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Donald Verrilli to Say Goodbye to SCOTUS -- For Now

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on June 03, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Few faces are more familiar in the Supreme Court than Donald Verrilli's. As solicitor general, he's argued more cases before the Court over the last five years than any other attorney. And those included a large amount of landmark victories, from defending Obamacare to winning constitutional protections for same-sex couples.

But yesterday, Verrilli announced that he's stepping down at the end of this month. What's next for the future former Solicitor General? Our guess is he won't be away from the Supreme Court for too long.

A Long, Largely Successful Career

Verrilli served the Justice Department as solicitor general since June of 2011. His five years spent representing the federal government before the Supreme Court make him the seventh longest serving solicitor general in American history.

In many ways, he's been a particularly effective one as well. Verrilli twice successfully defended Obamacare before the Supreme Court, in 2012's National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, which upheld the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, and in 2015's King v. Burwell, which protected the act's tax credit scheme.

"Thanks to his efforts, 20 million more Americans now know the security of quality, affordable health care," President Obama said after Verrilli's resignation was announced.

Of course, protecting Obamacare wasn't Verrilli's signature achievement as solicitor general. His term was also marked by several historic civil rights triumphs. He successfully argued that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional in 2013, then convinced the Court that marriage equality was a fundamental right just two years later.

What's Next?

Verrilli hasn't announced his post-SG plans, but there's a strong likelihood that he'll end up back before the Supreme Court in short time. Many former solicitors general go on to become some of the most successful Supreme Court lawyers. Paul Clement, the solicitor general under George Bush, now helms the Supreme Court practice at Bancroft and argues before the Court regularly, for example. And while conflicts of interest may prevent Verrilli from litigating cases against the government for a period, and cases on which he worked, that would not create a total bar to Supreme Court practice.

Firms are presumably already making moves to bring Verrilli onboard. According to Bloomberg's Casey Sullivan (no relation), one of the BigLaw firms Verrilli is likely to consider is Jenner & Block, where he was previously a partner before leaving to join the DOJ.

Or perhaps Verrilli will follow the path taken by other former SGs, like Thurgood Marshall, Elena Kagan, and even William Howard Taft: staying at the Supreme Court itself, this time as a justice.

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