department of justice

The Role of the Attorney General

Feb 4, 2015
The US Department of Justice

Last week Senate confirmation hearings began for Loretta Lynch. She's President Obama’s nominee to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder. In light of the hearings, Pitt Law Professor David Harris talks about the role and responsibilities of the office of the Attorney General.

Harris first explains that the Attorney General is the top lawyer for the US government. Their role is to advise all of the departments of the executive branch, including the office of the President. He or she is also the administrator and chief of the US Justice Department. Harris says while the AG serves as a lawyer for the office of the President, it's not the same as representing the President. He offers Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon as examples.

"There has to be, there should be a separation between the white house and the political interests of the president," says Harris, which is why Janet Reno did not represent Bill Clinton in his impeachment hearing.

Harris says the office of the Attorney General has existed pretty much from the start of the nation in 1789, and the Justice Department was created in 1870. Read more at the Department of Justice website.


The U.S. Department of Justice has decided law enforcement agencies including the FBI, DEA and ATF must electronically record interrogations of people in custody. What could this mean for the future of law enforcement since some of these agencies have been resistant to this change in the past?

University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris said many local and state law enforcement agencies have already been using recordings for interrogations. 

“They know there’s a better way. Once you’ve tried doing this, once you’ve used recordings in court. It’s crazy not to, because it improves the process.”

The Future of Law Enforcement and Sentencing

Aug 13, 2013
Victor Caselle/Flickr

Opponents of the New York City Police Department’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy have long accused the program of having a racial bias. On Monday, their accusations were validated, as U.S. Judge District Shira Scheindlin ruled that the city’s implementation of such searches violated both the 4th and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution.

According to University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris, this ruling does not mean that there will be an end to the city’s stop-and-frisk policy. Instead, the policy must be altered so that it can fall in line with pre-existing standards for civilian searches.