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Meet Neel Kumar Katyal, another desi for Obama Supreme Court shortlist

Another Indian-American, Neel Kumar Katyal, has emerged as a candidate for President Barack Obama’s shortlist of people he could nominate to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

world Updated: Feb 16, 2016 09:44 IST
Yashwant Raj
Katyal, a former acting US solicitor general, joins Sri Srinivasan, a DC circuit judge, who is leading every shortlist, and Kamala Harris, California attorney general who is on at least one.
Katyal, a former acting US solicitor general, joins Sri Srinivasan, a DC circuit judge, who is leading every shortlist, and Kamala Harris, California attorney general who is on at least one.

Another Indian-American, Neel Kumar Katyal, has emerged as a candidate for President Barack Obama’s shortlist of people he could nominate to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Katyal, a former acting US solicitor general, joins Sri Srinivasan, a DC circuit judge, who is leading every shortlist, and Kamala Harris, California attorney general who is on at least one.

Read more: Indian-American who could be the next US SC justice has a stellar resume

Obama is expected to pick a nominee soon to succeed Antonin Scalia, a leading conservative judge who died on Saturday unexpectedly, creating a vacancy in the top court.

Srinivasan was among the first names mentioned within hours of Scalia’s passing, not surprisingly as he has long been known as Obama’s “Supreme Court nominee in waiting”.

Harris made it to the New York Times’s list, but not to very many others. A Democrat, she is currently running for the senate from California, with a strong chance of winning.

Read more: Indian-American in the running to become US Supreme Court judge

Katyal, 46, debuted on the list on Monday, courtesy The Huffington Post, which counted him among the possibilities, a pleasant surprise for the Indian-American community.

“Neil Katyal joins Sri Srinivasan as second potential #desi nominee for #SCOTUS,” tweeted Sajit Gandhi, a senior congress official, hashtagging it #BeyondBollywood.

He missed Harris, probably because she is not on many lists.

Katyal is professor of law DC’s Georgetown University and was acting solicitor general or a year after then Solicitor General Elena Kagan became a Supreme Court judge, named by Obama.

A constitution lawyer, Katyal argued and won a case for the government, Hamadan Vs Rumsfeld (former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld), that has been called the “most important decision on presidential power and the rule of law ever. Ever.”

He served as the national security adviser in the justice department during President Bill Clinton’s term, and was co-counsel to Vice-President Al Gore in his 2000 election dispute.

As a testament to his capabilities, here is what his bosses had to say about him at his farewell when he was leaving office in June 2011, after a year as the federal government’s top lawyer.

Kagan, his predecessor and boss before moving to the Supreme Court, said, according to The Blog of LegalTimes, “one of the honors and privileges of my life” was to work with him. “I learned from you how to be a great lawyer.”

Supreme Court justice Stephen Bryer, for whom Katyal had clerked as a young lawyer, said he “helped bring order to the chaos that passes for my office”.

He added: “Stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen. The best is yet to come.”