Law360 Quotes Pratik Shah on Tenure of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli

Pratik Shah, co-head of the Supreme Court and appellate practice at Akin Gump, was quoted in the Law360 article “ACA, Marriage Cases Only Fraction Of Verrilli’s Legacy,” which reviews the tenure of Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. who will be stepping down from his position later this month.

Verrilli, the article notes, argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of the Obama administration against the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal ban on same-sex marriage, in the 2013 case U.S. v. Windsor, and subsequently against state bans on same-sex marriage in the 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the majority found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Both decisions were 5-4 with, according to Shah, a former assistant to the solicitor general, Verrilli’s work on Windsor in particular a demonstration of his skill not only as an oral advocate but also in the work leading up to that point.

Shah said there was some disagreement behind the scenes about the particular strategy to take in the case, with the additional complication that some government lawyers had previously been in the position of defending the law they were now being asked to try and strike down. With Verrilli’s guidance and leadership, Shah said, everyone involved in the case felt they had been given “a fair shake” and that their concerns had been heard, even if the ultimate strategy taken was not in line with their personal views.

Shah added, “Given the tapestry of different emotions and interests and dynamics going on in that case, I think it really would not have turned out the way it did — or at least the process, I think, would have been a lot more difficult — but for Don’s steady hand, calming influence and, at times, commanding presence.” He continued by referencing Verrilli’s unanimous admiration by his colleagues in the Office of the Solicitor General, not only as a “brilliant” lawyer but also as an “exceptional” leader and person.