration Hospitals are located in Shreveport and Pineville, Louisiana. There are also large national wildlife refuge areas, national forest areas and other significant federal assets throughout the District. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is actively involved in all of these federal enclaves.
The state’s four federally recognized Native American tribal communities, the Chitimacha Tribe, the Coushatta Tribe of La., the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, and the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of La., are located in the District, each operating a casino. Jurisdiction in Indian Country is based upon the unique sovereign relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes. Congress has criminalized certain acts that take place in Indian Country. The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutes cases arising in Indian Country involving felonies where either the defendant or the victim is an Indian or both the defendant and the victim are Indian. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also prosecutes cases involving misdemeanors where the defendant is a non-Indian.
The office is responsible for the prosecution of federal criminal statutes for the Western District of Louisiana, for all types of crimes ranging from acts of terrorism to public corruption, complex white collar crime, investment schemes, organized crime and gang activities, civil rights, internet-related crimes, drug trafficking, firearms violations, violent crimes, environmental crimes, tax evasion, illegal immigration and alien smuggling, and many other criminal acts.
The office also is charged, through its Civil Division, to represent the interests of the United States where the federal government is a party in defensive matters including employment disputes, medical malpractice, wrongful death, auto accidents, other tort actions, judicial review of agency decisions and cases challenging the constitutionality of federal statutes and regulatory schemes.
United States Attorney’s Offices represent over 200 federal agencies in civil litigation. Most of the civil suits handled by the Department are defensive in posture and often have huge sums of money or significant federal policies at risk. Defensive litigation encompasses a wide array of matters, including, but not limited to: federal tort claims (including a large number of medical malpractice cases at VA’s, military hospitals and community health centers); employment discrimination; immigration; Bivens; commercial; Social Security disability appeals; bankruptcy; and federal program litigation.
“The United States Attorney is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice be done. As such he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor -- indeed he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.”
-- Mr. Justice Sutherland in Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 88 (1935)