The first desi Supreme Court Justice? (updated)

As Dave mentioned earlier, the lawyer arguing one of the most important cases in front of the Supreme Court right now is a desi – Neal Kumar Katyal.

The future Justice Katyal?

He’s so illustrious that he has even been mentioned as a possible future (Democratic) pick for the Supreme Court:

At a panel discussion at the Brookings Institution on the Senate hearings on Judge Roberts, moderator Stuart Taylor, a columnist for the National Journal, pointedly asked panelist Katyal if a future Democratic president nominated him to the Supreme Court, which could well be, would he also be as evasive as Roberts was at the hearings?… [Link]


p>To give you a sense of why this is a plausible conjecture, here are just some of the highlights from his resume:

  • He clerked for both Justice Breyer and Judge Guido Calabresi of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He also worked for now Justice Roberts the summer after he graduated from Yale Law. [Link]
  • “In 1998-99, Katyal served as National Security Adviser to the Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice” [Link]
  • “He … served as Vice President Al Gore’s co-counsel in the Supreme Court election dispute of 2000” [Link]
  • He “represented the Deans of most major private law schools in the University of Michigan affirmative-action case” that was settled in 2003. [Link]
  • In 2004, he was responsible for the case that “struck down the Guantanamo trial system as unconstitutional and a violation of the Geneva Conventions.” [Link]
  • In 2005, at age 34, Katyal was named one of the the leading “40 lawyers under 40” by the National Law Journal
  • He is listed as a speaker by ICM, one of the largest literary and talent agencies around. They also represent Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster.
  • Even with all the time he spends in court, he’s a Professor at Georgetown Law.
  • And yes, ladies, he’s married. That means even his Punjabi parents are happy!

Katyal is the lead lawyer in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Amrit Singh is one of the lawyers involved in Ali et. al. v. Rumsfeld, and Vanita Gupta argued the Tulia case. Looks like we’re doing alright in terms of representing in the field of civil liberties, no?

Related posts: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, The art of the book review, The “Devils” Advocates

14 thoughts on “The first desi Supreme Court Justice? (updated)

  1. Looks like weÂ’re doing alright in terms of representing in the field of civil liberties, no?

    Very impressive resume. Although the “Michigan affirmative action case” is not exactly the in field of civil liberties. It’s more like advocating discrimination against whites. Does not win brownie points with me…

    M. Nam

  2. I’d agree with you if Michigan was selecting purely based on merit in any case, but they’re not. It’s been a long time, but as I recall, they had geographic preferences, legacy preferences, etc. Given the history of segregation, many of these preferences end up being set asides for white students.

  3. they had geographic preferences, legacy preferences,

    Then a true liberal should work on getting rid of all these preferences, instead of adding another one (racial minority) to the list.

    M. Nam

  4. balderdash. the university of michigan rulings (in favor of the law school’s affirmative action policy, and against the undergraduate college’s) reaffirmed that diversity is an appropriate goal to seek to achieve in a student body, and therefore that it is acceptable for the university to use tools to achieve diversity, broadly understood (and not just racial/ethnic). race is one of a number of appropiate criteria. the question is how you employ it. in the case of the law school, where admissions officers use a qualitative judgment, the court found it was acceptable that they give due consideration to race in their decisions. in the case of the undergrad college, where the admissions process uses a points system, the court found that the school’s practice of awarding a certain number of points to applicants purely on the basis of their protected-minority status was unconstitutional. the school changed its policy accordingly.

    a perfectly reasonable and balanced outcome, and one that reaffirmed an important goal for the nation while reining in a possible source of abuse or misapplication. it’s worth remembering that all kinds of major corporations, retired miltary officers, etc., filed amicus curiae briefs in support of michigan law school.

    as for brother katyal, just another underachieving desi kid…


  5. the court found it was acceptable that they give due consideration to race in their decisions….a perfectly reasonable and balanced outcome

    Any consideration other than merit tantamouts to injustice to someone, somewhere who is more deserving. I don’t want to be a party to that.

    A note aside… with so many high-profile desi lawyers nowadays, who have fought for justice for blacks, hispanics, illegal aliens, Al-Queda terrorists etc etc, a question arises. Have they done anything significant to their own? Who were the lawyers defending the rights of H1B desis when they were paraded and jailed in Texas in the late 90’s? Who are the lawyers fighting the mis-representation of Hinduism in California textbooks? Why are these prominent desis using their talents to help one of their own?

    M. Nam

  6. Funny, normally people complain that desis are too clannish, too unwilling to look beyond the narrow bounds of their own community. You’re claiming the opposite – that desis are too generous, they should stop being concerned with America and only care about other south asians (and presumably you mean only Indians).

  7. Was Mr. Katyal born here in the United States or in India? I recently had a discussion with my Punjabi born father about the supreme court and he said that though it is not stipulated within the requirements of a supreme court justice to be born in the U.S. it is necessary to galvanize support. I wonder how much nomination has to do with requirements like these?

  8. perhaps because they’re judging which cases to fight based on their merit.


  9. I can’t believe all the links you found on this guy. But, of course, it is Ennis after all…

    It was easy – he’s famous

  10. Moornam,

    Give us all a break with the “what about the whities speech,when in fact, the most liberal of the whities would deport your “terrorist” self. I think people off unadvantaged backgrounds(those stuck in viscious cycle of poverty unable to own motels like the Patels) do deserve a fair share of the proverbial American pie.