Solicitor General

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to Solicitor General: Attorney General

Solicitor General

An officer of the U.S. Justice Department who represents the federal government in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The solicitor general is charged with representing the Executive Branch of the U.S. government in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. This means that the solicitor and the solicitor's staff are the chief courtroom lawyers for the government, preparing legal briefs and making oral arguments in the Supreme Court. The solicitor general also decides which cases the United States should appeal from adverse lower-court decisions.Congress established the office of solicitor general in 1870 as part of the legislation creating the Department of Justice. Although early solicitors occasionally handled federal trials, for the most part the solicitor general has concentrated on appeals to the Supreme Court. In this role the solicitor has come to serve the interests of both the executive branch and the Supreme Court.

The federal government litigates thousands of cases each year. When a government agency loses in the federal district court and the federal court of appeals, it usually seeks to file a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court. The Court uses this writ procedure as a tool for discretionary review. The solicitor general reviews these agency requests and typically will reject most of them. This screening function reduces the workload of the Supreme Court in processing petitions, and it enhances the credibility of the solicitor general when he or she requests certiorari. The Court grants review in approximately 80 percent of the certiorari petitions filed by the solicitor general, compared with only 3 percent filed by other attorneys.

The solicitor general occasionally files Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) briefs in cases where the U.S. government is not a party but important government interests are at stake. Sometimes the Court itself will request that the solicitor file a brief where the government is not a party. The Court also allows the solicitor general to participate in oral arguments as an amicus.

Four former solicitors general later served on the Supreme Court: William Howard Taft, stanley f. reed, robert h. jackson, and Thurgood Marshall.

Further readings

Caplan, Lincoln. 1988. The Tenth Justice: The Solicitor General and the Rule of Law. New York: Vintage Books.

Pacelle, Richard L. 2003. Between Law & Politics: The Solicitor General and the Structuring of Race, Gender, and Reproductive Rights Litigation. College Station: Texas A&M Univ. Press.

Salokar, Rebecca Mae. 1992. The Solicitor General: The Politics of Law. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

U.S. Government Manual Website. Available online at <> (accessed November 10, 2003).

Solicitor General

n. the chief trial attorney in the Federal Department of Justice responsible for arguing cases before the Supreme Court, and ranking second to the Attorney General in the Department.

Solicitor General

law officer for England and Wales in the Westminster Parliament, deputy to the Attorney General. In the USA a law officer who assists an Attorney General and the official who represents the federal government in court.
References in periodicals archive ?
Solicitor General Jose Calida accompanied by VACC Dante Jimenez and Atty.
First, the Solicitor General enjoys unique independence within the executive branch, and has broad autonomy in determining the government's position on cases coming before the Court.
The Solicitor General petitions for review in a small fraction of the cases that the government loses in the courts of appeals.
To be fair, Obama is using the Office of the Solicitor General the way it has always been used, to defend and expand government power in general, federal power over state power, and executive power over the powers of the other branches.
CVSGs are a unique feature of Supreme Court practice, and they underscore the special position of the Solicitor General in Supreme Court litigation.
In 2001 she was a surprise choice as Solicitor General - prompting some legal figures to doubt her ability.
Pictures, IAIN FINDLAY' Front row, left to right: Mike O' Brien, Solicitor General and Kevin Martin, president of The Law Society Of England and Wales, with leading solicitors and barristers from Birmingham at the St Phillips Chambers
A report setting out the case, mitigating and aggravating factors, pre-sentence reports and sentencing guidelines has now been prepared for The Solicitor General.
Rehnquist, was a legal advisor in the Reagan White House and was deputy solicitor general under the first President Bush.
From 1989 to 1993, he was Bush I's deputy solicitor general, where he helped formulate the Administration's legal positions and then advocated them before the Supreme Court.
Treasury and the Justice Department--where he served as Solicitor General and eventually as Attorney General during the volatile New Deal era which brought about monumental change in American society--also secured his stature in American history.