Former Virginia Solicitor General E. Duncan Getchell, an architect of the first lawsuit filed by a state challenging the constitutionality of the 2010 federal health care law, has returned to the law firm of McGuireWoods LLP.
Getchell spent four years in the office of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli where he litigated several of the state’s most high-profile legal issues, including his successful defense of a state Freedom of Information Law restriction denying nonresidents access to Virginia public records.
He returns as partner and senior litigator to McGuireWoods, where he had previously worked for 33 years and once served as chair of the firm’s Appellate Practice Group.
“When Duncan left to become solicitor general, I hoped he would one day return. It is very good news for us and our clients,” said McGuireWoods Chairman Richard Cullen.
“We could not be more excited regarding the return of Duncan Getchell, who brings vast experience and an extraordinary intellect to assist our clients with their legal needs,” added Terry Bagley, McGuireWoods deputy managing partner.
Getchell brought a rich résumé of litigation and appellate experience with him from McGuireWoods in early 2010 when he joined Cuccinelli, then the newly elected state attorney general.
During his four years as solicitor general, Getchell presented arguments on behalf of the commonwealth 13 times before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and twice in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Duncan played a vital role in many of the attorney general’s office’s most important cases,” Cuccinelli said. He said Getchell “ably defended the commonwealth in numerous appeals, most notably successfully defending the constitutionality of Virginia’s FOIA statute in the United States Supreme Court.”
In that case, McBurney v. Young, Getchell presented arguments before 4th Circuit, which held that Virginia’s law eliminating the right of nonresidents to obtain state records under FOIA did not violate the Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause. He also argued the case before the high court, which last April affirmed the appellate ruling that upheld the state law in a 9-0 decision.
Cuccinelli hailed Getchell as “one of a select group within the office who assisted me in developing and pursuing Virginia’s challenge to the federal health care law.”
Virginia was the first state to challenge the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often known as “Obamacare.” Cuccinelli’s office filed Virginia v. Sebelius in U.S. District Court in Richmond in March 2010, the day after President Barack Obama signed the legislation. U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson ruled that the law’s “individual mandate” was unconstitutional, but his decision was reversed on appeal when the 4th Circuit ruled that Virginia’s attorney general lacked standing to challenge the provision requiring individuals to obtain health coverage.
Getchell is a graduate of Emory University in Atlanta and the Duke University Law School. He came to work for McGuireWoods for one year beginning in 1974 and then served two years in the U.S. Air Force in the general counsel’s office of the Secretary of the Air Force. He returned to McGuireWoods in 1977 and remained there until he was appointed solicitor general.
President George W. Bush nominated him in 2007 for a seat on the 4th Circuit, but the Republican president’s nomination never received a hearing in the Senate after Democrats took control in the 2006 election.
Getchell is a fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, a member of the American Law Institute, a permanent member of the 4th Circuit Judicial Conference and was special counsel to the official board that investigated the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia as it re-entered the earth’s atmosphere in February 2003, killing all seven crew members.