In the US and the UK, the Solicitor General is the Crown law officer below the Attorney General or (in Scotland) below the Lord Advocate.
The solicitor’s office in the UK is a not well known office although he acts as deputy to the Attorney General who has the more prominent role. In fact little is really known about the role of the two Law Officers, despite their function stretching back to Tudor times!
For some considerable time in the modern era, the two UK government Law Officers are active politicians charged with special ministerial duties such as givers of legal advice to (the Cabinet).
The office of Solicitor General can be traced back to what is seen as its first recognised holder, Sir John Port, around 1514-1515. Port was involved later in the trials of Thomas More and Anne Boleyn so the post is mostly Tudor in its early development.
In the UK, The Solicitor General supports the Attorney General across the range of his responsibilities. This includes:
– Deputising for the Attorney General and being responsible for such matters as the Attorney General delegates to him.
– Providing support to the Attorney General in a number of particular areas: superintendence of the Treasury Solicitor’s department, the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service), HM Crown Prosecuting Service Inspectorate and the SFO (Serious Fraud Office).
In addition, the Solicitor General supports the Attorney General on civil litigation and advice on civil law matters and on the public interest function.
In the United States, the task of the Solicitor General is to supervise and conduct government litigation in the Supreme Court. Virtually all such litigation is channeled and actively conducted by his Office.
The Solicitor General also determines the cases in which Supreme Court review will be sought by the government, the positions the government will take and conducts the oral arguments before the Supreme Court.
Those cases not argued by the Solicitor General personally are assigned either to an Assistant to the Solicitor General or to another government attorney.
Another responsibility of the Solicitor General is to review all cases decided adversely to the government in the lower courts, to determine whether they should be appealed and, if so, what position should be taken.
Moreover, the Solicitor General determines whether the government will participate as an amicus curiae (legal brief focus on influencing the outcome of a lawsuit) or intervene in cases in any appellate court.