Justice Department:

Compliance with Vacancies Act

GGD-98-32R: Published: Nov 14, 1997. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 1997.

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Norman J. Rabkin
(202) 512-3610


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO presented its views on the applicability of the Vacancies Act to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

GAO noted that: (1) it has been DOJ's long-held position that the Attorney General has authority under 28 U.S.C. 509-510 to make temporary assignments of the duties and powers of the offices in DOJ, outside the limits of the Vacancies Act; (2) most recently, a letter dated May 2, 1997, from the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs asserted that because the Attorney General's powers in this area are so broad and flexible, and because 28 U.S.C. 510 addresses the assignment of duties at DOJ more specifically than the Vacancies Act, the Attorney General has ample authority, outside the Vacancies Act, to provide for the temporary discharge of the duties of DOJ officers when their positions become vacant; (3) GAO's long-held position has been that the provisions of the Vacancies Act are generally applicable to DOJ; (4) GAO believes that the Act can only be superseded by statutes that provide specifically for an alternate means of filling a particular office; (5) previous GAO decisions disagreeing with DOJ's interpretation have, in general, concluded that 28 U.S.C. 510, while permitting the Attorney General to delegate her functions, does not supersede the provisions of the Vacancies Act.

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