Senate confirms Elizabeth Prelogar as government's top Supreme Court lawyer
WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed Elizabeth Prelogar on Thursday to be solicitor general – the top lawyer representing the federal government before the Supreme Court.
An Idaho native who is the second woman confirmed to the job, Prelogar was backed by predecessors from both parties and largely cruised through her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in September. She faced some GOP pushback because President Joe Biden has switched a number of the Trump administration's legal positions at the high court.
The vote was 53-36.
"She very well may be the best young attorney I've ever worked with in my life," tweeted Neal Katyal, a veteran appellate attorney and former acting solicitor general.
Sometimes referred to as the "10th justice," the solicitor general leads a team of lawyers who argue before the Supreme Court on behalf of the federal government and decide whether to appeal lower court rulings when the government is a party to the lawsuit.
More:Solicitor general pick Prelogar poised for approval despite 'flip-flopping' charge
Prelogar, who had previously served as acting solicitor general, takes over the office during a particularly tense moment at the Supreme Court, when disputes over abortion, guns and the death penalty feature prominently in the court's docket. The Biden administration filed one of the lawsuits against Texas' ban on most abortions that the court will hear Monday.
The federal government will also participate in oral argument next week in a major case involving New York's restrictions on handguns in public as well as a challenge to Mississippi's ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy argued Dec. 1 – a case anti-abortion advocates hope will overturn the court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.
The job is sometimes a stepping stone to the Supreme Court itself: Associate Justice Elena Kagan was the first woman to hold the position.
Prelogar, 41, a former Fulbright fellow and Harvard Law School graduate, clerked for Attorney General Merrick Garland, then a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She also clerked for two Supreme Court associate justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Kagan.
"She is well known to the bar as an outstanding oral advocate," a dozen former solicitors general of both parties wrote in a letter to the judiciary committee in September. "We have no doubt that Elizabeth’s experience both in government and in private practice has prepared her extremely well for the varied docket and important responsibilities of the solicitor general."