Academic journal article The Journal of Southern Legal History

Griffin Bell and the Department of Justice

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern Legal History

Griffin Bell and the Department of Justice

Article excerpt

Griffin Bell brought to the Office of Attorney General two important and enduring views as to the Department of Justice's role. While they may now seem obvious, they had been overlooked or not stressed in past years.

One view was diat the lawyers in the Department of Justice must function under the highest professional standards without regard to external political considerations. Judge Bell stressed that the Department must be independent and non-partisan, that it be a "neutral zone." This was especially important in the wake of the Watergate disaster by way of rebuilding public confidence in the Department as die Nation's law office and dispenser of impartial justice. Judge Bell put this belief in non-partisanship into action in a variety of ways throughout his tenure. One of the most dramatic demonstrations, in that Democratic Administration, was his selection of a Republican as Associate Attorney General, the third ranking position in the Department.

Judge Bell's otiier important view was that the Department had a continuing responsibility to work to improve the justice system. To that end, he created a new office - the Office for Improvements in die Administration of Justice (OIAJ) , headed by an assistant attorney general. That office was charged with conducting research into the workings of the system and identifying problems, with an emphasis on the federal judiciary but also on state systems, and developing solutions for problems that were identified. …

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