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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Must the Attorney General be a lawyer?

Interesting post on the WSJ's law blog, which -- I believe -- requires registration.

In Sunday's Washington Post, historian Robert Dalleck argued that it is time for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to leave the administration. Dalleck says that in keeping Rumsfeld on the job, President Bush is keeping someone "who has become the public face of the U.S. debacle in Iraq."

Dallek details a telephone conversation between Rumsfeld and President Richard Nixon in March 1971. Nixon was offering career advice to the 39-year-old Rumsfeld, then head of the White House's Office of Economic Opportunity:

"You should be thinking of what you should do in the future . . . Down the road, my view is that you would be a Cabinet officer. . . . [A]nd you can do, as far as I'm concerned, anything in the Cabinet field, except I wouldn't put you in Defense and I wouldn't put you in State . . . actually, you could be attorney general."

Attorney general? Wait a minute, is Rummy one of us? Not according to our crack Law Blog research staff, which revealed that the secretary of defense is a law-school dropout, quitting Georgetown Law in 1957. This raises another question, which we'd like some help on -- has a non-lawyer ever served as attorney general? We thought the AG was the nation's top lawyer, but maybe President Nixon knew something we didn't.

A few of the comments are interesting as well:

There were some AGs who never received a formal legal education, such as Reverdy Johnson, AG from 1849-50, who read law with his father before being admitted to
the bar. But they all appear to have been lawyers before becoming AG.
Justice Robert Jackson (who was previously SG and AG) was a lawyer but never
received a law degree. He studied at Albany Law School, but didn't graduate.
Leaving aside the whole issue of whether it's time for Rummy to move on, or whether the U.S. has a "debacle" in Iraq, I'm curious: must the AG be a lawyer? Why or why not?