Back to Officials


Name: Verrilli, Donald
Current Position: Former Solicitor General

Donald B. Verrilli Jr.’s selection to succeed Elena Kagan as solicitor general was considered a surprise by some Washington insiders who believed the job would go to Neal Katyal, the acting solicitor general. The White House announced Verrilli’s nomination on January 24, 2011. The solicitor general is in charge of arguing the positions of the U.S. government before the Supreme Court.

Verrilli’s father was a lawyer with Irving Trust in New York, and his mother, Rose Marie,was the director of personnel of Richardson-Vicks U.S.A. Verrilli, graduated in 1975 from Wilton High School in Wilton, Connecticut. He received his Bachelor of Arts in history, cum laude, from Yale University (1979) and his JD 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 clerked for federal appellate Judge J. Skelly Wright and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr.
His career as a lawyer began with the firm Ennis, Friedman & Bersoff, which merged into Jenner & Block in 1988. Verrilli spent 20 years with Jenner & Block, specializing in media, telecommunications and First Amendment law. His clients also included the House Democratic leadership, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Governor's Association, death row prisoners, asylum seekers, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, the National Association of Broadcasters, NextWave, General Dynamics, Morris Communications, MGM, MCI, Viacom (against Google) and the Cellular Telecom & Internet Association.
Verrilli argued 13 cases before the Supreme Court, including his most famous victory, in 2005, in MGM v. Grokster, in which he represented the music industry on the issue of file sharing.
His first political appointment came in 1994, when he served as special counsel to President Bill Clinton, assisting in the confirmation fight for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
In 2000, Verrilli played the part of moderator Bernard Shaw during Democrat Joe Liberman’s practice sessions for his vice-presidential debate with Republican Dick Cheney.
In February 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Verrilli to the post of Associate U.S. Deputy Attorney General within the Department of Justice. In that capacity, he helped formulate rules for Justice Department review of claims that lawsuits should be dismissed because they might expose state secrets.
The following year, he joined the White House as associate counsel to the president, handling domestic legal policy matters such as immigration, health care, financial regulation and the BP oil spill.
He has been an adjunct professor of constitutional law at the Georgetown University Law Center for 14 years. Verrilli also has been a member of the board of visitors of Columbia’s law school.
His nomination to become solicitor general won kudos from both Democratic and Republican holders of the office. Walter Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general during the Clinton administration, told The New York Times that Verrilli was “unquestionably one of the best Supreme Court advocates of his time.” President George W. Bush’s solicitor general, Theodore Olson, said Verrilli was “intellectually sharp, invariably exceedingly well prepared, well liked by the people he works with and the people who are his subordinates.”
Verrilli has been married since 1988 to Gail Laster, a lawyer who has served at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and on the Democratic staff of the House Financial Services Committee. In 1992, while she served on the staff of Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, Laster was the first Congressional staffer to make contact with Anita Hill during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Verrilli and Laster have one daughter.
Profile (Wikipedia)
Don Verrilli (WhoRunsGov)
Obama Nominates a Deputy Counsel for Solicitor General (by Charlie Savage, New York Times)
Obama Nominates Wilton High Grad to Top Post (by Anthony Buzzeo, Daily Wilton)
Bookmark and Share