President Barack Obama has tapped White House Deputy Counsel Donald Verrilli Jr. to serve as Solicitor General of the United States.
If confirmed by the Senate, Verrilli would fill the position now held by acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, who stepped into the job when Solicitor General Elena Kagan was nominated to the Supreme Court.
Verrilli was the former co-chair of the Supreme Court and Appellate practice group in the Washington office of Jenner & Block from 2000 until he joined the Obama Department of Justice in 2009 as an associate deputy attorney general. While at the Justice Department, Verrilli focused on domestic and national security policy issues.
Verrilli is a veteran Supreme Court advocate. He has argued 12 cases before the justices and participated in more than 100. His cases have ranged from the intricacies of intellectual property, such as his defense of music industry copyrights in 2005, to the complexities of the death penalty, such as his pro bono work in Wiggins v. Smith.
Besides his work in the Supreme Court, Verrilli also has participated in about 90 cases in federal and state appellate courts, arguing more than 30 appeals. While at Jenner, he was a member of the firm’s governing policy committee and chair of its diversity committee.
A former clerk to Justice William Brennan Jr., Verrilli is a graduate of Columbia Law School.
The solicitor general is the only position in government which, by law, must be filled by someone “learned in the law.”
Since the confirmation of Kagan, there has been considerable speculation within the Supreme Court bar community about her replacement. Katyal’s chances, some said, were dimmer than others because his Supreme Court representation of alleged terrorist Salim Hamdan could create controversy during a confirmation hearing. Katyal, who handled that case while he was on the faculty of Georgetown University Law Center, won his high court case—a major defeat for the Bush Administration and military tribunals.
The mild-mannered Verrilli is widely respected and well liked and known for the passion he brings to his work. In a 2007 profile in The National Law Journal, he said, “Every case in which I get a chance to argue at the Supreme Court is a thrilling experience, whether it's for NextWave [the mobile telecom company] or whoever.”