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DOJ's Prelogar given ethics waiver for SCOTUS Harvard admissions case

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Elizabeth Prelogar, President Joe Biden's nominee to serve as U.S. solicitor general, testifies before her U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in this frame grab from video shot on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2021. Picture taken September 14, 2021. U.S. Senate/Handout via Reuters

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  • U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar earlier served as lecturer at Harvard Law
  • DOJ sees U.S. Supreme Court case as 'potentially precedent-making'

(Reuters) - U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar has received an ethics waiver to allow her to work on the Harvard University student admissions case at the U.S. Supreme Court despite having earlier served as a guest lecturer at the law school.

The U.S. Justice Department said in its Nov. 18 waiver that Prelogar has "unique qualifications to meet the government's needs in this particular matter" as a veteran appellate lawyer whose career includes both public and private service.

The Biden administration's ethics rules bar covered officials, including certain lawyers and lobbyists, from touching matters that involved their former firms or clients for two years after appointment to the government. The waiver for Prelogar only applies to the Harvard admissions case specifically.

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A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Monday, and neither did William Consovoy of the litigation boutique Consovoy McCarthy, which represents the plaintiff Students for Fair Admissions Inc in the admissions lawsuit.

The Justice Department was invited in June at the Supreme Court to file a brief in the case, which challenges Harvard's race-conscious admissions process for undergraduate student admissions.

"The case is high profile and of considerable importance to the Department and the Administration. It raises a constitutional question that may have far-reaching and long-lasting effects on universities across the nation," DOJ's Lee Lofthus, the department's designated ethics official, wrote in the waiver. "The importance of this potentially precedent-making case increases the importance of your participation to the government."

Prelogar joined the Biden Justice Department in January as the principal deputy solicitor general. She was confirmed last month as the U.S. solicitor general. Prelogar arrived at DOJ from Cooley, where she had been a partner since January 2020.

Prelogar served as a consultant to Harvard Law from August 2011 to March 2020, and she was a a lecturer for six months last year, according to a financial disclosure she submitted after joining the Justice Department. She identified her Harvard salary in 2020 as $7,500.

Noel Francisco, a U.S. solicitor general under former President Donald Trump, received a waiver during his tenure to work on matters involving the law firm Jones Day, including cases in which a firm client, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was a party. He rejoined the firm last year.

Read more:

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WilmerHale alum at CIA given waiver to consult with ex-director

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