Obama names two Indian-Americans to key posts (Roundup)

January 20th, 2009 - 10:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 20 (IANS) Hours before his inauguration, president-elect Barack Obama Tuesday appointed two leading Indian-American lawyers - Neal Kumar Katyal and Preeta Bansal - to key posts.Neal Kumar Katyal’s appointment to the post of principal deputy Solicitor General follows that of Preeta Bansal as General Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor at the Office of Management (OMB) and Budget at the White House.

Preeta Bansal, considered to be part of the Obama’s inner circle, was earlier mentioned as possible solicitor general in the Obama administration.

Katyal, professor of law at the Georgetown University Law School in Washington, DC, as number two person at the Solicitor General’s office will be the highest ranking Indian American in the US department of justice.

Katyal, 37, shot into fame June 29, 2006, when the US Supreme Court agreed with Katyal’s arguments on behalf of Salim Ahmed Hamdan - a former chauffeur for Osama bin Laden - which challenged the policy of military trials at Guantanamo Bay.

Katyal’s appointment is another strong signal of Obama’s intentions to depart sharply from the terrorist detention and interrogation policies of the Bush administration, the Legal Times said.

In Hamdan case, 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.

Katyal was named Lawyer of the Year in 2006 by Lawyers USA, Runner-up for Lawyer of the Year 2006 by the National Law Journal, one of the top 50 litigators nationwide 45-year-old or younger by American Lawyer in 2007, one of the 30 best advocates before the US Supreme Court by Washingtonian magazine in 2007.

Born and raised in Chicago, Katyal was in public schools from elementary to middle school and then “my parents wanted to keep me away from girls, so they sent me to a Catholic boy’s school, the Loyola Academy in Chicago”.

He went to Dartmouth for his bachelor’s degree in government and Indian history, then to the Yale Law School.

Katyal served as national security adviser in the US Justice Department 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 v. Gore of 2000.

Preeta Bansal is currently Partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP in New York City. Since 2003, Bansal has also been a commissioner of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, serving as Chair 2004-2005.

In that capacity, Bansal participated in US diplomatic missions to Iraq, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, Vietnam, Turkey, Hong Kong, and South Asia, and presided over a nationally acclaimed commission study on department of homeland security (DHS) procedures for expedited removal of US asylum seekers.

From 1999-2002, Bansal was Solicitor General of the State of New York, where she helped supervise the legal positions of 600 attorneys in the New York Attorney General’s office.

From 1993-1996, Bansal served as a counsellor in the Office of Policy Development and Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice, and as a special counsel in the Office of the White House Counsel.

Bansal received a J.D., magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and an A.B., magna cum laude from Harvard-Radcliffe College. She was a law clerk to Justice John Paul Stevens of the United States Supreme Court.

She has been a commissioner on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Election Modernization Task Force and serves on numerous non-profit boards.

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