Before she turned to the law and was one of the youngest judges ever appointed to the California Supreme Court, Leondra Kruger had journalism in her blood.
Kruger, who is considered a potential U.S. Supreme Court nominee for President Joe Biden to replace outgoing judge Stephen Breyer, was editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper. Later, at Harvard University, she wrote for the daily student magazine, Crimson. While attending Yale Law School, she became editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal.
The reputation she gained as a young journalist for being thoughtful and careful has followed her to the judiciary, where the 45-year-old lawyer has become known for his incremental approach to settling cases.
Her moderate approach could help her win confirmation in a U.S. Senate equally divided between Democrats and Republicans if Biden chooses her to replace Breyer. Kruger wanted to write history as the first black woman to serve in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I see her as cautious in her use of judgment,” said David Ettinger, a Los Angeles attorney who is an expert on the California Supreme Court. “I think she’s worried about digging into the details of legal issues, instead of letting ideological preferences determine the outcome of the case.”
Biden has promised to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court. It has had only two black judges, both men: Clarence Thomas, appointed in 1991 and still serving, and Thurgood Marshall, who retired in 1991 and died in 1993. If confirmed, Kruger would also become the sixth woman ever to serve in the highest power. Right.
Kruger has previously worked in the U.S. Department of Justice under presidents of both parties, arguing for 12 cases before the Supreme Court.
Former California Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Kruger to the Supreme Court of the most populous U.S. state in 2014, when she was 38 years old. Kruger’s former colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, praised the move.
Paul Clement, who served as U.S. solicitor general under former Republican President George W. Bush, said at the time: “She combines an understated and relaxed way with a sharp legal mind and undisputed integrity.”
Observers from the liberal-oriented, seven-man high court in California said that while its decisions are largely unanimous, Kruger is likely to be across his ideological center – moderately liberal in civil cases, more conservative in criminal cases.
Over the course of seven years in the California Supreme Court, Kruger has participated in a number of other important cases.
In 2018, Kruger drafted a 4-3 ruling that upheld a law requiring people arrested for suspected crimes to provide DNA samples even before charges are filed. The dissenting judges warned of a “biological dragnet” that was not “carefully calibrated to identify offenders.”
Kruger’s decision was narrow. She developed the principle of “judicial restraint” and emphasized the seriousness of the crime in question in the specific case – arson – and left open the possibility of other challenges in other circumstances.
In 2019, Kruger joined a unanimous ruling that struck down a democratically backed state law targeting former Republican President Donald Trump, who tried to prevent him from running as a candidate on California’s primary ballot because he did not disclose his personal tax returns.
“My approach reflects the fact that we operate in a system of precedent,” Kruger told the Los Angeles Times in 2018. “I aim to do my job in a way that increases the predictability and stability of the law and public confidence. to and trust in the work of the courts. “
In 2019, Kruger wrote a unanimous ruling that upheld a white supremacy verdict, including for murder, but overturned the death sentence because the prosecution had invited the jury to weigh the man’s racist convictions in deciding whether to sentence him to death.
In the case of Scott Peterson, who was convicted of murdering his wife Laci and his unborn son during a lawsuit in 2004 that received heavy media coverage, Kruger wrote a unanimous ruling in 2020 confirming his sentence but reversing his death sentence due to of errors in the jury selection.
Kruger grew up in the Los Angeles area and attended Polytechnic, a private high school in Pasadena. A former school friend who edited his work at the school newspaper called Kruger “cool and calm” in an article published in 2020.
She “could be funny and gossipy with friends, but she chose her words with great care, which made you listen closer,” Joe Mathews wrote in Zocalo Public Square, a Los Angeles-based publication.
Kruger’s mother, who moved to the United States from Jamaica, and father, son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, were both pediatricians. She is married to Brian Hauck, also a lawyer in San Francisco. The couple has two small children.