Caribbean American jurist in contention for Supreme Court justice

FILE PHOTO: California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger is seen in an undated photo
California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger is seen in an undated photo, U.S. Supreme Court of California.
Via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY./File

 A Caribbean American jurist has emerged among the top contenders for nomination to the United States Supreme Court.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California, Leondra Reid Kruger, the daughter of a Jamaican mother and a Jewish father, is one of the top candidates for the Supreme Court Justice seat.

If appointed, Justice Kruger, who was born on July 28, 1976, will become the first Black female justice to the highest court in the United States, replacing Supreme Court Justice, Stephen Breyer.

Justice Breyer announced on Wednesday that he plans to retire from the bench after four decades — four decades on the federal bench and 28 years on the United States Supreme Court.

On the campaign trail and at a White House press brief with Justice Breyer on Wednesday, President Joe Biden said he will nominate a Black woman to the US Supreme Court.

“Choosing someone to sit on the Supreme Court, I believe, is one of the most serious constitutional responsibilities a president has,” he said. “Our process is going to be rigorous. I will select a nominee worthy of Justice Breyer’s legacy of excellence and decency.

“While I’ve been studying candidates’ backgrounds and writings, I’ve made no decisions except one: The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity, and that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court,” he added. “It’s long overdue, in my view. I made that commitment during the campaign for president, and I will keep that commitment.

“I will fully do what I said I’d do: I will fulfill my duty to select a justice not only with the Senate’s consent, but with its advice,” Biden continued. “You’ve heard me say in other nomination processes that the Constitution says seek the ‘advice and consent,’ but the advice as well of the Senate. I’m going to invite senators from both parties to offer their ideas and points of view.”

Biden said he will also consult with leading scholars and lawyers on the selection of the Black Supreme Court candidate, adding that he is “fortunate” to have advising him in this selection process Vice President Kamala Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother.

The president said Harris is “an exceptional lawyer,” a former attorney general of California and a former member of the US Senate Judiciary Committee.

He said he will listen carefully to all the advice he’s given, and I will study the records and former cases carefully.

“I’ll meet with the potential nominees,” Biden said. “And it is my intention — my intention to announce my decision before the end of February. I have made no choice at this point. Once I select a nominee, I’ll ask the Senate to move promptly on my choice.

“In the end, I will nominate a historic candidate, someone who is worthy of Justice Breyer’s legacy and someone who, like Justice Breyer, will provide incredible service on the United States Supreme Court,” the president added.

According to the Judicial Branch of California Courts, immediately before joining the court, Justice Kruger served in the United States Department of Justice as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel.

From 2007 to 2013, she served in the department as an Assistant to the Solicitor General and as Acting Deputy Solicitor General.

During her tenure in the Office of the Solicitor General, the Judicial Branch of California Courts said Justice Kruger argued 12 cases in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the federal government.

In 2013 and in 2014, she received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, the department’s highest award for employee performance, the Judicial Branch said.

It said Justice Kruger had previously been in private practice, where she specialized in appellate and Supreme Court litigation, and taught as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

A native of the Los Angeles area, Justice Kruger attended high school in Pasadena, the Judicial Branch of California Courts said.

It said she received her bachelor’s degree with high honors from Harvard College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Justice Kruger received her J.D. (law degree) from Yale Law School, where she served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal, the Judicial Branch of California Courts said.

Following graduation, she served as a law clerk to Judge David S. Tatel of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and to Justice John Paul Stevens of the United States Supreme Court, the Judicial Branch of California Courts said.

Justice Kruger is married to Brian Hauck, a partner at the law firm of Jenner & Block and a former senior official in the US Department of Justice during the Barack Obama administration. The couple has two children: a son and a daughter.

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