Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal ’91 has replaced Elena Kagan, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, as U.S. solicitor general, according to the Associated Press. Kagan vacated the position to proceed with her Senate confirmation hearings, but requested that Katyal fill her position in a May 17 letter addressed to Supreme Court Clerk William Suter.
The Indian-American Katyal took over for Kagan on May 10, the date that Obama announced he had nominated Kagan to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.
As solicitor general, Katyal will argue cases on behalf of the federal executive branch before the Supreme Court.
Katyal, who is known for his stance against expanding the powers of the federal executive branch, may differ from Kagan and her vision of a “unitary executive where the President has complete authority over the executive branch and its bureaucracy,” government professor Sonu Bedi said in an e-mail to The Dartmouth.
“[Katyal] suggests that we ought to welcome internal disagreement and dissension within the executive branch, especially if Congress and the President are of the same political party,” Bedi said.
Kagan’s view of how the executive branch should act in areas such as foreign affairs and intelligence is a point for dispute one that legislators will likely return to throughout her confirmation hearings, according to Bedi.
Katyal first garnered national attention after representing Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s former driver, before the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.
Katyal successfully argued that using military tribunals to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay violated the constitutional separation of powers and provisions of the Geneva Convention.
Under the Clinton administration, Katyal worked as a national security adviser for the Department of Justice and also served as former Vice President Al Gore’s co-counsel in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case.
Katyal is the second Dartmouth alumnus to serve as solicitor general in recent years. Gregory Garre ’87 was appointed by former President George W. Bush and served from October 2008 to January 2009.
Skills that Katyal cultivated at the College will serve him well in the new position, according to professors interviewed by The Dartmouth.
“I think Neal will bring a broad perspective to the job,” said sociology professor Raymond Hall, who taught Katyal. “His experience as a lawyer who has argued before the Supreme Court, his international experience, his humane concerns and his ability to incorporate a variety of perspectives and understanding will stand in good stead with the issues that the government will bring before the Supreme Court.”
Hall said that Katyal was an active volunteer in the Hanover community and “analytically adroit” in his studies at Dartmouth.
“I remember he wrote a paper for me and it had to do with the conflict in Kashmir,” Hall said. “I still have that paper and refer to it in my work in international conflict.”
During his time at the College, Katyal who received his law degree from Yale Law School in 1995 double-majored in government and Asian studies, The Dartmouth previously reported. Katyal, a presidential scholar at the College, was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society and Sigma Nu fraternity. Katyal also competed with the policy debate team.
Katyal declined to comment for this article.