SCOTUSblog and Legal Times have reported that Georgetown University law professor Neal Katyal will be appointed principal deputy solicitor general and will begin work in his new position tomorrow. From Legal Times:
Legal Times has confirmed that Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal, who successfully argued the landmark detainee rights case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld before the Supreme Court, will serve as principal deputy solicitor general, the office’s No. 2 spot, starting Tuesday.
Katyal's appointment is another strong signal of President-elect Barack Obama's intentions to depart sharply from the terrorist detention and interrogation policies of the Bush administration. In Hamdan, the Supreme Court found that the Bush administration's military commissions for trying suspected terrorists violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions. The case, which marked Katyal's first appearance before the high court, was a stinging rebuke to the president's broad assertion of wartime power. [link]
Legal Times also provides some background on the role of the principal deputy:
The principal deputy is also known as the the "political deputy," though, as Legal Times pointed out in this 2005 story, the exact nature of the job is a matter of dispute. Some principal deputies have been pegged for White House moles, while others have defended the office's positions when they were at odds with the administration's. [link]
Last week, Katyal talked to students at Northwestern University about his work on Hamdan:
Although Katyal promised that he would follow the advice of his mother, who was in the audience, and not try to be "funny or charming," he kept the tone congenial. He said to the crowd that, given previous court rulings and current statements by the Obama administration, his subject was one of history.
"Guantanamo is now a relic, and this will be a look back," he said....
[H]e said that the entire process reminded him of the strength of the American legal system.
"The system corrects itself," Katyal said. "The lowest of the low can bring a case against the world's most powerful man and win." [link]