Clement and Verrilli at the Corporate Counsel Institute

March 12, 2012 — U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. and former Solicitor General Paul D. Clement (F’88) had more than business on their minds when they appeared at Georgetown Law for the 16th annual Corporate Counsel Institute (CCI) on March 9. But these two distinguished advocates — slated to argue on opposing sides of the Affordable Care Act case in the Supreme Court in two weeks — took time to sit down with Professor Steven Goldblatt (L’70) for a “Supreme Court Review.”

It was more than a review, as the pair could not fail to mention what Clement called the “800-pound gorilla in the room” — the health care case to be heard March 26-28. While most of what they have to say on the matter will have to wait until then, Clement, who will be arguing on behalf of the state petitioners, walked CCI participants through the four major issues: the Anti-Injunction Act question, the Medicaid issue, the constitutionality of the individual mandate, and the severability question if the mandate is struck down.

Verrilli did not to try to persuade the audience, which included corporate counsel and law firm partners, of the U.S. government’s position. But in a discussion on the individual mandate/minimum coverage provision, he was careful to assure listeners that the matter was being “given the serious attention it deserves by the court, by the United States and by all litigants.” (The amicus briefs alone, he said, have required several carts.)

While it won’t be a term remembered for blockbuster business cases, both Verrilli and Clement soon turned to matters of interest to in-house attorneys — including Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, involving corporate liability for human rights abuses overseas under the Alien Tort Statute. The Court heard Kiobel February 28 but ordered a rehearing March 5 to explore to what extent the courts can recognize a cause of action under the statute for abuses occurring overseas in the first place.

Goldblatt noted that if you polled the Supreme Court bar on whom the lawyers would most like to see discussing the current Court term, the answer would likely be Clement and Verrilli, hailed as “two of the finest appellate advocates in the country.” Both have also served as Law Center adjunct professors; Verrilli taught constitutional law here for more than 15 years. Clement, who co-teaches a separation of powers seminar, has also been a visiting professor and senior fellow at the Supreme Court Institute.

“However [the health care case] comes out,” Goldblatt said, “we’re fortunate that these two are involved in it."

-- Ann W. Parks