Governor Brown today appointed Leondra Kruger to the California Supreme Court, an appointment which, if confirmed, will fill the vacancy created over seven months ago when Justice Joyce Kennard retired.  Kruger will be the court’s first African-American justice in more than nine years and will again make women justices a majority on the court.kruger_leondra

Like Justice Goodwin Liu and Justice-elect Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar — the two others the governor has named to the court — Kruger is young (she is 38), was previously picked by President Obama (she is currently a Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel), and has no prior judicial experience.

Another thing Kruger has in common with Liu and Cuéllar is an alma mater.  When he appointed Cuéllar, Brown joked that he had “yet to appoint a non-Yale graduate to the Supreme Court” during his second stint as governor.  He keeps that streak alive with Kruger’s appointment.  Kruger was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal.

Also like Liu, Kruger is a former U.S. Supreme Court clerk.  She clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens 10 years ago.

Kruger is an experienced appellate lawyer at the highest level.  Before becoming a Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Kruger served six years as an Assistant to the Solicitor General and as Acting Principal Deputy Solicitor General, arguing 12 cases in the United States Supreme Court.  One of those arguments was in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC (2012) 132 S.Ct. 694 [181 L.Ed.2d 650], where the Court held a Lutheran school teacher could not sue a congregation for employment discrimination.  At one point, Justice Scalia called her argument “extraordinary” (around 1:50), but not in a complimentary way.

Although she’s been a Washington, D.C., resident for a while, Kruger was born and raised in the Los Angeles area.  She has been a member of the California bar for over 12 years, although her membership has been inactive for almost 5 years.

Kruger will join the court if her appointment is confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.  A Commission hearing has not yet been scheduled, but it is likely to be held in time for Kruger to join the court for its January oral argument calendar.  If so, the January calendar will be the first for both her and Justice-elect Cuéllar.

If confirmed, Kruger will face the voters in a retention election in 2018.