In Memoriam: Walter E. Dellinger III

In Memoriam: Walter E. Dellinger III

Walter E. Dellinger III died on February 16. He was 80.

He was a partner at O’Melveny and the Douglas B. Maggs Professor Emeritus of Law at Duke Law School. He served as assistant attorney general and head of the Office of Legal Counsel under the Clinton Administration. He was acting solicitor general during the Supreme Court’s 1996-1997 Term, where his arguments included cases dealing with 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.

Dellinger was elected to The American Law Institute in 2013. In March 2021, he was a guest on the Reasonably Speaking podcast episode “Challenges to the 2020 Election: the Solicitors' Perspective.” In the episode, he joined former Solicitors General Donald B. Verrilli and Seth P. Waxman in a discussion on the topic of election litigation.

Excerpted from the O’Melveny tribute:

Walter lived a wonderful and extraordinary life. As his son Hampton said, “he had many loves, first among them his wife, Anne, but also the University of North Carolina, the law and the rule of law, and American democracy.” Anne was Walter’s soulmate: they were married for some 55 years and he repeatedly told us that his greatest accomplishment was marrying her.

Walter was enormously generous and caring—he loved helping others succeed. So many owe so much to him. There is a remarkably long list of lawyers in academia, in government, in business, at law firms, at nonprofits, and on the bench who Walter helped to find their place. As he mentored scores of young lawyers—including many of America’s great jurists—he also took the time to weigh in on many of the most pressing issues facing our society. We recall Walter’s pivotal role as the author of the amicus brief in Hollingsworth v. Perry, which cleared the way for marriage equality in California and eventually worldwide.

Additional obituaries are available on The New York Times and The Washington Post websites [subscription required].