Leondra Kruger

Leondra R. Kruger, 38, who became a rising legal star and top Obama administration lawyer, was appointed Monday to the California Supreme Court by Gov. Jerry Brown. She will be the seven-member court’s third Democratic appointee. (California governor’s office)

By Maura Dolan
November 24, 2014

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Monday that he would nominate Leondra R. Kruger, a federal government lawyer, to the California Supreme Court.

Kruger, 38, who grew up in Pasadena, was admitted to the State Bar of California in 2002 but has not practiced law in the state since 2009, according to bar records. She has worked primarily in Washington, D.C., where she has represented the federal government in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. She would be the only African American on the court.

Kruger is a deputy assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel.

Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen, an expert on the state’s highest court, called the appointment a “mind blower.”

“She is the youngest appointee in history,” Uelmen said. “She barely meets the constitutional qualifications … She has never practiced law in California, and she hasn’t been in California for the last 20 years, as far as I can see.”

He said Kruger appeared to be “superstar” who had moved quickly up the legal ranks. “Maybe this is Jerry Brown’s effort to give the California Supreme Court greater stature nationally,” Uelmen said.

Brown said in a statement: “Leondra Kruger is a distinguished lawyer and uncommon student of the law. She has won the respect of eminent jurists, scholars and practitioners alike.”

Kruger received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and her law degree from Yale. She clerked for former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

“I am deeply honored by Governor Brown’s nomination,” Kruger said in a news release issued by Brown’s office. “I look forward to returning home to California and, if confirmed, serving the people of California on our state’s highest court.”

She would be Brown’s third appointment in recent years to California’s seven-member high court. Like Brown’s two previous picks, both law professors, Kruger has no judicial experience.

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