Commentary

Idaho-grown lawyer nominated by President Joe Biden to become next U.S. solicitor general

Elizabeth Barchas Prelogar, a Boise native, would become the second woman to lead that office if confirmed by Senate

August 18, 2021 4:07 am
Photo shows the U.S. Supreme Court at dusk

The U.S. Supreme Court at dusk. (Photo by Joe Ravi, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

President Joe Biden has nominated a native Idahoan, Elizabeth Barchas Prelogar, to serve as next Solicitor General of the United States. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she would be the second woman to head that office. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who served from 2009 to 2010, was the first. Prelogar would be the 46th U.S. solicitor general since Congress established the position in 1870. 

The solicitor general is a powerful legal position in the U.S. Department of Justice, just below the attorney general. The office represents the interests of the United States before the U.S. Supreme Court, deciding which cases to appeal to the court on behalf of the government and defending cases brought against the U.S.

The newest appointee to the office was born in Boise to Rudy and Jeanne Barchus in 1980. I don’t recall meeting Prelogar, but I knew her father, Rudy. He was an irrepressible individual and a talented lawyer who served as first head of the Consumer Protection Division in Idaho Attorney General Wayne Kidwell’s office. Rudy provided a good start for Prelogar’s remarkable legal career.

Prelogar graduated from Boise High School in 1998, graduated summa cum laude from Emory University in 2002 and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2005. In the interim she earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. 

Law clerkships with distinguished jurists are highly prized by new law school graduates, and it is extremely unusual to get more than one. However, Prelogar managed to get three. Her first was with then-judge Merrick Garland on the influential District of Columbia Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Garland is now the U.S. attorney general. She then clerked for two Supreme Court justices, first Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and then Elena Kagan.

Prelogar joined a prestigious law firm’s appellate practice division and later, from 2014 to 2019, served as an attorney in the solicitor general’s office. Perhaps because she is fluent in Russian, she was briefly assigned to the investigation of Russian interference into the 2016 U.S. presidential election being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. After six years in the solicitor general’s office, Prelogar went out to private law practice, but was named in January as principal deputy solicitor general and acting solicitor general.

Prelogar is more than a talented lawyer. She is reportedly blessed with a good sense of humor, like her father. In December 2016, she squared off with then-judge Brett Kavanaugh (before his elevation to the Supreme Court) in a comedic mock trial involving the “wrongful death” of Romeo and Juliet. 

Some may also recall that Prelogar was Miss Teen Idaho in 1998, Miss Idaho U.S.A. in 2001 and Miss Idaho in 2004. As Miss Idaho, she spent a year traveling to classrooms around the Gem State to raise awareness about showing sensitivity to individuals with disabilities.

In my estimation, President Biden has made an outstanding selection to run the government’s legal business before the Supreme Court. Prelogar has impeccable qualifications to advocate for the people and to support the legal foundation of this country. I expect to see even bigger things in her future.

Idahoans can be proud of this fine product of their state.

Editor’s note: This column has been updated to reflect Elizabeth Barchas Prelogar’s mother’s correct first name.

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Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Jim Jones served as Idaho attorney general for eight years (1983-1991) and as a justice of the Idaho Supreme Court for 12 years (2005-2017). His weekly columns are collected at JJCommonTater.com.

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