The Volokh Conspiracy

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Walter Dellinger, RIP

Dellinger was a famed constitutional law scholar at Duke University, and also held important positions in government during the Clinton Administration.


Walter Dellinger (courtesy of Duke University).


Duke University law Professor Walter Dellinger passed away this morning, at the age of 80. He was both an outstanding constitutional law scholar, and held important positions in government during the Clinton Administration, including as head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), and as acting solicitor general of the United States. He argued numerous cases before the US Supreme Court.

I knew Walter for many years, and participated in several panels and conferences with him, such as this one on the Obamacare individual mandate litigation in 2011, sponsored by the American Constitution Society. We differed over numerous issues, but he was a big supporter of my work, nonetheless (as was also true for other younger academics). Walter epitomized what it means to be both a gentleman and a scholar. He will be greatly missed.

My condolences to those of Walter's family, colleagues, and friends, who may read this post.

The Raleigh News and Observer has an obituary that details some of Walter's many accomplishments:

Walter Dellinger, a prominent Duke law professor who served in some of the nation's highest legal positions during a storied career, has died. Dellinger died Wednesday morning in Chapel Hill, The Associated Press reported. He was 80 years old…..

Dellinger, a Charlotte native, was born May 15, 1941, according to his Duke Law profile. He studied political science at the University of North Carolina and graduated with honors in 1963. Dellinger went on to study at Yale Law School, where he graduated in 1966. Over his career, Dellinger served in various legal positions at the highest levels of federal government. Former President Bill Clinton nominated Dellinger to serve as assistant attorney general and head of the Office of Legal Counsel, and in 1993 he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. For three years, Dellinger provided legal guidance to the attorney general and the president….

In a statement over email, James Boyle, a professor at Duke Law, said Dellinger was "a brilliant lawyer, an idealist, and a hilarious, gifted storyteller." "All three qualities were intimately connected," he said. "Walter dreamed of a better world and his deep insight into American law and history were then coupled with the storyteller's art in the service of making that dream a reality."

For some other notable obituaries, see here, here, and here.