In a surprise announcement, the Department of Justice announced today that Leondra Kruger, a 34-year-old assistant to the solicitor general, has been named acting principal deputy solicitor general -- the so-called "political deputy" position under Acting SG Neal Katyal.
Kruger has argued six cases since joining the office in 2007 according to this Oyez Project tally. She was a visiting professor at the University of Chicago Law School in 2007, and before that was an associate at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr in D.C. She clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens in 2003 and 2004 and has a law degree from Yale Law School.
"She is a very talented attorney and I am sure Neal Katyal trusts and values her judgment and advice," said Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, who worked with her in the SG's office until last year when he became head of the appellate practice at Ropes & Gray.
The appointment came as a surprise to some in the Court community in part because recent acting SG's -- including Paul Clement and Gregory Garre -- did not name acting political deputies, instead waiting until they were confirmed as SGs to name someone to that position. In addition, other more senior lawyers in the SG's office and the Justice Department might have been expected to be named to the spot before Kruger.
How Kruger's appointment plays into the swirling speculation over who will be the next SG, replacing now-Justice Elena Kagan, is already under debate. Since Katyal must have signed off on her appointment, it could be read as a sign that Katyal will be staying on as acting or confirmed SG and would keep her on as the political deputy. Or it could be a purely temporary appointment meant to help the leadership of the office spread the workload until a new SG is named.
Lawyers who have held the position in the past -- including Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. -- have said that the "political deputy" label, meant to distinguish it from career deputies, is a misnomer, because it masks the fact that the political deputy often protects the independence of the office by fending off efforts from the White House to inject politics into its processes.