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Who Will Be the Next Solicitor General?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on February 13, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As President Trump's travel ban rockets to the Supreme Court, the administration's Justice Department remains noticeably understaffed -- at least when it comes to the solicitor general. Responsible for arguing on behalf of the federal government in the Supreme Court, the solicitor general's seat remains unfilled. The most likely nominee, Charles J. Cooper, withdrew his name from consideration on Thursday, saying he was no longer interested in the nomination process "after witnessing the treatment of my friend Jeff Sessions."

So, if not Cooper, who might it be?

Cooper Quits, Putting Conway in Front

Until Thursday, many signs pointed to Cooper as Trump's SG nominee. He was a close friend to Senator Jeff Sessions, who had just been confirmed as attorney general, and an established lawyer known for representing conservative causes, from defending California's Proposition 8 to Bob Jones University's ban on interracial dating -- as well as more humdrum cases on campaign finance and line-item vetoes.

But after helping Sessions prepare for his confirmation fight, Cooper seems to have decided that the position just isn't worth it. Condemning "a partisan opposition that will say anything and do anything to advance their political interests," Cooper announced "I am unwilling to subject myself, my family, and my friends to such a process."

With Cooper out, that leaves George T. Conway as a likely choice for the spot. The husband to the president's close advisor, Kellyanne Conway, and a litigation partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen, & Katz, Conway was reportedly the other name in the running alongside Cooper's.

But, unlike Cooper, Conway doesn't have the most experience before the Supreme Court. As Bloomberg notes, he's argued only one case before the Court, Morrison v. National Australia Bank, though he prevailed there with an 8-0 ruling.

Other Candidates Under Consideration

Kannon Shanmugam and Christopher Landau are also in the running, according to CNN. Shanmugam is a partner in Williams & Connolly's Supreme Court practice and has argued many cases before the Court. Landau heads Kirkland & Ellis's appellate practice and is known for his successful cert petitions.

Other names being considered include John Eastman and Miguel Estrada, the conservative website Newsmax reports. Eastman is a conservative legal scholar, while Estrada is perhaps best known for his failed 2001 nomination to the D.C. Circuit.

Currently, Noel Francisco is serving as acting solicitor general while the administration searches for a nominee. But even that is proving a bit complicated so far. In the litigation over the administration's travel ban, for example, Francisco did not sign the government's reply brief before the Ninth Circuit, after his former firm filed an amicus brief in support of the states challenging the ban.

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