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President Trump’s administration has persistently challenged the legitimacy of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”). In the past, DOJ, like other governmental institutions, has been fairly resilient. Informal norms and practices have served to preserve its proper functioning, even under pressure. The strain of the past three years, however, has been different in kind and scale. This Article offers a typology of different roles for DOJ lawyers and argues that over time the institution has evolved by allocating different functions and responsibilities to different positions within DOJ. By doing so, it has for the most part maintained the proper balance between independence and responsiveness to the administration. By explaining these roles and responsibilities, this Article both describes the different DOJ lawyer roles and seeks to strengthen the institution by making the informal norms that preserve and protect its mission more explicit. The Article concludes that, as DOJ expanded, it evolved to allow the Attorney General to balance the political and legal responsibilities of his office. He does so by advising and implementing administration policies while preventing impermissible political considerations from influencing those DOJ officials who are charged with the neutral interpretation and enforcement of the law.


North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 98, Issue 5 (June 2020), pp. 1077-1142