Tim Tai, Photography Editor

Leondra Kruger LAW ’01 joined the ranks of Anita Hill LAW ’80, Sonia Sotomayor LAW ’79 and Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 as inspiring legal professionals recognized by Yale Law Women+ (YLW+) as distinguished Yale Law School Alumni. 

YLW+ presented Kruger, an associate justice of the California Supreme Court, with their annual Alumni Achievement Award in a ceremony at the Sterling Law Building on Sept. 29. Kruger was selected as the award recipient by last year’s YLW+ executive board, but the ceremony was postponed until this fall in order to hold the event in person. 

“Justice Kruger is one of the nation’s most esteemed, talented jurists,” said Yale law professor and counselor to the Dean Justin Driver, who introduced Kruger at the award ceremony. “She has been a legendary figure since her student days, and it was a genuine pleasure to welcome her back home to YLS.” 

YLW+ is a student-organization at YLS committed to improving the status of women and marginalized gender identities within the school and in the legal profession more broadly. The group organizes mentorship opportunities and programming aimed at orienting its members towards their professional goals. 

Each year, YLW+ selects one notable alum to receive the organization’s Alumni Achievement Award. The award seeks to honor alumni not only for their notable professional achievements, but also for their commitment to advancing the status of other women and people of traditionally underrepresented gender identities within the legal field.

Kruger winning places her as a prime example of the award’s mission — breaking glass ceilings has been a constant feature of her professional life. After serving as the first ever Black woman editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal, she went on to alternate between private practice and government positions. Kruger eventually served as acting deputy solicitor general of the United States and worked in the U.S. Office of Legal Counsel. 

When she assumed her current office in 2015, Kruger became one of the youngest ever appointees to the California Supreme Court. She most recently made headlines last year as a top contender for Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nomination, which ultimately went to Ketanji Brown Jackson. 

“Justice Kruger is really an exemplar of excellence,” said Chloe Francis LAW ’23, last year’s YLW+ Executive Board Chair. “Beyond opening doors for herself, she holds the door open for others.” 

Kruger’s extensive record both as a judge and a lawyer placed her in top contention for YLW+ recognition. 

According to Francis, the vote to present Kruger with the award was unanimous among the organization’s 2021-2022 Executive Board. 

“Justice Kruger has been a trailblazer throughout her entire career, from her time on the Yale Law Journal … to her current position on the California Supreme Court,” said Sarah Nealon LAW ’23, the alumni relations chair of YLW+ and organizer of the ceremony. “The YLW+ Board selected Justice Kruger for the 2022 Award last spring because her story and work have inspired many of us, and we were thrilled to recognize her achievements in-person this fall.” 

The YLW+ Alumni Achievement Award was established in 2004.

Ines Chomnalez writes for the University desk covering Yale Law School. She previously wrote for the Arts desk. Ines is a sophomore in Pierson College majoring in History and Cognitive Science.