Knowing Your Government: The Attorney General’s Job Explained In Plain English

In the federal government of the United States, the Attorney General is a member of the Cabinet and, as head of the Department of Justice, is the top law enforcement officer and lawyer for the government. The attorney general may need to be distinguished from the Solicitor General, a high Justice Department official with the responsibility of representing the government before the Supreme Court. In cases of exceptional importance, however, the Attorney General may choose personally to represent the government to the Supreme Court.

The individual U.S. states and territories, as well as the federal capital of Washington, D.C. also have attorneys general with similar responsibilities. The majority of state Attorneys General are chosen by popular election, as opposed to the U.S. Attorney General, who is a presidential appointee confirmed by the Senate.

In nearly all United States jurisdictions the Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer of that jurisdiction, and as such Attorney General may also be considered a police rank. The proper form of addressing a person holding the office of Attorney General is “Mister/Madam Attorney General,” or “Attorney General,” and referred to as “Attorney General.” The plural is “Attorneys General” or “Attorneys-General”.

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