Verrilli’s Stealth

March 23rd, 2013

Lincoln Caplan has a nice piece in the Times about Don Verrilli, focusing on how the Solicitor General is not flashy, but gets the job done.

It’s conventional wisdom in some circles that Mr. Verrilli is a fumbling lawyer who can’t hold his own at the Supreme Court. He received bad marks from professional colleagues after defending the Affordable Care Act last year, and obviously disappointed at least one prominent observer in Shelby County v. Holder — the voting rights case — a few weeks ago.

This reputation is undeserved. Mr. Verrilli 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.

Lincoln is 100% accurate. In the process of researching my book, and interviewing top DOJ officials, I have come to develop a newfound respect for Verrilli.

And, contrary to what most believe, he did not mess up in NFIB (other than coughing when water went down the wrong pipe). He stuck to his script.

In fact, the decisions that the Solicitor General made behind the scenes–in tension with what others in the Administration wanted–saved the day.