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Donald Verrilli

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Donald Verrilli

Donald Verrilli
Solicitor General of the United States
Assumed office
June 9, 2011
President Barack Obama
Deputy Neal Katyal
Sri Srinivasan
Preceded by Neal Katyal (Acting)
Personal details
Born (1957-06-29) June 29, 1957 (age 57)
New Rochelle, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Yale University
Columbia University

Donald Beaton Verrilli Jr. (born June 29th, 1957) is an American lawyer who serves as the current Solicitor General of the United States. He was sworn into the post on June 9, 2011.[1] On June 6, 2011, the United States Senate confirmed Verrilli in a 72–16 vote. President Barack Obama had nominated Verrilli to the post on January 26, 2011.[2][3][4] Verrilli previously served in the Obama administration as the Associate Deputy United States Attorney General, and as Deputy Counsel to the President.[5]

Early life and education

Verrilli was born in New Rochelle, New York in 1957 to Donald and Rose Marie Verrilli.[6][7] The family moved to Wilton, Connecticut, and Verrilli graduated from Wilton High School in 1975.[8] He received his B.A. cum laude from Yale University (1979) and his J.D. from Columbia Law School (1983), where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Columbia Law Review and a James Kent Scholar. After graduating from law school, he was a clerk for federal Court of Appeals Judge J. Skelly Wright and for Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr.


Verrilli was a senior litigator with Jenner & Block, a U.S. law firm. He specialized in telecommunications, media and First Amendment law. In 2005, he represented the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) before the Supreme Court in MGM v Grokster. In 2007, he represented Viacom in the Viacom v. Google. During the same year, he also represented RIAA in Capitol v. Thomas and opposed the retrial of the case.[9][10]

Verilli "has participated in more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court and has argued seventeen."[11] In addition to Grokster, these include two pro bono cases that were notable in the area of defendants rights. In Wiggins v. Smith, Verrilli successfully argued that his client had been denied effective assistance of counsel. In Montejo v. Louisiana, he unsuccessfully argued that his client's Sixth Amendment rights had been violated when he was questioned after having counsel appointed to him.

In early 2009, Verrilli was appointed by Barack Obama to the position of Associate United States Deputy Attorney General within the U.S. Department of Justice. In that capacity, he helped to formulate rules for Justice department review of claims that lawsuits should be dismissed because they might expose state secrets. Subsequently, in 2010, he moved to the White House as Deputy Counsel to the President. Verrilli was considered a leading candidate to replace Elena Kagan as Solicitor General of the United States, since her confirmation as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Work as Solicitor General

On January 26, 2011, President Obama nominated Verrilli to succeed Elena Kagan as Solicitor General of the United States. On May 12, 2011, the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary voted 17-1 to forward Verrilli's nomination to the full Senate.[12]

On May 26, 2011, Senate Democrats file for cloture on Verrilli's nomination. A cloture vote had been scheduled for June 6, 2011 but then was withdrawn right before the scheduled cloture vote. Instead, the Senate on June 6 proceeded straight to an up-or-down vote on Verrilli's nomination.[13] Senators then confirmed Verrilli in a 72–16 vote.[14] Verrilli was sworn in on June 9, 2011.[1]

On March 26, 27 and 28, 2012, he argued the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court. His performance on the 27th, the first involving substantive arguments regarding the constitutionality of the PPACA, was widely panned as a "disaster" for the Obama administration.[15][16][17][18] However, he was vindicated on June 28, 2012 when the court ruled that the individual mandate and most of the Act was constitutional,[19][20] albeit as a tax and not as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause. His oral arguments were praised by some who remarked that "court arguments are not television anchor tryouts; they’re about the merits of an argument, and a review of the transcript of the oral arguments from that day (with the benefit of hindsight, of course) finds Verrilli made a strong case for the government’s taxing power."[21] CNN legal commentator Jeffrey Toobin, one of Verrilli's strongest critics, apologized on-air and said "This is a day for Don Verrilli to take an enormous amount of credit, and for me to eat a bit of crow, because he won, and everyone should know that that argument was a winning argument, whatever you thought of it."[22]

After hearing his arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, Lincoln Caplan of The New York Times called Verrilli a "lawyer’s lawyer" and said that he "isn't showy, but he is a deeply experienced and capable advocate who finds ways to make technical legal arguments that persuade a majority of justices. While he’s not inspiring, he’s often effective."[23]


In 1988, Verrilli married Gail W. Laster, currently a lawyer on the Democratic staff of the House Financial Services Committee.[7] They have one daughter.


External links

  • Donald Verrilli nomination information, U.S. Senate
  • Don Verrilli at
Legal offices
Preceded by
Neal Katyal
Solicitor General of the United States
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