Indian American lawyer will serve as Acting Solicitor General

Kagan informed the Supreme Court in a letter that she has been nominated by President Barack Obama for the vacancy in the apex court, and the development leaves her principal deputy Katyal to serve as the Acting Solicitor General. Solicitor General is the top US lawyer, who argues the administration's cases before the Supreme Court.

"In light of my nomination to serve as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the US, the Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Kumar Katyal, will serve as Acting Solicitor General in all fillings after the date of my nomination involving the United States Government," Kagan said in a her letter dated May 17 to the Supreme Court clerk.

One of the country's top legal brains and the son of Indian immigrants, Katyal's promotion was effective as of May 10, the date Obama nominated Kagan as replacement for retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. Katyal, 40, previously served as National Security Adviser in the Justice Department in 1997-1999, and was commissioned by President Bill Clinton to write a report on the need for more legal pro bono work.

He also served as Vice-President Al Gore's co-counsel in Bush vs Gore of 2000, and represented the deans of most major private law school in Grutter v Bollinger, the University of Michigan affirmative-action case that the Supreme Court decided in 2003. However, in his most notable case Katyal represented Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the driver for Osama bin Laden, and successfully challenged the president's authority to create military commissions to try Guantanamo Bay detainees without legislative authority.

Katyal also suggested that a new federal court should be created to try terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1991 and from Yale Law School in 1995 where he studied under professor Akhil Reed Amar.

In an interview to Indian Abroad newspaper, Amar said Katyal "should be the obvious and natural choice" to replace the Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who has been nominated to the Supreme Court by Obama. "In the Bush Administration, both Paul Clement and Greg Garre were the deputies and they became solicitor general," Amar said.

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