25 Sep 2018
Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., former United States Solicitor General, will deliver the College of Law’s Lane Lecture at noon on Sept. 21.
Verrilli, now a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson, and the founder of its Washington, D.C., office, will discuss “The Rule of Law: Not Just a Law of Rules.”
The talk, which is free and open to the public, is at the College of Law. Verilli will offer his perspectives on the rule of law, the Constitution, and contemporary events in American society.
Due in large part to the influence of Justice Scalia, conservative judges, academics and practicing lawyers have expressed their commitment to textualism in statutory construction and originalism in constitutional interpretation as a reflection of a deeper commitment to the rule of law – that is, to the idea that these methods of interpretation ensure that we remain a nation of laws in the sense that judges defer to the democratically legitimate expression of the law by the people and their representatives, rather than substituting their own moral or policy judgments. For all of its force and the positive disciplining effects this set of ideas has had on the way we approach legal texts, the centrality of the “rule of law as a law of rules” idea in conservative jurisprudence has produced at least two serious unfortunate consequences. First, it tends to promote divisiveness in the legal culture because it defines other interpretive methods, and the outcomes they produce, as illegitimate, and not merely the product of good faith disagreement. Second, and more pressingly, it tends to induce myopia. As the present moment illustrates, many adherents are acting in a manner that suggests that they value the confirmation of judges who share their views as a higher value than protection of the integrity of the legal institutions and the overall constitutional structure, without which their interpretive commitments ultimately will mean very little.
Verrilli is widely recognized as one of the nation’s premier Supreme Court and appellate lawyers. He served as Solicitor General from 2011-2016 and argued dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. His landmark victories include, among many others, his successful advocacy in defense of the Affordable Care Act in NFIB v. Sebelius and King v. Burwell; his successful advocacy for marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges and United States v. Windsor; and his vindication of federal immigration authority in Arizona v. United States.
The Nebraska Law Review has published “The Rule of Law: Not Just a Law of Rules,” Verrilli's cooresponding article.