U.S. solicitor general to speak at Wayne Law commencement

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Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the 46th solicitor general of the United States, will receive an honorary degree and serve as keynote speaker Monday, May 16, at Wayne State University Law School’s Commencement.

The university will award Verrilli an honorary doctor of laws degree in tribute to his legal career and in recognition of his role in groundbreaking constitutional law cases. The solicitor general represents the federal government in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. The United States is involved in about two-thirds of all the cases the Supreme Court decides each year.

The ceremony, open to graduates and their guests, will take place at the Detroit Opera House. Tickets are required.

Verrilli was sworn in as solicitor general June 9, 2011, after the U.S. Senate voted 72-16 to confirm him to the position.

As solicitor general, he has argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of the United States, including National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius and King v. Burwell, which involved the Affordable Care Act; Obergefell v. Hodges, which involved the constitutionality of same-sex marriage; United States v. Windsor, which involved the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act; Arizona v. United States, which involved the pre-emption of state laws regulating
immigration; National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, which involved the scope of the president’s constitutional authority to make recess appointments; and Zivotofsky v. Kerry, which involved the president’s constitutional authority to recognize foreign governments.

Before becoming solicitor general, he served as deputy counsel to President Barack Obama and as an associate deputy attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Prior to joining the government, Verrilli was a partner in the law firm of Jenner & Block. As co-chair of the firm’s Supreme Court practice, he argued numerous cases in the Supreme Court, including MGM Studios Inc. v. Grokster, which established that companies that build businesses based on the illegal distribution of copyrighted material are liable for copyright infringement, and Wiggins v. Smith, which established standards for effective assistance of counsel for capital defendants. While at Jenner & Block, Verrilli maintained an active pro bono practice and received numerous awards for his efforts.

Verrilli earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his law degree from Columbia Law School, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review. He served as a law clerk to U.S. Court of Appeals Judge J. Skelly Wright, District of Columbia Circuit, and to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. From 1992 through 2008, he was an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he taught First Amendment law.

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