When Elizabeth B. Prelogar ’08 was confirmed by the United States Senate as the 48th solicitor general of the United States, the federal government’s top advocate at the Supreme Court, she joined a long line of Harvard Law School community members to hold that position.
Nominated by President Joe Biden, Prelogar is only the second woman in U.S. history to serve as the government’s top lawyer. Former Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan ’86, the country’s first woman solicitor general, served from 2009 until her appointment to the Supreme Court in 2010.
Prior to her confirmation on Oct. 28, Prelogar had served as acting solicitor general since Biden’s inauguration in January. She was previously a partner at Cooley in Washington, D.C., where she focused on Supreme Court and appellate litigation. From 2014 to 2019, she served as an assistant to the U.S. solicitor general.
From 2017 to 2019, Prelogar was an assistant special counsel in the Special Counsel’s Office under Robert S. Mueller III in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, she was a clerk for Merrick Garland ’77, then a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and now attorney general. She then served consecutive Supreme Court clerkships for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’56-58 and Kagan. After her clerkships, she joined Hogan Lovells in its Supreme Court and appellate practice.
Last fall, Prelogar taught the Supreme Court and Appellate Advocacy Workshop at Harvard Law School.
Previous solicitors general with ties to Harvard Law School include:
Elena Kagan ’86
(President Barack Obama ’91)
Former Harvard Law School professor and dean Elena Kagan ’86 was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the 44th solicitor general of the United States in March 2009 — the first woman to hold the position. She served as solicitor general for a year before appointed an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, nominated by President Barack Obama ’91 to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens. Kagan, who graduated from Princeton University in 1981 and earned a master’s in philosophy from Oxford, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1986. From 1995 to 1999, she served in the White House, first as associate counsel to the president (1995-96) and then as deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy, and deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council (1997-99). In those positions she played a key role in the executive branch’s formulation, advocacy, and implementation of law and policy in areas ranging from education to crime to public health. Kagan first came to Harvard Law School as a visiting professor in 1999 and was named a professor of law in 2001. She was appointed dean of the law school in 2003. Kagan, who clerked for Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit and then for the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, practiced law as an associate at Williams & Connolly, and taught law on the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School before coming to Harvard.
Paul Clement ’92
(President George W. Bush)
Paul Clement graduated magna cum laude in 1992 from Harvard Law School, where he was the Supreme Court editor of the Harvard Law Review. Clement, who is currently a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Kirkland & Ellis, began his legal career as a clerk for Judge Laurence H. Silberman ’61 of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and went on to clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia ’60 of the Supreme Court. During the course of his career, he has worked at several private law firms in Washington, D.C. In the public sector, Clement has served as chief counsel of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Federalism, and Property Rights. Clement has also served as an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. Clement was appointed solicitor general by President George W. Bush in 2005. Prior to his confirmation, he served as acting solicitor general and as principal deputy solicitor general. He has argued more than 100 cases before the Court, including McConnell v. FEC, Tennessee v. Lane, Rumsfeld v. Padilla, United States v. Booker, MGM v. Grokster, ABC v. Aereo, Hobby Lobby v. Burwell and Rucho v. Common Cause.
(President Ronald Reagan)
Charles Fried was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, became a United States citizen in 1948, and was educated at Princeton, Oxford and Columbia Law School. The Beneficial Professor of Law, Fried has been teaching at Harvard Law School since 1961. Throughout his career, he has held many positions in the public sector, including special assistant to the attorney general, deputy solicitor general, and acting solicitor general. He has also had advisory roles in the Department of Transportation and the Executive Office of the President. He was appointed to the role of solicitor general by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, and served in that capacity until 1989. During his tenure, he represented the Reagan administration in 25 cases before the Supreme Court. Following his departure from the Office of the Solicitor General, Fried returned to Harvard Law School, and he was an associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts from 1995 until 1999. In 1999, he returned to teaching full-time. During his time as a teacher he has also argued a number of major cases in state and federal courts, most notably Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, in which the Supreme Court established the standards for the use of expert and scientific evidence in federal courts.
Wade H. McCree Jr. ’44
(Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan)
Wade H. McCree Jr. began his studies at Harvard Law School in 1941, but saw his academic career interrupted during World War II, when he was inducted into the U.S. Army. He spent four years on active duty, during which he rose to the rank of Captain and earned a Bronze Star. McCree returned to HLS and completed his degree in 1948, receiving a degree nunc pro tunc as a member of the class of 1944. Following his graduation from HLS, he moved to Detroit. In 1954, he was appointed as a trial judge on the Wayne County Circuit Court, and he became Michigan’s first elected black judge. President Kennedy appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in 1961, the first for an African American. In 1966, President Johnson appointed him to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, where he was again the first African-American to serve on the court. He was appointed as solicitor general in 1977, and personally argued 25 cases, including the Richard Nixon tapes case and the controversial Bakke “reverse-discrimination” case before the court. After leaving the Solicitor General’s Office he joined the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School and served three times as a Special Master for the United States Supreme Court.
Erwin Griswold ’28
(Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon)
Erwin Griswold received his law degree summa cum laude from HLS in 1928, and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1929, and began his legal career as a partner in the Cleveland law firm Griswold, Green, Palmer & Hadden. He left the firm later in 1929 to become a staff attorney in the Office of the Solicitor General, and also served as a special assistant to the attorney general in the period from 1929 to 1934. In 1934, he joined the faculty at Harvard Law School, first as an associate legal professor, and then as a full professor from 1935 until 1946. Griswold was appointed dean of Harvard Law School in 1946 and served in that role until his appointment as Solicitor General in 1967. During his tenure as dean, he doubled the size of the HLS faculty and oversaw the enrollments of the first female students in the 1950s. He also served as an expert witness for Thurgood Marshall, then the legal director of the NAACP, in several education cases in the 1950s. Griswold was appointed to the position of solicitor general by President Lyndon Johnson and he advocated in support of the Great Society legislation during his term. He remained the SG into President Nixon’s first term, and in the 1970s he represented the government in the controversial Pentagon Papers case. After leaving the Office of the SG, Griswold returned to private practice with law firm Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue in Washington, D.C., where he continued to argue cases before the Supreme Court.
Archibald Cox ’37
(Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson)
Following his graduation from HLS in 1937, Archibald Cox joined the Boston law firm of Ropes, Gray, Best, Coolidge and Rugg. His career in public service began during World War II with his appointment to the National Defense Board. He then went on to join the Officer of the Solicitor General before returning to Harvard Law School as a professor at the conclusion of WWII. During his time as an HLS professor, Cox was also a speech writer for John F. Kennedy, then the junior senator from Massachusetts.
President Kennedy appointed Cox to the role of Solicitor General in 1961, at which time Cox took a four-year leave from HLS to serve in that position. Following his departure from the role of SG in 1965, he returned to HLS. In 1973, Cox’s former student, Attorney General Elliott Richardson, appointed Cox to the role of special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal, a position from which he was ultimately fired, at President Nixon’s request, during what became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.” Cox has had a noteworthy teaching career at both HLS and Boston University Law School, and has received both the Paul Douglas Ethics in Government Award and the Thomas “Tip” O’Neill Citizenship Award.
Walter J. Cummings Jr. ’40
(Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower)
Walter J. Cummings Jr. was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1940, and began his career as a staff attorney in the Office of the Solicitor General. He served in the Office until 1946, and was also a special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General from 1944 to 1946. Following his departure from the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office in 1946, Cummings joined the Chicago firm Sidley, Austin, Burgess & Smith as a partner, and he remained at the firm until 1966, leaving only when President Truman appointed him to the role of Solicitor General in 1952. Cummings only appeared before the Court a few times before he was replaced by an appointee of then-incoming President Eisenhower. He was appointed to a judgeship on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1966, and went on to serve as chief judge from 1981-1986. He was a member of multiple judicial committees throughout his term, including the Joint Committees of Judicial Articles and Uniform Commercial Code, the Chicago U.S. Circuit Court Judges and the subcommittee on judicial improvements, and the ad hoc committee on disposition of court records. In addition, he was a committee visitors member at various law schools, including Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern, and the University of Chicago.
Francis Biddle ’11
(President Franklin Roosevelt)
Francis Biddle began his career as a private secretary to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. From there, he spent 27 years practicing law in Philadelphia, until President Roosevelt nominated him to be chairman of the National Labor Relations Board in 1935. He became a judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 1939 for one year, and was appointed Solicitor General in 1940. In 1941, President Roosevelt nominated him to the position of Attorney General, and he served the United States in this role throughout most of World War II, from 1941 to 1945. Following President Roosevelt’s death, Biddle resigned from his position as Attorney General at President Truman’s request, and was appointed as a judge at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.
Charles E. Hughes Jr. ’12
(President Herbert Hoover)
Charles Evans Hughes Jr. was the only son of former Secretary of State, Chief Justice of the United States, and former Republican Presidential nominee Charles Evans Hughes. He was editor of the Harvard Law Review from 1911-1912, and was admitted to the New York bar in 1913. He worked with several New York City law firms during the course of his career, including Bryne & Cutcheon, Cadwalder, Wickersham & Taft, Hughes, Schurman & Dwight (his father’s firm), and Hughes, Hubbard & Ewing. He was also a law secretary to New York State Justice Benjamin Cardozo. He left the practice of law in 1917 to serve as a private in the U.S. Army during World War I and earned the rank of Second Lieutenant before returning to the U.S. in 1919.Hughes was appointed to the role of Solicitor General by President Hoover in 1929, but saw his appointment cut short in 1930, when President Hoover nominated his father as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; when his father’s appointment to the Court was confirmed, he was required to step down.