Watchdog Adds Another to Ethics Waiver Tracker

Solicitor General Permitted to Work on Case Involving Her Former Employer

Today, watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust announced a new addition to its Ethics Waiver Tracker. The Department of Justice granted Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, a law professor at Harvard University prior to joining the Biden Administration, a waiver to the Biden Ethics Pledge to participate in a case involving Harvard.

The waiver authorizes Prelogar to participate in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College. Students for Fair Admissions was brought on behalf of a group of Asian-American students who claimed Harvard’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian-American applicants. The plaintiffs lost in the First Circuit and have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), which has not yet made a decision whether to accept the case.

Prelogar was appointed to serve as the Biden Administration’s Acting Solicitor General on January 29, 2021. In June, SCOTUS delayed an appeal hearing in Students for Fair Admissions, asking Prelogar, in her role as Acting Solicitor General, to file a brief expressing the federal government’s views on the case. In August, the President announced Prelogar’s nomination for Solicitor General, forcing her to step down from her role as acting solicitor general. She was confirmed by the Senate on October 28 and received the waiver on November 18. On December 8, DOJ filed an amicus brief (signed by Prelogar) urging SCOTUS to reject the Students for Fair Admissions appeal. During the Trump Administration DOJ had weighed in on the case in favor of the plaintiffs. Prelogar’s waiver to the Biden Ethics Pledge indicates she was previously granted a waiver to federal ethics laws to participate in the case. That waiver has not yet been made available to the public.

In addition to adding Prelogar’s waiver to its Ethics Waiver Tracker, Protect the Public’s Trust also filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain records related to Prelogar’s involvement in the case. The requested records will help the public understand when and why such authorization was granted.

“While ethics waivers are not uncommon, transparency is vital to ensure the interests of the American public are protected,” declared Director of Protect the Public’s Trust, Michael Chamberlain. “The timeline of events around Ms. Prelogar’s waiver and her involvement in this important case raise questions. We’re hopeful that DOJ will quickly and completely provide the requested records.”

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