The concept of an attorney general dates back to the Anglo-Norman system of government. During this time, French legal terms were introduced into the English system of government. The first mention of the term attornus Regis, or "king's attorney," was made in 1253. In 1472, the first formal appointment was made [source: History of the Attorney General's Office].
The office of the attorney general has always been of great importance; the attorney general was both legal representative of the king and royal government as well as the parens patriae, or "guardian of public interests." As such, the attorney general was charged with protecting the rights of both the crown and the public.
The history of attorney general in the United States dates back to the American Revolution and the establishment of a federal government free from Great Britain. Although Americans did not want to create a monarchy like Britain's, they thought it was important to institute an office similar to the British attorney general. The Judiciary Act of 1789, passed by the First Congress and signed into law President George Washington, established the office of the attorney general. According the provisions made when creating the office, the United States attorney general would be appointed by the president of the United States.
Since 1870 and the establishment of the Department of Justice as a part of the executive branch of the government, the U.S. attorney general has headed the world's largest law office. Throughout the history of the office, 81 Americans have served as attorney general.
When individual states were drafting their constitutions, most modeled their government on the federal system, and thus established the office of the attorney general on a state level. Most attorney generals are elected, while others are appointed by the governor, legislature or supreme court of the state.
For lots more information about attorney generals, check into the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- "About the Office." The Office of the Attorney General: The United States Department of Justice. http://www.justice.gov/ag/about-oag.html
- "Accused 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed faces New York trial." CNN. Nov. 13, 2009. http://edition.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/11/13/khalid.sheikh.mohammed/index.html
- "Attorney Generals of the United States: 1789 -- Present." The Office of the Attorney General: The United States Department of Justice. http://www.justice.gov/ag/aghistlist.php
- "Eric Holder Biography." Biography. http://www.biography.com/articles/Eric-Holder-391612
- "History of the Attorney General's Office." Nebraska Attorney General. http://www.ago.state.ne.us/your/jonbruning/history.htm
- "Holder: Guantanamo Detainee Decision Soon." NPR. Oct. 15, 2009. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113840271
- "Holder: Waterboarding is torture." Politico. Jan. 15, 2009. http://www.politico.com/blogs/politicolive/0109/Holder_Waterboarding_is_torture.html
- "Janet Reno." The Office of the Attorney General: The United States Department of Justice. http://www.justice.gov/ag/aghistpage.php?id=77
- "Meet the Attorney General." The Office of the Attorney General: The United States Department of Justice. http://www.justice.gov/ag/meet-ag.html
- Richey, Warren. "Attorneys general in 11 states poised to challenge healthcare bill." Christian Science Monitor. March 22, 2010. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2010/0322/Attorneys-general-in-11-states-poised-to-challenge-healthcare-bill
- White, Elmer E. "Michigan Lawyers in History." Michigan Bar. http://www.michbar.org/journal/article.cfm?articleID=87&volumeID=8