|73rd United States Attorney General|
August 16, 1979 – January 19, 1981
|Preceded by||Griffin Bell|
|Succeeded by||William French Smith|
July 17, 1935 |
Peekskill, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Johns Hopkins University
University of Maryland Law School
Benjamin Richard Civiletti (born July 17, 1935) served as the United States Attorney General during the last year and a half of the Carter administration, from 1979 to 1981. He is now a senior partner in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Venable LLP, specializing in commercial litigation and internal investigations, and in 2005 became the first U.S. lawyer to charge $1000 an hour. He is also currently one of the three members of the Independent Review board. The IRB is the board that the Teamsters Union must answer to when allegations of corruption and mafia infiltration surface.
Civiletti was educated at Johns Hopkins University, where he received a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1957, and at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, Maryland, where he was awarded a Juris Doctor (J.D.) in 1961.
Civiletti was a law clerk for W. Calvin Chestnut, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, and became an Assistant United States Attorney in Baltimore a year after graduating from law school.
Civiletti was serving as the Deputy Attorney General when his boss Griffin B. Bell resigned. He was elevated to the top job in the Justice Department on July 19, 1979. Although Bell was not involved in the shake-up and resigned voluntarily, it occurred during a major Cabinet shakeup in the Carter administration. On the same day, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph A. Califano, Jr. and Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal also resigned. Transportation Secretary Brock Adams soon followed.
Civiletti had come to Bell's attention when he was forming the Justice Department for the newly elected President by Carter's close confidant, Charles Kirbo, a law partner of Bell's who had once been involved in a case with Civiletti. Civiletti served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division and was elevated to Deputy Attorney General after the resignation of Carter's initial Deputy Attorney General, former longtime Pittsburgh Mayor Peter Flaherty.
As Attorney General, Civiletti argued several important cases on behalf of the U.S. government. Notably, he argued before the International Court of Justice on behalf of Americans being held captive in Iran during the Iran Hostage Crisis. He also argued before the US Supreme Court in support of the government's right to denaturalize Nazi war criminals.
Opinions written by Attorney General Civiletti interpreting the Constitution and federal law to say that government can't operate until Congress agrees on a spending bill set the stage for partial government shutdowns in later years.
On July 10, 2008, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley announced that Civiletti would serve as the Chairman of the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, setup to study the application of capital punishment in Maryland and make a recommendation on the abolition of the death penalty in Maryland. On November 12, 2008, the Commission voted 13-7, with Civiletti voting with the majority, to recommend that the Maryland General Assembly abolish capital punishment in the state.
Peter F. Flaherty
|U.S. Deputy Attorney General
Served under: Jimmy Carter
Charles B. Renfrew
Griffin B. Bell
|U.S. Attorney General
Served under: Jimmy Carter
William French Smith
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