Childhood & Early Life
Neal Katyal was born on March 12, 1970 in Chicago, Illinois to parents who originally hail from India and immigrated to the US.
His father, who expired in 2005, was an engineer while his mother is a pediatrician. He has one sister by the name of Sonia Katyal who is an attorney and a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.
For his high school education, he went to Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois after which he joined Dartmouth College from where he graduated in government and Indian history in 1991.
He then joined Yale Law School and studied under American legal scholars Akhil Amar and Bruce Ackerman. With them, he published law review articles and political opinion journals in 1995 and 1996. He also carried out the editorial job of the ‘Yale Law Journal’.
While in the law school, he did summer internships in the office of Vice President Al Gore and in the Solicitor General’s office. For his third internship he worked with the top law firm of Washington, Hogan & Hartson. There he worked under the guidance of then Supreme Court litigator and later Chief Justice Roberts.
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In 1995, Neal Katyal got his J.D degree (Juris Doctor). Upon completion of his studies, he worked as a clerk, first for Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York and later for the US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in Washington.
In 1997, at the age of 27, he was employed by the Georgetown University Law Center and became one of its youngest ever professors to receive tenure and a chaired professorship in the history of the university. He has worked there for over two decades.
During 1998 and 1999, he worked as Special Assistant to the Deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department.
The-then US President, Bill Clinton, assigned him the task to prepare a report on the requirement of more legal pro bono work.
In 1999, he drafted the special counsel regulations which lead the ‘Mueller investigation’ conducted between 2017 and 2019.
He became the co-counsel of the then US Vice President, Al Gore in the 2000 election dispute at the Supreme Court in ‘Bush v. Gore’
In 2006, Katyal served as the lead counsel for Guantanamo Bay detainees in ‘Hamdan v. Rumsfeld’ – a case that earned him much fame and a place in the legal history of the United States.
In 2009, the-then US President, Barrack Obama appointed Neal Katyal as the Principal Deputy Solicitor General of his administration. The following year, he became the Acting Solicitor General succeeding Elena Kagan who was chosen by the President to serve as Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court. In both cases, he became the highest ranking Indian-American in the U.S. Department of Justice.
In his position as Acting Solicitor, he represented the US Federal Government in all appellate matters in the Supreme Court as well as the Courts of Appeals in the country.
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While in office, he argued a variety of cases including one where he successfully defended the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in ‘Northwest Austin v. Holder’ case and another one where he emerged victorious in ‘Ashcroft v. al-Kidd’. In the latter case, he won a unanimous decision from Supreme Court while arguing in favour of former Attorney General John Ashcroft for alleged abuse in the war on terror.
In 2010-2011 ‘American Electric Power Co., Inc. v. Connecticut’, he represented the major power plants of the country and marked yet another victory –a unanimous one- against eight states who blamed the former for their contribution in increasing global warming.
He became the only head of Solicitor’s Generals office to argue, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, on the significant issue regarding the patentability of some aspect of the human genome.
After his term with the Obama administration was over in 2011, he came back to Georgetown University Law Center and entered into a partnership with global law firm Hogan Lovells.
During his career, he has orally argued more than 41 cases in the highest court of the United States. Out of these, he has argued 39 of them in last ten years.
In 2016 and 2017, he argued two cases ‘Bristol Myers Squibb v. Superior Court’ and ‘Trump v. Hawaii’. His win in the former was an important victory for personal jurisdiction law. In the latter, he represented the State of Hawaii arguing in the Supreme Court against the travel ban imposed by the US President Trump.
He is a well-known author with a number of his scholarly articles published in law journals. He has a number of op-ed articles that have appeared in publications like The Washington Post, Newsweek, The New York Times and Time.
In 2019, he co-authored the New York Times bestselling book, "Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump" along with Sam Koppelman.
He has appeared in almost all significant American news programme and also as himself in an episode of the famous Netflix show, ‘Houses of Cards’.
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Awards & Achievements
In 2006, he was given the Lawyer of the Year by ‘Lawyers USA’. In the same year, he was awarded Lawyer of the Year, Runner-up by ‘National Law Journal’.
In 2008, ‘Legal Times’ acknowledged him as a One of the 90 Greatest Washington Lawyers over the Last 30 Years.
In 2010, he was included in the list of 40 Most Influential Lawyers of the Last Decade Nationwide by ‘National Law Journal’.
In 2011, the Department of Justice presented Neal Katyal with ‘Edmund Randolph Award’- the highest award that can be given to a civilian.
He has won the Appellate MVP by Law360 several times – in 2013-2014 and latest in 2017
In 2017, he was recognized as the winner of the Financial Times Innovative Lawyer in both public as well as private law. The year also saw him been named one of ‘GQ’s Men of the Year.
In 2016 -2017, he became The Litigator of the Year, Grand Prize winner. The honor was given by the ‘American Lawyer’ Magazine.
The ‘Law Dragon’ Magazine has consistently included his name in the list of ‘Top 500 Lawyers in America’. He is also recognized in its Legends list.
He was also named the Appellate Attorney of the Year, 2018- 2019 by Benchmark Litigation.