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A New Online Look for the Justice Department

October 2, 2009 Leave a comment

This Friday evening, I lingered at my desk and took a pleasant visit through the pages of Justice.gov, the new online home of the Department of Justice.

The site has most essentials of a good site re-launch – improved navigation, multimedia (including the Department’s own YouTube channel), and the usual social networking tools (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace).  And the color scheme – black, gold, and parchment –  manages to be both official and stylish.

Functionally, Justice.gov works for DOJ observers, Beltway types and legal practitioners – especially those that regularly practice before the Department. If you know the general bucket that your query falls into – agencies, press releases, etc. – the site generally gets you to the right place.

What’s absent, however, is some articulation of how the Department’s mission is executed through its constituent agencies,  and how the Department’s actions impact our daily lives. For example, how do actions by the Antitrust Division – such as those dramatized most recently in The Informant! – impact the US consumer?

I think the situation is easily remedied with some strategic fixes.  For instance, the “Agencies” section – which currently serves as little more than a portal to Justice Department agency websites – could be re-purposed.  It could link to a series of jump pages – which would sit between Justice.gov and the agency’s site.  The jump pages would contain text, graphics and media to help explain how the linked agency relates to the larger Justice Department organization.  A clickable organization chart would further illuminate understanding of how the Department is organized.

Providing this type of context would help promote the type of informed democracy that was envisioned by President Obama in his memo on Open and Transparent Government.

It will be interesting to see how the site unfolds.  For now, its aesthetics and newer content are worth the visit.  History buffs will be particularly pleased with the profile pages (complete with gilt-edged portraits), of the 81 “distinguished individuals” who have been appointed Attorney General since the Office was first created in 1789.

More details about Justice.gov are available on – yes, you guessed it – the Department’s new blog.