Essay: A New Law Enforcement Agenda for a New Attorney General

16 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2019

Date Written: June 11, 2019


President Donald Trump’s decision to dismiss U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions generated considerable legal and political controversy. The foci of debate have been whether the President could lawfully appoint Sessions’s chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, as Acting Attorney General and whether Whitaker was likely to dismiss Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the attorney appointed to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election. Lost in the wrangling over those matters is the issue whether the next attorney general should re-examine the direction of federal law enforcement. No attorney general has undertaken a comprehensive review of that enterprise for the last fifty years, and members of Congress, scholars, and practitioners have dis-agreed over the proper course. It is important for the next attorney general to consider taking up that issue even if all he does is start the conversation. The purpose of this essay is to facilitate that discussion by identifying three issues that the new attorney general should ask the Justice Department, the bench, the bar, the academy, and the public to ponder: (1) On what crimes should federal law enforcement focus? (2) Which federal law enforcement agency should be responsible for each category of those offenses? (3) How should we measure a federal law enforcement agency’s success?

Keywords: federal law enforcement, federal law enforcement priorities, federal law enforcement agencies, federal law enforcement success

Suggested Citation

Larkin, Jr., Paul James, Essay: A New Law Enforcement Agenda for a New Attorney General (June 11, 2019). Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2019. Available at SSRN:

Paul James Larkin, Jr. (Contact Author)

The Heritage Foundation ( email )

214 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002-4999
United States
202-608-6190 (Phone)

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