Spotlight: The Office of the U.S. Attorneys

Last week, we profiled the U.S. Courts; this week we take a look at the agency whose employees represent the federal government in those courts—the Office of the U.S. Attorneys (USA). Under the direction of the U.S. Attorney General (AG), the 93 U.S. Attorneys stationed throughout the nation are the chief federal law enforcement officers in their districts. Each is appointed by the President to a four-year term; all appointments are subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate. U.S. Attorneys are responsible for all federal criminal prosecutions and civil cases involving the U.S. government, as well as for the collection of debts owed to the federal government that are “administratively uncollectible.”

Although USA is part of the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), it predates that department by more than 80 years, having been created by the Judiciary Act of 1789—which also set out the structure of the U.S. Supreme Court and established the courts that make up the U.S. Federal Judiciary. USA came under the AG’s supervision and authority with the establishment of the DoJ in 1870. The Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) was created in 1953 to provide for close liaison between DoJ and the 94 judicial district offices; it also provides support for those offices, including administrative management oversight, technical and direct support in the area of facilities management, including acquisition of real property/space, construction, renovation, repair and relocation.

EOUSA’s headquarters offices are located within the DoJ building at 950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., and in the Bicentennial Building at 600 E St., N.W., in Washington, D.C.; the 94 USA offices are located throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Marianas Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. One U.S. Attorney is assigned to each of the 94 judicial districts, with the exception of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, where a single U.S. Attorney serves in both districts. Each U.S. Attorney supervises as many as 350 assistant U.S. attorneys, and as many as 350 more support staff. Together, USA and EOUSA employ more than 12,000 people, about half of whom are attorneys.

President Obama’s FY2013 budget request for USA is $1,974 million, about $14.4 million more than the FY2012 enacted budget of $1,960 million. Interestingly, some USA offices collect many times their budgets in fines, restitution, civil debt and criminal forfeitures. In FY2102, for example, the Idaho USA office set a record by collecting more than $84 million—more than 10 times its annual budget.