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SCOTUS Hands New SG a Hot Potato

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At BLT last Friday, David Ingram reported that Senate Democrats will push for a confirmation vote for Solicitor General nominee Donald Verrilli on June 6.  I expect he will be confirmed.  For executive branch nominations, the President should be allowed to name who he wants, within reason.

Today, the US Supreme Court called for the views of the Solicitor General in the Arizona capital case of Ryan v. Gonzales, No. 10-930.  Gonzales's case is on federal habeas corpus.  His lawyer says he is crazy mentally incompetent and so the case cannot go forward.  Arizona says habeas is not like a trial.  A habeas petitioner's ability to assist counsel is not critical.  The case can and should go forward.

This is where it gets interesting.  Verrilli is part of the anti-death-penalty bar.  He represented Baze in the injection case, Baze v. Rees.  All his old friends want Gonzales to win.  The US Department of Justice has an institutional interest in Arizona winning, because the United States has a capital punishment law of its own to enforce.  Obviously, Verrilli was going to have to resolve the tension between his old crusade and his new institutional role at some point, but SCOTUS has hit him with it right out of the gate.

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I'd note that Barack Obama while Senator wasn't exactly respectful of the idea that the Executive Branch should get who it wants.

Interesting post. I suspect that Verrilli isn't going to be a crusader here. I suspect we'll see the brief somehow take a very long time to be filed.

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