RIP Walter Dellinger

I am saddened to hear that @walterdellinger has died. We nerded out over legal issues many times over the years. A running joke was that I was the only one who was more impressed about the fact that he had led the Office of Legal Counsel than served as acting solicitor general.

I looked up articles I wrote since joining the NYT in 2008 that cited Walter Dellinger. Here’s a record of the sorts of things we talked about: /1

In 2008, he argued a case before the Supreme Court about the scope and limits of Second Amendment gun rights. /2

In 2009, when congressional Dems & the ABA criticized Obama for continuing to use signing statements deeming parts of bills unconstitutional as he signed them into law – a practice they had called on Bush to stop – Dellinger defended the practice. /3

Also in 2009, when Justice Stevens retired from the Supreme Court, Walter had this to say about Obama’s search for a nominee to succeed him. /4

Soon after, for an article on the nomination search that focused on Elena Kagan and Judges Diane Wood and Merrick Garland (oops, that seat went to Sonia Sotomayor!), Walter shared this thought with NYT readers./5

In another article related to the nomination search that focused on comments Obama had made about liberal courts having overreached in the past, which alarmed progressives, Walter said this. /6
(aside: maybe we quoted him too often for this storyline)

In 2011, when Obama nominated Don Verrilli to be solicitor general, Walter said this./7

Later in 2011, when I uncovered that Obama rejected the view of DOD’s general counsel and OLC, and gone with other admin lawyers’ views re the legality of continuing to bomb Libya after the War Powers Resolution’s 60-day clock expired, Walter said this: /8

In 2012, when Obama nominated Sri Srinivasan, Walter’s partner at O’Melveny and Myers, to be an appeals court judge on the DC Circuit, Walter said this:/9

In 2013, when Obama decided to bomb Syria for using chemical weapons but also decided to ask Congress for authorization first, Dellinger said he approved of going to lawmakers rather than acting unilaterally./10

In 2014, when Obama decided to bomb ISIS as it was sweeping across Iraq – controversially claiming he already had authorization under the 2001 AUMF against 9/11’s perpetrators since ISIS had started off as a faction of Al Qaeda, Walter was supportive:/11

In 2018, when the Trump OLC released a memo asserting that Trump had the power to attack the Syrian government (for using chemical weapons) w/out going to Congress, I wrote about an earlier war powers memo Walter had written as head of the Clinton OLC./12

In 2019, during a government shutdown in a standoff between Trump & the Dem Congress over funding for a wall, I wrote about the possibility of emergency powers as a face-saving way out that would not require either side to back down. Walter said this:/13

Also in 2019, when a judge ruled that Trump had to tape testimony for a trial over a lawsuit brought by protesters who said that his private security guards had assaulted them on a public sidewalk in front of Trump Tower, Walter said this:/14

A few days later, Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry over Trump’s efforts to coerce Ukraine’s president into announcing that the Bidens were under criminal investigation. I wrote an explainer about how the process works that included this from Walter:/15

In Sept 2020, when RBG died, giving Trump & the GOP Senate an opportunity to replace her with a conservative, I co-wrote a story about Obama’s unsuccessful efforts to nudge her into retiring earlier. It included this episode about Walter and Breyer. /16

This year, Walter was among a handful of outside lawyers Biden asked his White House counsel to consult about whether he could lawfully extend a Covid evictions moratorium — knowing it would later lose in court but relieving political pressure: /17

I last quoted him 2 months ago, when Biden’s bipartisan Supreme Court reform commission, of which he was a member, approved its report. I ended the piece with Walter looking down the road to a time long after all of us will have passed away./18

Walter and I also spoke many other times where I was just trying to understand something disputed or complex about the law. Walter was always generous with his time for that sort of thing.

RIP @walterdellinger

Originally tweeted by Charlie Savage (@charlie_savage) on February 16, 2022.