Solicitor General

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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).

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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.

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

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.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
References in periodicals archive ?
Wachtell, An Empirical Analysis of Supreme Court Certiorari Petition Procedures: The Call for Response and the Call for the Views of the Solicitor General, 16 Geo.
19, at 276 (from 1998 to 2004, the Court agreed with the Solicitor General's recommendation to deny certiorari between seventy-five and eighty-three percent of the time).
When the solicitor general's office was created in 1999, one of its goals was ramping up Texas' influence on federal law.
The lawyers in the solicitor general's office, who gather most days for lunch around a long wooden table in a 7th floor conference room, have busy dockets ahead.
As deputy White House counsel, Verrilli was little known outside Washington legal circles when Obama nominated him for solicitor general in 2011.
Roberts was often Verrilli's toughest questioner, pressing the solicitor general on any perceived flaw in his reasoning.
While the attorney general and solicitor general are consulted by the government on legal issues, the two top law officers along with the ASGs appear for the government in important matters in the Supreme Court.
Maninder Singh, who was Jaitley's junior, Indu Malhotra and the current Advocate General of Gujarat Tushar Mehta, who enjoys the confidence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are the front- runners for the posts of additional solicitor generals.
But the Solicitor General, Edward Garnier, QC, said the sentence was not "unduly lenient" despite widespread anger across Merseyside.
"Having looked closely at the sentencing options available to the judge, the Solicitor General did not believe that the sentence was outside the range of sentences which could have been properly imposed.
This Comment argues that the Solicitor General should behave more zealously in his (3) advocacy at the petition stage, which will almost certainly require him to file more cert.