United States Department of Justice (DOJ)

Department of Justice
Learn about the United States Department of Justice.

What is the Department of Justice?

The mission of the United States Department of Justice is to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law. In addition, the DOJ is responsible for ensuring public safety against threats foreign and domestic; providing federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; seeking just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and ensuring e fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.

The Judiciary Act of 1789, created the Office of the Attorney General. Originally, the office began as a one-person part-time position who was “learned in the law” and had the duty “to prosecute and conduct all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States shall be concerned, and to give his advice and opinion upon questions of law when required by the President of the United States, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments, touching any matters that may concern their departments.” The legal workload quickly became too much for one person, and several assistants were hired for the Attorney General. Eventually, the caseload continued to grow and private attorneys were retained to work on cases.

In 1870, the United States Congress passed the Act to Establish the Department of Justice, chapter 150, 16 Statute 162 (1870) setting it up as “an executive department of the government of the United States” with the Attorney General as its head. Officially coming into existence on July 1, 1870, the Department of Justice, pursuant to the 1870 Act, was to handle the legal business of the United States. The Act gave the Department control over all criminal prosecutions and civil suits in which the United States had an interest. In addition, the Act gave the Attorney General and the Department control over federal law enforcement. To assist the Attorney General, the 1870 Act created the Office of the Solicitor General.

The 1870 Act is the foundation upon which the DOJ still rests. However, the structure of the Department of Justice has changed over the years, with the addition of the Deputy Attorneys General and the formation of the Divisions. Unchanged is the steadily increasing workload of the Department. It has become the world’s largest law office and the central agency for enforcement of federal laws.

DOJ Information and Resources

  • United States Department of Justice Website – The official website of the U.S. Justice Department.
  • Bureau of Justice Statistics – Collects, analyzes, publishes, and disseminates information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government. These data are critical to federal, state, and local policymakers in combating crime and ensuring that justice is both efficient and evenhanded.
  • Office of Justice Programs – The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides innovative leadership to federal, state, local, and tribal justice systems, by disseminating state-of-the art knowledge and practices across America, and providing grants for the implementation of these crime fighting strategies. Because most of the responsibility for crime control and prevention falls to law enforcement officers in states, cities, and neighborhoods, the federal government can be effective in these areas only to the extent that it can enter into partnerships with these officers. OJP does not directly carry out law enforcement and justice activities. Instead, OJP works in partnership with the justice community to identify the most pressing crime-related challenges confronting the justice system and to provide information, training, coordination, and innovative strategies and approaches for addressing these challenges.
  • National Criminal Justice Reference Service – NCJRS is a federally funded resource offering justice and substance abuse information to support research, policy, and program development worldwide.

Why do Private Investigators Need to Know about the DOJ?

From time to time, private investigators may become involved with cases that are connected to the department. Having a knowledge of how the department is structured and what resources are available will help with navigating the complexities of the government organization.


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