Person

Leondra Kruger

Born:

1976

Occupation:

Judge

Nationality:

American

Leondra Kruger is a justice of the California state Supreme Court. She previously worked for the United States Solicitor General’s office and the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel under the Obama administration, as well as in private practice and academia. According to SCOTUSblog, a leading legal publication which reports on the Supreme Court of the United States, the decisions that Kruger has participated in as a California Supreme Court justice have had “largely (although not uniformly) liberal-leaning results.” During her time in the Solicitor General’s office, Kruger also argued against the right of a religious institution to have sole discretion over employing ministers – a view which the Supreme Court later rejected. [1]

In January 2022, following the news that left-of-center Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer would be retiring, President Joe Biden reiterated his campaign pledge that he would only nominate a black woman to the court. Legal news observers such as SCOTUSblog reported that Kruger, who is of Jamaican-Jewish background, was a leading contender. [2]

Education and Early Career

Kruger grew up in southern California and graduated from the Polytechnic School, a private preparatory academy. She attended Harvard University, where she was a reporter for the university newspaper, the Harvard Crimson. After Harvard, she went to Yale University for law school, where she wrote for the Yale Law Journal. Kruger’s early private practice employment included the law form Wilmer Hale, where she worked on a number of cases involving state and local governments across the United States. In one of these cases, she argued in favor of implementing left-progressive race policies in the public education system. After leaving Wilmer Hale in 2006, she spent a year as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Chicago. [3]

Obama Administration

During her time as the assistant to the Solicitor General under President Barack Obama, Kruger argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court. Notably, she defended the Affordable Care Act against a legal challenge and argued against the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. [4]

In a case involving a Lutheran church, Kruger argued for the administration’s position opposing the application of the “ministerial exception,” a provision in anti-discrimination law which protects the rights of religious organizations to hire and fire clergy and ministers using their own criteria. Justice Elena Kagan, who was appointed by President Obama, called the argument an “amazing” departure from the legal consensus on freedom of religion. Chief Justice John Roberts called Kruger’s view that the religion clause of the First Amendment did not apply a “remarkable” break from the principle of religious freedom, and Justice Antonin Scalia called Kruger’s dismissal of the ministerial exception “extraordinary” in its implications. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the Obama administration and for the Lutheran church. [5]

California Supreme Court

As a California state Supreme Court justice, Kruger has written and supported decisions to declare cash bail unconstitutional, restrict the ability of law enforcement to collect DNA samples from felony arrestees, and exempt utility charge rates from the state’s referendum process. [6]

Supreme Court Consideration

In January 2022, Kruger was reported to be a potential nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. [7] Right-of-center media and legal organizations reacted negatively to the possibility, citing Kruger’s prior opposition to religious liberty protections. [8]

In February 2022, Politico reported that a former law clerk for Ketanji Brown Jackson, another leading contender for Justice Breyer’s seat on the Supreme Court, had allegedly attempted to sabotage Kruger as well as several other potential nominees by making unfavorable edits to their profiles on Wikipedia. The law clerk, whom Politico identified as Matteo Godi, also ­­­made changes to Jackson’s Wikipedia page with the apparent intent of minimizing details of her career that would make her a less appealing choice for left-progressive lawmakers and their constituents. In Kruger’s profile, Godi added claims that she is “sometimes considered one of the swing votes” and that one of her rulings “declined to reach the constitutionality” of a contentious issue. Godi also added the claim that Kruger had overruled “a dissent by more liberal members of the court” in another case. A media representative for Kruger declined to comment on the incident. [9]

References

  1. Amy Howe. “Profile of a potential nominee: Leondra Kruger.” SCOTUSblog. January 26, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.scotusblog.com/2022/01/profile-of-a-potential-nominee-leondra-kruger/ ^
  2. Amy Howe. “Profile of a potential nominee: Leondra Kruger.” SCOTUSblog. January 26, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.scotusblog.com/2022/01/profile-of-a-potential-nominee-leondra-kruger/ ^
  3. “Leondra Kruger Fact Sheet.” Alliance for Justice. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.afj.org/document/leondra-kruger-fact-sheet/ ^
  4. “Leondra Kruger Fact Sheet.” Alliance for Justice. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.afj.org/document/leondra-kruger-fact-sheet/ ^
  5. Houston Keene. “Leondra Kruger, potential Biden Supreme Court nominee, stunned justices with position on religious liberty.” Fox News. January 31, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/leondra-kruger-biden-supreme-court-nominee-stunned-justices-position-religious-liberty ^
  6. “Leondra Kruger Fact Sheet.” Alliance for Justice. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.afj.org/document/leondra-kruger-fact-sheet/ ^
  7. Amy Howe. “Profile of a potential nominee: Leondra Kruger.” SCOTUSblog. January 26, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.scotusblog.com/2022/01/profile-of-a-potential-nominee-leondra-kruger/ ^
  8. Houston Keene. “Leondra Kruger, potential Biden Supreme Court nominee, stunned justices with position on religious liberty.” Fox News. January 31, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/leondra-kruger-biden-supreme-court-nominee-stunned-justices-position-religious-liberty ^
  9. Samuel Benson. “Former clerk rewrites SCOTUS contenders’ Wikipedia bios.” Politico. February 4, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/02/04/former-clerk-rewrites-supreme-court-wikipedia-bios-00005914 ^
  See an error? Let us know!