October 26, 2018

Former solicitor general: Government lawyers critical to rule of law in troubling times

Former U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. spoke on the importance of public service on Oct. 26 during his opening remarks at the American Bar Association Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division’s Legal Skills Conference, held at the ABA office in Washington, D.C.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.

Verrilli said that public servants have an important responsibility, now more than ever: To be committed custodians of the rule of law.

“The rule of law is really under threat,” he told the room of more than 50 lawyers in government. “The best way we can preserve the rule of law in this country is for all of you to do your jobs the way they are supposed to be done” – with integrity, dignity and courage.

While Verrilli did not specifically name these threats, he did allude to repeated claims by President Donald Trump of a supposed “deep state” within government that is undermining the executive branch, as well as a troubling environment in Washington, with those on Capitol Hill stoking division among citizens. 

“There’s a lot of people who are trying to gain political advantage by undermining the faith of the people of the United States in the institutions of government,” Verrilli said.

But the former solicitor general said he believed that as a nation “we will get through this time,” particularly because of the dedicated work of those in public service.

Verrilli talked about the appreciation he gained for public servants when he joined the Justice Department in 2009 after more than 20 years in the private sector.

If the American people could see these lawyers at work “up close and in action, it would do so much to inspire them and bolster their faith in government,” Verrilli said, highlighting a devotion to their jobs as well as a strong sense of mission and purpose among them.

“Without you, the country would not work,” he told the audience.

Verrilli was solicitor general from 2011-16.

The 9,450-member ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division provides programs, publications and online resources specifically designed for government, public sector and military lawyers, as well as interested law students.