PUBLISHED:March 02, 2020

Dellinger to address class of 2020 graduation convocation


The former solicitor general and longtime Duke professor will be the featured speaker at the Law School's May 9 ceremony.

Prof. Walter Dellinger Prof. Walter Dellinger

Walter Dellinger, a renowned Supreme Court advocate who served as solicitor general and assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration and has been a member of the Duke Law School faculty since 1969, will address the class of 2020 at their graduation convocation on May 9.

“Walter Dellinger’s remarkable legal career has spanned the highest levels of academia, public service, and private practice, and he has been a treasured member of the Duke Law family for over 50 years,” said Kerry Abrams, James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke Dean of the School of Law. “I am delighted that he will be speaking to our graduates as they reach this important milestone in their lives in the law.”

Dellinger, the Douglas B. Maggs Professor Emeritus of Law, joined the faculty in 1969. He served as acting dean of the Law School from 1976-77.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated Dellinger to serve as assistant U.S. attorney general and head of the Office of Legal Counsel, the principal legal adviser to the attorney general and the president. After being confirmed by the Senate, he held the position for three years, issuing opinions on issues ranging from national security and international trade to affirmative action and religion in public schools.

Three years later, Dellinger was tapped to represent the government before the U.S. Supreme Court as acting solicitor general. The nine cases he argued during the 1996-97 term – the most by any solicitor general in more than 20 years prior – included matters involving physician assisted suicide, the line item veto, the cable television act, the Brady Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the constitutionality of remedial services for parochial school children.

Now a partner in the appellate practice group of O’Melveny & Meyers in Washington, Dellinger lends his expertise on the Court and constitutional issues to both private and pro bono clients and through frequent public commentary. In 2012, he authored an influential amicus brief in Hollingsworth v. Perry arguing that proponents of Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage, did not have standing to appeal a court order invalidating it.

In 2013, Dellinger was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by The American Lawyer. He has been named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal.

A graduate of Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal, Dellinger served as a clerk to Justice Hugo L. Black on the Supreme Court. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.