The Recorder

“California Justice Leondra Kruger Sees Spotlight Amid Biden Transition”

By: Cheryl Miller

“Almost six years ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown found himself defending his nomination of Leondra Kruger to the California Supreme Court.

Critics wanted to know why Brown didn’t pick a practicing California attorney or judge. Why go with a U.S. Justice Department lawyer with a Yale Law School degree—Brown’s alma mater—and no experience on the bench?

“Did you listen to her?” Brown asked a reporter, referencing a recorded U.S. Supreme Court session where Kruger, in one of her 12 appearances before the high court, had deftly handled questions by a pugnacious Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Her talent on the record is quite extraordinary, and anybody who looks at that talent would say, ‘Wow, there’s not too many like this,’” Brown said.

Brown got the Pasadena native and rising star back to California, where in five years she has carved out her own legal space on a court that leans left politically but often votes in unison.

Now, Kruger may be preparing to head back east. National media reports mention her as a possible U.S. solicitor general candidate or even a future U.S. Supreme Court pick—or perhaps both, in the model of her former boss, Justice Elena Kagan—in the Biden administration. Kagan was the U.S. solicitor before Barack Obama picked her for the high court.


Mary-Christine “M.C.” Sungaila, leader of Buchalter’s appellate practice, called Kruger an “incrementalist.”

“She’s not like Justice [Goodwin] Liu or Justice [Mariano-Florentino] Cuéllar, who are going to have some grand policy position or an academic approach to the problem,” Sungaila said. “She is focused on the particular words and language of the issue before the court.”

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