United States Solicitor General

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The United States Solicitor General is the person appointed to represent the Government of the United States before the Supreme Court of the United States. The most recent Solicitor General, Elena Kagan, was nominated to the Supreme Court and confirmed by the Senate in August 2010.[1] The Principal Deputy, Neal Katyal, is currently serving as Acting Solicitor General.[2]

The Solicitor General determines the legal position that the United States will take in the Supreme Court. In addition to supervising and conducting cases in which the government is a party, the Solicitor General's office also files amicus curiae briefs in cases in which the federal government has a significant interest in the legal issue. The Solicitor General's office argues on behalf of the government in virtually every case in which the United States is a party, and also argues in most of the cases in which the government has filed an amicus brief. In the federal courts of appeal, the Office of the Solicitor General reviews cases decided against the United States and determines whether the government will seek review in the Supreme Court. The Solicitor General's office also reviews cases decided against the United States in the federal district courts and approves every case in which the government files an appeal.


Composition of the Office of the Solicitor General

The Solicitor General is assisted by four Deputy Solicitors General and seventeen Assistants to the Solicitor General. Three of the deputies are career attorneys in the Department of Justice. The remaining deputy is known as the "Principal Deputy," sometimes called the "political deputy" and, like the Solicitor General, typically leaves at the end of an administration. The Principal Deputy currently is Neal Katyal. The other deputies currently are Michael Dreeben, Edwin Kneedler, and Malcolm Stewart.

The Solicitor General or one of the deputies typically argues the most important cases in the Supreme Court. Cases not argued by the Solicitor General may be argued by one of the assistants or another government attorney.


The Solicitor General, who has offices in the Supreme Court Building as well as the Department of Justice Headquarters, has been called the "tenth justice"[3] as a result of the relationship of mutual respect that inevitably develops between the justices and the Solicitor General (and their respective staffs of clerks and deputies). As the most frequent advocate before the Court, the Office of the Solicitor General generally argues dozens of times each term. As a result, the Solicitor General tends to remain particularly comfortable during oral arguments that other advocates would find intimidating. Furthermore, when the Solicitor General's office endorses a petition for certiorari, review is frequently granted, which is remarkable given that only 75–125 of the over 7,500 petitions submitted each term are granted review by the Court.[4]

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