In the United States, the principal role of the Solicitor General is to represent the United States in litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court. In more important cases, the Solicitor General will appear personally before the Court; however, the duty of participating in oral argument is frequently delegated to lower-level attorneys in the Office of the Solicitor General. It is also the responsibility of the Solicitor General's Office to review all cases in which courts have decided against the U.S. government in order to determine which decisions should be appealed, and what arguments the government should make on appeal. Additionally, in cases in which the United States government is not a party, the Solicitor General decides whether the government should seek leave to file an amicus curiae brief.

The need for a "Solicitor General," subordinate to, but largely independent from, the Attorney General, is a function of the gradual increase in the responsibilities of the Attorney General, who originally occupied the position of the Solicitor General today:

[T]here shall * * * be appointed a * * * person, learned in the law, to act as attorney-general for the United States, * * * whose duty it shall be to prosecute and conduct all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States shall be concerned, and to give his advice and opinion upon questions of law when required by the President of the United States, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments, touching any matters that may concern their departments.

Act of Sept. 24, 1789, ch. 20, ยง 35, 1 Stat. 73, 93. The attorney-general of the early years was paid one half of the standard salary for cabinet members, and was expected to have enough time on his hands to make most of his money from private sector employment. The attorney-general was not in charge of a cabinet department. The attorney-general's responsibilities were poorly defined, and it was often unclear what relationship should exist between the Attorney-General's Office and the various federal district attorneys.

Eventually, the AG's authority over district attorneys (now United States Attorneys) was solidified. Gradually, however, the Office became overextended, leading to substantial expenditures for the hiring of outside counsel. It became impossible for the AG to handle the primary duty of handling Supreme Court litigation. This led, in the late Nineteenth Century, to the creation of the Office of the Solicitor General.

The current Solicitor General is Theodore Olson, who had previously argued in such cases as Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000) (Representing George W. Bush) and Koon v. United States, 518 US 81 (1996) (representing the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating).

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