Paul-Alexander Lejas, Contributing Photographer

Stuart Delery LAW ’93, who served as White House counsel to President Joe Biden from 2022 to 2023 and is currently a visiting lecturer at the Law School, addressed members of the Law School community at an event held in the Sterling Law Building on Feb. 29.

The event was co-hosted by the Yale Law Democrats, the Law School’s chapter of the progressive legal organization the American Constitution Society and OutLaws — an organization for LGBTQ+ members of the Law School community. According to YLD president Sage Mason LAW ’24, the event aimed to provide the Law School community with an opportunity to hear from a dedicated public servant and alumnus who has spent his career “fighting for justice at the highest levels of government.” 

Mason told the News that the event, which was held off the record, covered a wide range of topics from Delery’s career path and journey from law school, his outlook on leadership to his experience as White House Counsel. 

“As a law student, I’m inspired by Stuart’s commitment to public service and his work ethic, his respect for the rule of law and his faith that law can and should be a tool to improve the lives of all Americans,” Mason said. “It gives me hope for the future, that he’s been able to achieve so much without sacrificing or hiding his identity.”

After graduating from Yale Law School, where he served as an articles editor of the Yale Law Journal, Delery clerked for Judge Gerard Bard Tjoflat of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Byron White LAW ’46 of the United States Supreme Court. In 2009, Delery joined the Department of Justice initially as chief of staff and counselor to the U.S. Deputy Attorney General, followed by a role as senior counselor to the Attorney General.

From 2021 to 2022, Delery served as Deputy Counsel to President Biden. The following year, he ascended to the role of White House Counsel to the President, marking a historic milestone as the first openly gay person to hold this position. In his role as counsel to the President, Delery advised Biden on a wide range of constitutional, statutory and regulatory legal matters, encompassing presidential authority, domestic policy, as well as national security and foreign affairs. 

His responsibilities included managing responses to prominent congressional and other investigations, along with assisting the President in the nomination and confirmation processes of federal judges. Delery stepped down from the position last year.

At the Law School, Delery currently teaches “The Department of Justice” seminar and previously instructed the “Constitutional Practice: Structure and Norms” seminar in 2020.

Matt Post LAW ’25, co-president of the ACS, wrote that Delery’s involvement in vaccine rollout, student debt relief and the confirmation of a diverse set of judges is “incredibly inspiring.” 

The initiatives he oversaw represent the potential of progressive lawyering,” Post said. “We hope that speaker events like these will inspire students to use their education here to advance policies that improve people’s lives.”

According to Mariko Lewis LAW ’26, a member of the YLD who attended the event, Delery shared insights on leadership in response to a question from an attendee. She said that Delery explained that while leaders are often perceived as possessing extroverted and outgoing personalities, true leadership success comes from authenticity. 

Lewis added that Delery emphasized that attempting to emulate someone else is counterproductive and advised attendees to embrace their unique personalities and abilities to become effective leaders.

“As a Black woman interested in politics and policy, this resonated with me,” Lewis wrote. “It emphasized that rather than following a mold of a specific type of leadership (most often portrayed through a straight, white, confident, male), I should continue to lean into my unique personality and strengths to become a valued and effective leader.”

Gevin Reynolds LAW ’26, who moderated the event, said the event felt like a “full circle moment,” as both he and Delery served together in the White House, and he is also currently enrolled in Delery’s seminar this semester.

Reynolds told the News that throughout the conversation, Delery shared “powerful lessons” from throughout his legal career, particularly his service at the highest levels of government. He highlighted Delery’s leadership in implementing the Supreme Court’s 2013 United States v. Windsor decision, wherein the Court deemed Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. This ruling established that the federal government could not discriminate against married lesbian and gay couples regarding federal benefits and protections. Reynolds underscored the pivotal role this decision played in advancing one of the most significant expansions of LGBTQ+ rights in the nation’s history.

In an email to the News, Scott Lowder LAW ’24, a member of OutLaws who attended the event, agreed with this sentiment saying that as a gay man, it was “powerful” for him to hear Delery describe the implementation of this Supreme Court decision and the logistics of extending federal benefits to same-sex couples.

Overall, Reynolds described the event as one of their “most successful of the year.”

“As a YLS student, I am most inspired by how Stuart has used the law as a tool to defend and strengthen civil rights, both at the Department of Justice and at the White House,” Reynolds told the News.  “Despite the significant influence he has wielded throughout his career, Stuart remains one of the humblest people you’ll ever meet.”

Delery received his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia. 

Adam Walker covers Yale Law School for the University desk. Originally from Long Island, New York, he is a sophomore in Branford College double majoring in Economics and American Studies.