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Former Solicitors General Noel J. Francisco and Donald B. Verilli, Jr. to Be Featured at Annual Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics Fellows Conference

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. and Noel J Francisco

The 2024 Nootbaar Fellows Conference,“Charting the Future of Church and State,” will be held on Thursday, February 8, and Friday, February 9, 2024, and will feature two former solicitors general, Noel J. Francisco and Donald B. Verilli, Jr. At this year’s gathering, Francisco and Verilli will share their experiences supervising and conducting government litigation in the United States Supreme Court. The third annual fellows conference is sponsored in part by Founders’ First Freedom, where Caruso School of Law alumnus Michael Peabody (JD ’01) serves as president. 

The conference will open on Thursday, February 8, at 5:30 PM at a dinner held at Duke’s Malibu. Francisco and Verilli will discuss “Litigating Church and State from the Solicitor General’s Office,” offering attendees a wealth of insights on trends in and nuances of religious liberty law along with advice on presenting a case in federal court. 

Francisco currently litigates civil and criminal cases as a partner at Jones Day, where his work often impacts public policy by shaping the law about such issues as global climate change, opioid use, and free speech. While solicitor general from 2017 to 2020, he frequently argued before the Supreme Court, including Zubik v. Burwell, which upheld a religious liberty challenge to the federal contraception mandate. 

Verilli is currently a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson. During his tenure as solicitor general from 2011 to 2016, Verilli appeared more than 50 times before the Supreme Court. His accomplishments include arguing cases where the Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and recognized a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. 

On Friday, February 9, the Nootbaar Institute Fellows, a select group of distinguished religion and law scholars from US, Canadian, and Israeli universities, will address the interplay of state and church rights and responsibilities and expectations for their evolution in the Caruso School of Law’s Caruso Auditorium. The panelists will start the day discussing “Religious Liberty and the Right to Abortion,” followed by “The Future of Religious Exemptions.” Afternoon panels include “Government Funding of Religion,” and “What Happened to the Wall Separating Church and State?” A reception will conclude the event. 

Members of the public are welcome to register to attend both or either event free of charge. Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) credit for attending has been approved by the State Bar of California for a total of 6.25 credit hours; partial credit may be earned by attending one of the two events.  

In addition to the conference’s public assemblies, Pepperdine community members and participants will enjoy a series of private gatherings to share insights, network, and further their scholarship. Former solicitor general Francisco, Caruso School of Law Religious Liberty Clinic executive director Eric Rassbach, and Megan Lacy Owen, Francisco’s partner at Jones Day, will be discussing the work of the clinic and the state of religious liberty in a Religious Liberty Clinic Salon for community invitees on Wednesday evening, February 7. On Thursday, February 8, law students will have the opportunity to hear the featured guests discuss the solicitor general’s role in our government and impact on the law and society during a lunchtime event, and Nootbaar Institute Fellows will participate in a daylong series of workshops, sharing their works-in-progress and exchanging ideas with their colleagues. 

Register today to attend the complimentary events of the 2024 Nootbaar Fellows Conference, and earn 6.25 MCLE credit hours.