George Conway, the husband of Donald Trump’s top adviser Kellyanne Conway, is reportedly being considered for the post of U.S. solicitor general, the federal government’s lead lawyer before the Supreme Court.
CNN also reported that George Conway would accept the job if selected for the post, and that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the president-elect’s choice for attorney general, has interviewed him. The news of Conway’s possible nomination was first reported by Bloomberg.
If nominated and confirmed, Conway would defend the Trump administration’s positions before the nation’s high court and also decide what to do with top litigation priorities for the Obama administration in lower courts ― including pending disputes over the Affordable Care Act, transgender rights and immigration.
Conway is a partner at a top New York law firm, where he has worked for nearly 30 years and has garnered extensive litigation and appellate experience. After graduating from Yale Law School, he clerked for a federal appeals judge in Manhattan.
He has argued once before the Supreme Court, in a 2010 securities case, but his most high-profile work before the justices may be his involvement in the Paula Jones case against then-President Bill Clinton.
According to a profile of his wife in The New Yorker, Conway played a lead role writing the legal brief urging the Supreme Court to rule, in a landmark 1997 decision, that the president can be sued in his personal capacity for actions he took before taking office. But a 1999 article in The New York Times revealed that Conway’s ties to the case ― and ill feelings toward Clinton ― ran much deeper.
As legal twists would have it, one early test for Conway as solicitor general might be to push back against any and all challenges to Trump’s potential business conflicts while in office. Legal and ethics experts have argued that the president-elect’s vast business holdings raise conflicts of interest that could run afoul of the Constitution, which in turn could lead to court challenges.
Conway is listed as an expert on the website of The Federalist Society, the conservative legal group that handpicked some of the names on Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist. He once co-authored a paper for the collective supporting felon disenfranchisement laws.
Under federal law, the only requirement for a solicitor general is to be “learned in the law.” The official reports to the attorney general and is ultimately answerable to the president, but in much of his or her work the solicitor general, who also has an office in the Supreme Court building, is expected to exercise independence in legal judgment.
Donald Verrilli, President Barack Obama’s long-serving solicitor general, told The Huffington Post in September he viewed his role as standing up for the country’s interests in the courts.
“When I was in the government, I tried to represent my client, which was the United States, to the very best of my ability, every day,” Verrilli said. He stepped down in June, following a five-year tenure that included his successful defense ― twice ― of Obama’s health care law.
A number of notable solicitors general in history went on to become Supreme Court justices, including Elena Kagan and the late Robert Jackson and Thurgood Marshall. The latter once called the gig “the best job I’ve ever had.”