Anyone who walks into the main building of the U.S. Department of Justice cannot help but be struck with a sense of history and authority. Towering over each end of the attorney general’s grand conference room, which Robert Kennedy used as his working office, are the inspiring twin lunettes of Justice Triumphant and Justice Defeated. Lining the halls of the fifth floor are murals depicting the work of the department as it was when the building opened in 1934.

The history of the Justice Department over the past century aptly reflects the corresponding increase in the power and authority of federal law. Still, the same basic factors that have set the department’s course over the past 100 years continue to shape and direct it today.