I am not one given to playing the speculation game about whom President Obama will nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. It’s not like the President and I play golf or B-ball together, or commiserate over beers. I have no special insight into his “short list” of nominees.
But one “rising star” judge whose name has risen to the top of the political chattering class speculation since Saturday is Padmanabhan Srikanth “Sri” Srinivasan, a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The United States Senate confirmed Srinivasan by a vote of 97–0 on May 23, 2013 — which makes him appear unassailable for a promotion to the U.S. Supreme Court. He is eminently qualified.
“Sri” Srinivasan was born in Chandigarh, India. His family, including two younger sisters, emigrated in the late 1960s to Lawrence, Kansas. Srinivasan earned a bachelor’s degree in 1989 from Stanford University and then earned a J.D./M.B.A. in 1995 from Stanford Law School and Stanford Graduate School of Business. After law school, Srinivasan worked as a law clerk for United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III and then was a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
After his clerkships, Srinivasan worked for the law firm O’Melveny & Myers and then joined the office of the United States Solicitor General, where he worked from 2002 until 2007. He rejoined O’Melveny & Myers in 2007 as a partner, and was the firm’s hiring partner for its Washington, D.C. office. Srinivasan also is a lecturer at Harvard Law School, where he co-teaches a course on Supreme Court and appellate advocacy. On August 26, 2011, Srinivasan was appointed to replace Neal Katyal as Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States. He left office on May 24, 2013, upon appointment to the Court of Appeals.
If nominated and confirmed, he would be the first Indian-American justice of the Supreme Court. Srinivasan has previously been mentioned as a likely choice for elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
POLITICO Tiger Beat on The Potomac has more speculation on Obama’s Supreme Court short list:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s vow to not confirm any nominee during the remainder of Obama’s term creates an awkward dynamic around any potential pick.
Senator McConnell and the GOP’s naked partisan obstruction is unprecedented. From 1796 to 1988—at least 14 Justices have been confirmed during election years. Article 2, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution affirmatively commands that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate . . . judges of the Supreme Court.” Section 2 also provides “The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate . . .” — something Senator McConnell will prevent by not allowing the Senate to recess until Inauguration Day in January 2017.
There is no legitimate constitutional basis to deny President Obama’s nominee a speedy hearing and appointment to the court. The vacancy should be filled before the court begins its next 2016-2017 term on the first Monday in October.
Here are a look at some of the leading possibilities to be Obama’s third nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court:
D.C. Circuit Judge Sri Srinivasan is perhaps the most attractive potential Supreme Court nominee for Obama if the goal is to put pressure on McConnell to allow a Senate confirmation vote. Nominated by Obama in June 2012, Srinivasan was confirmed in May 2013 by a unanimous, 97-0 vote.
Democrats believe that unambiguous verdict on Srinivasan could make it awkward for McConnell to block a vote on his nomination.
A nomination of Srinivasan, 48, to the high court would make history: he was born in India and would be the first Indian-American Supreme Court justice.
Srinivasan is widely viewed as a moderate. He clerked for Republican-appointed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. In a speech last October, Srinivasan seemed to relish maintaining stability in the law. He suggested that fears he and three other Obama appointees would dramatically change the balance in the D.C. Circuit were overwrought.
Watford is an Obama appointee on the 9th Circuit and has been repeatedly mentioned as a potential Obama Supreme Court nominee. He was confirmed in 2012, by a 61-34 vote.
Watford, who’s in his late 40s, spent a decade as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles. Regarded as a moderate appointee, he was also a clerk to influential 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. His list of judicial rulings is still fairly short, which can be an advantage in confirmation battles. Watford is African-American.
Patricia Ann Millett
Millett, 52, sits on the D.C. Circuit and is part of a slate of three nominees Obama put forward for that court in 2013. Those nominations triggered Republican threats of a filibuster and led Democrats to deploy the so-called nuclear option, changing Senate rules to prevent filibusters on judicial nominees below the Supreme Court level.
After considerable parliamentary maneuvering, Millett was confirmed by a 56-38 vote in December 2013.
Millett spent more than a decade as a Supreme Court litigator in the Solicitor General’s office at the Justice Department. She later chaired Akin Gump’s Supreme Court practice along with Tom Goldstein, founder of SCOTUSBlog, and sometimes contributed to that site.
Garland is a politically savvy Clinton appointee on the D.C. Circuit who has long been discussed as a potential Supreme Court nominee. He’s well respected by lawyers and lawmakers in both parties.
However, Garland’s now 63, making him a decade older than a typical Supreme Court nominee in the modern era.
Loretta Lynch, 56, has served as Obama’s attorney general for less than a year, after her nomination got caught up in partisan wrangling in the Senate. Senators on both sides agreed that the disputes had little to do with her and she doesn’t seem to have engendered the same anger from the GOP that her predecessor, Eric Holder, produced.
Lynch did stints as the top federal prosecutor in the Brooklyn-based Eastern District of New York during the Clinton administration and under Obama. Nominating her could complicate her efforts to run the Justice Department since all her decisions as attorney general could be seen as opportunities to either advance or set back her nomination. She would also make history as the first African-American woman nominated to the Supreme Court.
If this is actually President Obama’s “short list” (doubtful), it seems to me that Judge Sri Srinivasan is the betting man’s choice. I know better than to actually bet on such things, however.
As Paul Waldman of the Washington Post notes, “The Senate, in all its august wisdom, used to approach nominations to the Supreme Court with a simple standard: If the nominee was qualified and wasn’t a criminal or a drunk, he or she would probably get confirmed with the support of both the president’s party and the opposition.”
Judge Sri Srinivasan is eminently qualified and was recently approved by the Senate 97-0 to the United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. There are no legitimate grounds for objection to his appointment.
GOP obstruction of Judge Sri Srinivasan to the U.S. Supreme Court would expose the naked partisanship and authoritarianism of a political party that believes it is entitled to lord over us all by divine right, the Constitution and democratic elections be damned. The GOP has become an anti-Constitution, anti-democracy party that is increasingly drifting into authoritarianism and fascism. They should be rejected by the voters in November 2016.