U.S. Solicitor General, administrative law

Document Type



This Article suggests that the Solicitor General has five quite distinct responsibilities: to provide the Supreme Court with accurate and balanced information, to help to shape the Court's docket, to assure that the government's presentations maintain a high level of professionalism, to frame government positions which strike an appropriate balance between justice and advocacy, and to identify the interests and policies of the government client whom he represents. These responsibilities at times place the Solicitor General under conflicting obligations, not merely conflicts between his or her duties to the Court and to the administration, but conflicts in the Solicitor General's obligations to different agencies and factions within the executive branch. There is no simple or general rule for resolving these problems; they are, rather, an ongoing and unavoidable part of the work of the Solicitor General's office. Administration and agency policies properly play a greater role in the framing of Supreme Court briefs than has generally been recognized; the critical problem is not to insist that that role expand or contract, but to define the circumstances when such policies ought and ought not be among the factors considered by the Solicitor General, and to ascertain what the policies and priorities of an administration may be on a given issue. In order to strike the proper balance among these competing obligations and policies, the Solicitor General must avoid becoming the personal partisan of any particular agency or of specific ideological goals.



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