Yeah, But Who Would Succeed Kagan as Solicitor General?
By Joe Palazzolo | May 10, 2010 12:00 pm

UPDATE 7:23 P.M. A White House spokesperson told Main Justice that conversations about Kagan’s possible replacement “haven’t even begun.”

UPDATE 1:17 P.M. The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder is reportingthat the White House “is poised” to nominate Verrilli as Solicitor General if Kagan is confirmed.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s confirmation to the Supreme Court would open one of the Justice Department’s most coveted positions. But the Obama administration wouldn’t have to look very hard, or far, for its next chief advocate.

Three candidates have already been mentioned in Washington legal circles: Preeta Bansal, general counsel to the Office of Management and Budget; Neal Katyal, Principal Deputy Solicitor General; and Donald Verrilli Jr., senior White House counsel.

Bansal, solicitor general of the state of New York from 1999 to 2002, was a finalist for the post at the start of the Obama administration. Lawyers inside and outside the administration expect her to take on a larger role in legal affairs, whether in the White House or in the Justice Department.

She has been general counsel at OMB since January 2009.

Before joining the Obama administration, Bansal was head of the appellate litigation group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. In the Clinton administration, she held positions in the White House counsel’s office, and in the Justice Department’s Office of Policy Development (now the Office of Legal Policy) and Antitrust Division.

In a nice bit of symmetry, Bansal (Harvard-Radcliffe College, Harvard Law School) clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens.

For more on Bansal, click here.

Neal Katyal (DOJ)

Katyal, the Kagan’s top deputy, joined the Solicitor General’s Office in January 2009, and has argued six cases before the high court as a government attorney.

As a Georgetown University law professor, Katyal successfully argued the landmark detainee rights case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld , in which a 5-3 majority on the Supreme Court found that the Bush administration’s military commissions violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions.

Katyal (Dartmouth College, Yale Law School) served in the Clinton administration as national security adviser to then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder.

Katyal clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer.

For more on Katyal, click here.

Then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Donald Verrilli at a panel at American University in November. (Photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice)

Verrilli joined the Justice Department as an Associate Deputy Attorney General in February 2009 and moved over to the White House earlier this year, as senior counsel. While at Justice, he focused on civil matters, including oversight of a review of the department’s use of the controversial state secrets privilege.

Before joining the administration, he was co-chair of Jenner & Block LLP’s firm’s appellate and Supreme Court practice, with a client list that included Viacom and the Motion Picture Association. His move to the Justice Department, after 21 years at Jenner, surprised some in Washington legal community who felt he was overqualified for an associate slot.

But the thinking was that if Kagan were nominated, Verrilli (Yale University, Columbia Law School) would make an excellent Solicitor General. And here we are.

Verrilli clerked for the late Justice William Brennan Jr.

For more on Verrilli, click here.


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