Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. (Yale University, Columbia University School of Law) is nominated to be the Solicitor General. He would replace Elena Kagan, who became an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court last August. Neal Katyal has been acting Solicitor General since Kagan’s nomination to the court in May 2010.
- Born in New Rochelle, N.Y., in 1957.
- Has worked in the White House Counsel’s office since February 2010 as a senior and deputy counsel to the president. Previously served as special counsel to President Bill Clinton from May 1994 to July 1994.
- Served as Associate Deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department from February 2009 to January 2010.
- Worked at Jenner & Block LLP in Washington, D.C., from July 1988 to January 2009, first as an associate and later as a partner.
- Was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center from 1992 to 2008.
- Was an adjunct professor at American University’s Washington College of Law in the spring of 1995.
- Worked as an associate at Ennis Friedman & Bersoff in Washington from September 1986 to June 1988.
- Was a fellow at Columbia University School of Law from September 1985 to August 1986.
- Clerked for Associate Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. from July 1984 to August 1985.
- Clerked for U.S. District Judge J. Skelly Wright in Washington from June 1983 to July 1984.
- Was a summer associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP in New York in 1983.
- Was a summer associate at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP) in Washington in 1982.
- Clerked part time at Burns & Fox in New York during the 1981-1982 school year.
- Worked at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in New York as a paralegal from September 1979 to August 1980 and as a summer associate in 1981.
- Was editor-in-chief of Columbia Law Review from 1982 to 1983.
- Has been counsel in 34 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, counsel to an amicus in 30 additional merits cases and counsel to a party or an amicus at the certiorari stage in 80 cases before the court. Has tried approximately 80 cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals.
On his Senate Judiciary financial disclosure Verrilli reported $4.6 million in assets, including $1 million in cash, $2.3 million in securities and $1.2 million in real estate. He also reported $292,000 in liabilities from mortgages on his residence in Washington, for a net worth of $4.4 million.
President Barack Obama announced Monday that he will nominate Donald B. Verrilli Jr. to be Solicitor General.
Currently a deputy counsel to the president, Verrilli participated in more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court while a lawyer in private practice, arguing 12 of them. The Solicitor General argues the U.S. position in litigation before the Supreme Court.
The president passed over acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, who was rumored to be a favorite of Attorney General Eric Holder’s for the job.
Katyal, while a Georgetown University Law Center professor in 2006, argued the landmark Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case before the Supreme Court, in which the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay set up by the George W. Bush administration were declared to violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions. The Hamdan case made Katyal a darling of left-leaning progressives. But in the increasingly polarized Senate, that record made it unlikely that Republicans would confirm him.
The post has been filled on an acting basis since Elena Kagan was confirmed on March 19, 2022 to sit on the Supreme Court.
Verrilli was a litigator for more than 20 years in the Washington, D.C., office of the law firm Jenner & Block, where he served alongside Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, the department’s No. 3 official. Verrilli focused on First Amendment, telecommunications, and intellectual property law. He co-chaired the firm’s Supreme Court practice group from 2000 until 2009.
In February 2009, Verrilli joined the Justice Department as an Associate Deputy Attorney General with oversight over domestic and national security policy, before moving on to the White House.
He served as a law clerk to the Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. and to J. Skelly Wright of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Verrilli received his J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Columbia Law Review. He received his undergraduate degree from Yale University.
New York Attorney General-elect Eric Schneiderman (D) on Wednesday named three Justice Department veterans to his office, the New York Law Journal reported.
Barbara D. Underwood, who served as acting U.S. Solicitor General from January to June 2001 and principal deputy U.S. Solicitor General from March 1998 to January 2001, will retain her position as state solicitor general. She has argued 19 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Underwood also has served as chief assistant to the Eastern District U.S. Attorney.
Nancy Hoppock will serve as executive deputy attorney general for criminal justice. She currently works in the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office, where she has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and chief of the criminal division.
In addition, Schneiderman named three honorary co-chairs to his transition team, including Zachary W. Carter, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney LLP, who served as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York from from 1993 to 1999.
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Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan appeared to sit in on the high court’s first decision on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
It wasn’t evident Monday whether Kagan recused herself from participating in the court’s decision not to hear a challenge to the health care law, which became law when she was Obama’s Solicitor General. Her participation could mean that she does not see her role in the Obama administration as a reason to exclude herself from cases on the health care revamp, according to The Post.
Kagan said at her confirmation hearings in June that she didn’t participate in Justice Department work on the health care plan. But she declined to say whether she would recuse herself from cases before the Supreme Court on the health-care overhaul.
The justice has already recused herself from 25 cases that the court will take up this term, according to The Blog of Legal Times.
The leader of the Solicitor General’s office on Friday said his office’s unique practice of acknowledging mistakes that allowed the government to incorrectly prevail in an appeals court is at the “heart of what we do in the office.”
Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal said “confessions of error” usually come if there is a change in a law or a new understanding of the statute. He said the government typically requests that the appeals court vacate its decision and remand the case to a lower court when the Solicitor General admits to a mistake.
“That’s a remarkable thing for an advocate to say, ‘Yeah, we should have lost that one or it should have been different,” said Katyal, who has led the Solicitor General’s office since May, when Elena Kagan stepped down to join the Supreme Court.
The acting Solicitor General said his office has admitted to mistakes in two cases this term.
In Bond v. United States, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit sided with the government, ruling that the defendant in the case couldn’t argue that the law that led to her conviction was beyond the federal government’s constitutional authorities. But the Solicitor General’s office later said the appeal court’s decision was wrong.
In Pepper v. United States, the government initially agreed with a court ruling on a sentencing issue. In that case, the court found that a judge who discards a sentence and sets a new ones is prohibited from giving the defendant credit for rehabilitation efforts made after receiving the initial sentence. The Solicitor General’s office now disagrees with the decision.
Katyal said Solicitors General in Republican and Democratic administrations have confessed to errors, dating back to William Taft’s tenure as SG in the 1890s. He said the Solicitor General’s office under President Barack Obama also has followed the practice.
An Assistant Solicitor General became the number two official in the Office of the Solicitor General Tuesday, a Justice Department spokeswoman told Main Justice.
Leondra Kruger, who started at the office in 2007, is now the acting Principal Deputy Solicitor General. Neal Katyal, her predecessor, became acting Solicitor General in May, shortly after President Barack Obama nominated former Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.
Kruger was a visiting professor at the University of Chicago Law School in 2007 and an associate at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP from 2004 to 2006. She also clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens from 2003 to 2004 and Judge David S. Tatel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. from 2002 to 2003.
She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1997 and got her law degree from Yale University in 2001.
The Senate confirmed Elena Kagan to a seat on the Supreme Court Thursday afternoon.
Kagan, the Solicitor General, succeeds former Justice John Paul Stevens after winning a 63-37 vote, largely along party lines.
Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine were the only Republicans to vote in favor of her confirmation. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the sole Democrat to vote against her.
Kagan is the first Solicitor General confirmed to the Supreme Court in almost 70 years. She is also the fourth woman confirmed to the court.
Kagan watched the vote from the Solicitor General’s conference room on the 5th floor of Justice Department headquarters, a person with knowledge of her activities told Main Justice. Sounds of celebration could be heard from down the hall shortly after the vote.
Democratic senators lauded Kagan at a news conference after her confirmation, saying they were proud to vote for her.
“I was glad to be here to vote for Justice John Paul Stevens over 30 years ago — a great jurist, nominated by a Republican president, confirmed by an overwhelming Democratic Senate, unanimously … and now to vote for his successor,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said.
Additional reporting by Ryan J. Reilly and Channing Turner.
Three prominent Republicans who served in the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration testified Thursday on the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. But only one former government lawyer spoke out against the nominee.
Former Office of Legal Counsel Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith and ex-Solicitor General Gregory Garre lauded the nominee, noting her good character and experience as Harvard Law School dean and Solicitor General. Former OLC Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ed Whelan, however, said Kagan would be a liberal judicial activist and does not deserve confirmation.
The peculiarity of Republican support for a Democratic nominee was not lost on Goldsmith, who was hired by Kagan in 2004 to teach at Harvard Law School.
“It is a little awkward for me to talk about this because I am actually held up as a conservative scholar who was hired while serving in the Bush administration,” said Goldsmith, who served as Assistant Attorney General from 2003 to 2004. “I’m held up as the example of how open-minded she was. It makes it a little awkward for me to talk about this, but I do think that her actions as dean — not just in connection with me, but much more broadly — do demonstrate a commitment to a frank and open exchange of ideas and reveal a temperament ideally suited for the Supreme Court.”
The former OLC chief said he first met Kagan in 1994 when he was trying to become a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, where the nominee was teaching at the time. He spoke with her about a paper he was presenting to the faculty and she inundated him with an “avalanche” of questions.
“It was a truly remarkable performance,” Goldsmith said. “I’d been in the teaching market for many months, but I had not encountered Kagan’s razor sharp questions — questions that exposed weaknesses and inconsistencies in my thesis.”
Read Goldsmith’s full written testimony here.
Garre, who served as Solicitor General from 2008 to 2009, said Kagan has “served the government well” during her more than a year of service as Solicitor General. The former Solicitor General said Kagan has earned the “confidence, trust and admiration” of career lawyers in the Solicitor General’s office.
He also said Kagan’s lack of judicial experience should not detract from the nominee’s qualifications for a seat on the Supreme Court.
“Service as a Solicitor General is by no means a necessary or itself sufficient qualification to sit on the Supreme Court,” said Garre, now a partner at Latham & Watkins LLP. “But the Office of the Solicitor General offers a valuable training ground for service on the court.”
Read Garre’s full written testimony here.
Whelan, who served in the OLC from 2001 to 2004, veered away from his former Bush administration colleagues, expressing concern about how Kagan would vote on the Supreme Court. He said the nominee would not upset the line of “activist” Supreme Court decisions since the 1960s on the death penalty, abortion and gay rights that have “degraded American politics, institutions and culture.”
“Elena Kagan is a predictable vote — quite possibly the decisive fifth vote in favor of inventing a federal constitutional right to same sex marriage,” said Whelan, president of Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Judeo-Christian morality think tank.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) complimented Whelan on his written testimony, which expanded on his remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I found it up to your usual incisive and impactful standard,” Kyl said. “I only regret that none of my Democratic colleagues — except Sen. [Ted] Kaufman [of Delaware] — are here to be instructed in the error of their ways.”
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Senate Judiciary Committee members on Wednesday tried to get an in-depth look inside the Solicitor General’s office and a better understanding of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan during her third and final day before the panel. But Kagan’s remarks left some senators unsatisfied.
Senators pressed Kagan during a seven-hour back-and-forth to discuss matters connected to her office and disclose internal deliberations among her colleagues, including discussions about two cases that had political implications.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) asked the nominee to say whether her office spoke with the White House about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. Candelaria or Lopez-Rodriguez v. Holder cases. The Solicitor General’s office urged the Supreme Court to take up the U.S. Chamber of Commerce case, which questions the legality of an Arizona law that would penalize employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. But her office advised the court not to consider the Lopez-Rodriguez case decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which ruled that information given to immigration officials without a warrant or invitation could not be used in a civil immigration hearing.
Kagan said her office made the “correct decision on the law” on the two cases. But she declined to say whether her office and the White House discussed the cases.
“The Solicitor General’s office does from time to time – and I think this is true in every administration – have some communications with members of the White House with respect to particular cases,” Kagan said. “That is not a surprising thing and I think is true in every administration. But I don’t think it would be right to talk about internal deliberations in any particular case.”
Kyl was unsatisfied with Kagan’s answer.
While Kyl said he wouldn’t be shocked if the White House had a political interest in the cases, he said he would be surprised if the Solicitor General’s office made its decisions based on the “political advice or efforts” of the White House.
“I think that there wouldn’t be anything wrong with the committee understanding whether or not your decision was based on considerations other than purely legal especially if it came in the form of requests by the White House or people within the White House because of the rather political nature of these two cases,” Kyl said.
The nominee also declined to tell a testy Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) whether she would vote to hear several cases that may come before the court because she is still a party in the cases as Solicitor General. She added that she didn’t “want to count [her] chickens before” confirmation.
“You are counting your chickens right now,” Specter said. “I am one of your chickens. Potentially.”
But Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking panel Republican, tried to make the most of Kagan’s refusal to speak openly on issues that may involve her office by bringing up a Republican cause de célèbre.
The senator invoked Miguel Estrada, who befriended Kagan while they attended Harvard Law School and was President George W. Bush’s nominee for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Estrada’s nomination was filibustered by Democrats who wanted internal memos he authored during his time in the Solicitor General’s office under President George H.W. Bush.
Every living Solicitor General – including Kagan — supported the George W. Bush administration’s refusal to turn over the memos. Kagan, who said she supported Estrada’s nomination, said they understand “how important confidentiality within the office is to effective decision making.”
“I do think the Office of Solicitor General is a very special kind of office where candor and internal, really truly thorough deliberation is the norm and that it would very much inhibit that kind of appropriate deliberation about legal questions if internal documents had the potential to be made public generally in that way,” Kagan said.
The hearing on Kagan will continue tomorrow afternoon with testimony from witnesses chosen by the senators to speak about issues related to the nominee. Former Solicitor General Gregory Garre, now of Latham & Watkins LLP, is scheduled to testify as is former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Jack Goldsmith, who Kagan hired as a professor at Harvard Law School during her tenure as dean. Ethics and Public Policy Center President Ed Whelan, a former OLC official in the George W. Bush administration, will also testify.
In the East Room of the White House, President Barack Obama on Monday announced the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.
The president said Kagan embodied Stevens’ excellence, and he described her as a trailblazing leader - the first woman to serve as dean of Harvard Law School, the first woman to serve as Solicitor General, and potentially the next justice, which would mark the first time three women have sat on the high court.
Obama, calling Kagan his “old friend,” said the Solicitor General showed moxie with the choice of her first argument before the Supreme Court: The campaign finance case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Obama has harshly criticized court’s decision in Citizens United, which overturned bans on corporate giving, calling it a huge blow to efforts to rein in “undue influence.”
He began to shape the narrative of Kagan as accepting of “a broad array of perspectives,” and as the daughter of public servants — a public school teacher and a fair-housing lawyer — who understands how law affects the lives of everyday Americans.
Kagan, flanked Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden in the East Room of the White House on Monday, called her nomination to the Supreme Court “the honor of a lifetime.”
She said her appreciation for the court was “ever deeper and richer” after serving for a year as Solicitor General. Arguing before the court, she said, is the ”most thrilling and most humbling task a lawyer can perform.”
A clerk of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, Kagan said she was drawn to the law because she found it “challenging and endlessly interesting,” but also “because law matters, because it keeps us safe.”
Kagan said she was proud of her time at Harvard, and spoke of “the simple joy of teaching.”
Several of Kagan’s colleagues at the Justice Department sat in the front row for the event, including Attorney General Eric Holder, acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal and Deputy Solictor General Edwin Kneedler.
(Watch the full announcement here.)
MSNBC News’ Pete Williams first reported the news late Sunday.
Kagan had been one of the leading contenders for the Supreme Court nomination since Justice John Paul Stevens said last month he would retire. Attorney General Eric Holder, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, said Kagan “would be a great justice” for the Supreme Court.
“I think people … will get an understanding of who she is, what her judicial … philosophy is, if, in fact, she is, is the pick,” said Holder. “She’s done a wonderful job in the Justice Department. I’ve known her since the Clinton years, and I think she would be a great justice.”
Kagan has spent most of her career near the spotlight, at posts at top law schools and in the White House. But she has managed to avoid the extensive paper trail that has derailed previous nominations.
“I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of constitutional law in the past decade,” wrote high court watcher Tom Goldstein, in a SCOTUSblog post about the potential nomination.
In the Daily Beast, University of Colorado professor Paul Campos wondered how Kagan won tenure as a law school academic with a limited record of published work. “I read everything Elena Kagan has ever published. It didn’t take long,” he wrote, “in the nearly 20 years since Kagan became a law professor, she’s published very little academic scholarship—three law review articles, along with a couple of shorter essays and two brief book reviews.”
Kagan’s first argument before the high court came last September, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the controversial campaign finance case that removed limits on what corporations to spend on federal elections.
As the first woman to serve as Solicitor General, Kagan lays claim to another first — the first Solicitor General to ditch the traditional morning court the SG wears during oral arguments, instead wearing “a dark suit and an open-necked sky-blue blouse” for her debut. She has argued five other cases as Solicitor General.
During oral argument, the New York Times reported she “bantered easily” and appeared to be “popular with” the justices. She also seemed to have a “special rapport” with Justice Antonin Scalia, according to the paper.
She has a framed photograph in her office of her mentor, the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked. “[H]e was the best lawyer of the 20th century — an absolutely sterling advocate who did more to advance justice in our country (prior to becoming a Justice!) than anyone else I can think of,” Kagan told Main Justice last year (The last serving solicitor general to be nominated to the court was Thurgood Marshall).
Kagan has degrees from Princeton, Oxford and Harvard Law School, the last of which she received in 1986. After a few years in private practice at Williams & Connolly LLP, she started in academia at the University of Chicago, and was granted tenure in 1995. Her legal career has been punctuated with stints in politics. She worked on Michael Dukakis‘ 1988 presidential campaign, and for the Clinton White House, where she focused on domestic policy.
She moved to Harvard after she left the Clinton administration in 1999, and was promoted to dean of the law school four years later by then-Harvard president Lawrence Summers, who is now director of the president’s National Economic Council.
The Boston Globe described Kagan’s governing style at Harvard as one of “persistent experimentation,” and of “making the school more open to innovation and change.” Kagan is credited with bring more conservative voices to the law school’s faculty and improving student morale. The latter she was able to do largely by introducing small perks, like free tampons in women’s bathrooms and a volleyball court that doubled as a skating rink. It was a strategy, she told the Boston Globe, picked up from her former boss, Bill Clinton, who had faith in small, symbolic policies to help solve big problems.
“As it turns out,” she told the newspaper in 2008, “you can buy more student happiness per dollar by giving people free coffee than anything else I’ve discovered.”
Additional reporting by Ryan J. Reilly and Joe Palazzolo.