The Justice Department confirmed this morning that Ian Gershengorn, currently a deputy assistant attorney general in the civil division, will be the next principal deputy solicitor general. He replaces Sri Srinivasan who left for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Gershengorn once clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens and has argued once before the Supreme Court in 2005, while at Jenner & Block. He heads the federal programs branch at the Justice Department, which has put him in the position of defending the Affordable Care Act and other hot-button issues in the courts. His new position was first reported at SCOTUSblog.
The position of principal deputy is also known as the "political deputy" because it is not filled by a career civil servant. Because of that label, those who have held the position -- including Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. -- have had to fight the notion that it is a political post. In fact, it often falls to the political deputy to tell other executive branch agencies that their politically desired position in a pending case is not tenable before the high court.
With Donald Verrilli Jr. as solicitor general, Gershengorn's appointment means a Jenner & Block lock on the top positions in the elite office. Verrilli was at Jenner for 20 years, and Gershengorn was there for 12 years, before both joined the Justice Department in 2009. That's not a surprise, said the firm's Thomas Perrelli. "We have a combination of a great Supreme Court practice, and a deep commitment to government service," said Perrelli, who returned to the firm last year after serving as associate attorney general.
Perrelli, who has known Gershengorn since the Clinton administration, said Gershengorn's job in the civil division was great training for the demands of the SG's office. "He had to handle the most high-profile and controversial programs in the government at a faster pace" than what he will handle as a deputy SG, Perrelli said. "He's a tremendous lawyer."Hogan Lovells partner Neal Katyal, formerly the acting SG, also had high praise for Gershengorn. "I worked closely with Ian for two years and think he is first-rate. He did an extraordinary job managing the health care litigation and shows a wonderful balance of listening and advocacy skills. He has earned the respect of the career lawyers as well as the political appointees at the department, and I expect the justices will come to appreciate both Ian's candor and his zealous advocacy."