The death of Antonin Scalia has left politicians in a heated partisan battle, with the GOP vowing to block whoever President Obama nominates and put off the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice until after November’s presidential election in the hope that a conservative will become Commander-in-Chief.
According to political writer Robert Reich, who says he has a “mole” in the White House, Judge Sri Srinivasan may be at the top of Obama’s list of nominees, and may also be his ace in the hole for getting around Senate Republicans.
In 2012, Obama nominated Srinivasan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and he was confirmed by the Senate in 2013 with an unanimous 97-0 vote. This means that the GOP would have a tough time opposing him just three years later. (Not that they still won’t, but it will be all but impossible to deny that obstructionism is their only motive.)
Reich points out that “the D.C. Circuit has long been a Supreme Court farm team,” with John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas, and even Scalia himself having served there before being appointed to the Supreme Court.
When Srinivasan was being considered for the D.C. Circuit, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin wrote an essay for the New Yorker in which he stressed what the appointment could mean for the possibility of him one day serving on the highest court in the land.
The stakes in this nomination are clear: if Srinivasan passes this test and wins confirmation, he’ll be on the Supreme Court before President Obama’s term ends.
So just who is Judge Sri Srinivasan?
Srinivasan, 48, earned his bachelor’s degree at Stanford, then went on to graduate from the university’s law and business schools. He then worked as a law clerk for both U.S. Court of Appeals’ Fourth Circuit Judge Harvie Wilkinson III and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Later, he was a partner in the law offices of O’Melveny & Myers and eventualy became assistant to the solicitor general during the presidency of George W. Bush. He then served as deputy solicitor general under the Obama administration before his appointment to the D.C. Circuit.
Srinivasan, who was born in India, would make history if he were appointed, becoming the first Indian American to serve on the Supreme Court.
Srinivasan is considered a moderate, and as an attorney he has argued both for both liberal and conservative ideals.
When he was with O’Melveny & Myers he defended Exxon Mobile in a lawsuit brought by Indonesians who accused the company of torture and murder among other violations. He also won a case defending a newspaper for firing employees for unionizing. In 2010, he represented Enron’s former CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, who was later convicted of fraud.
He’s also seen his share of liberal cases. According to Reich, in 2000, “he worked on Al Gore’s legal team in the infamous Supreme Court case of ‘Bush v. Gore.’” And in 2013, Srinivasan argued in favor of same-sex marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act.
Srinivasan hasn’t “tipped his hand” since being appointed to the D.C. Circuit, but he said he doesn’t believe the fact that most of those sitting on the bench have been appointed by Obama has had a direct effect on the court’s rulings, telling Politico:
If we lived in a world where we had the rule of a judge, rather than the rule of law, you would have seen an absolute sea change, an avulsive change in the law as it was interpreted, applied and rendered by our court.
Reich seems to think that Srinivasan would be a wise choice for Obama to nominate to fill Scalia’s shoes.
My suspicion is Obama couldn’t do better than Srinivasan. No other nominee with get a majority of Senate votes.
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