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A sincere thank you to Patrick Longan and Mercer Law Review for organizing this timely and important symposium on ethics and professionalism in the Office of the U.S. Attorney General. It is such a fascinating office to study, at the nexus of law and politics.

I was a college undergraduate during Watergate, when I first became aware there was an office of attorney general. In graduate school, my interest in it piqued when Edwin Meese was nominated by Ronald Reagan. From then on, I have focused my research on the U.S. Attorney General, especially the duality inherent in the office. Where does or should an attorney general’s loyalty lie: with the President or with the law? Can, in fact, the two be separated? After all, the Attorney General exercises power delegated by the President. Many of the Attorney General’s roles are political and administrative, not simply legal. Further, in a democracy, the political process is what makes government accountable. Yet, the office is unique among executive agencies and operates under different expectations. To ensure public trust in the fair administration of justice, which is an essential attribute of a stable democracy, law officers follow certain longstanding norms of the office.

A review of historical antecedents will provide some background for understanding how the office developed and what norms developed to serve the public trust.