Selected Papers of Homer Cummings, Attorney General of the United States, 1933-1939

By Carl Brent Swisher; Homer S. Cummings | Go to book overview

2. Chief Counsel for the United States

The traditional functions of the Attorney General and his staff as the representatives of the government of the United States in the courts and in matters of public law and legal administration; from an address in the National Radio Forum, April 24, 1933:

THE Attorney General of the United States, it has frequently been remarked, is at the head of the largest law office in the world. About nine thousand employees and officials fall within its direct supervision. It is a complicated organization dealing with questions affecting hundreds of millions of dollars and with the most sacred of human rights. Its functions have never been more important or more vital than they are today. * * *

There seems to be an impression in many quarters that the chief duty of the Department of Justice is to detect, and punish, violators of the federal criminal laws. This, of course, is one of its essential functions, but there are others of great importance. For instance, the Department defends all civil claims against the government. This involves the consideration of an endless number of cases dealing with suits based on contracts; claims made for the refund of taxes asserted to have been overpaid; and various other matters of a similar nature. In addition, the Department represents the United States in innumerable civil suits to recover moneys claimed to be due to the government; it proceeds in matters of land condemnations and in other types of litigation too multifarious to mention.

During the year ending June 30, 1932, there were commenced in the United States district courts alone 126,363 cases to which the government was a party, as compared with 22,541 in the fiscal year of 1914. While the prohibition law has undoubt

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