Indian-American in the running to become US Supreme Court judge

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, WashingtonWashington
  • Updated: Feb 14, 2016 09:01 IST
Indian American Sri Srinivasan has emerged as a likely successor for the recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Scalia. (Reuters Photo)

Within hours of the passing of Antonin Scalia, a leading conservative judge of the US Supreme Court, Saturday Indian American Sri Srinivasan emerged as a likely successor.

“Keep your eye on DC Circuit Judge Sri Srinivasan as #scalia successor on #SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the US),” Jeffrey Toobin, a legal analyst and CNN commentator, said in a tweet.

Ian Millhiser, a legal expert associated with a DC think-tank, said, also in a tweet: “If I had to put money on it, President Obama will probably nominate Sri Srinivasan to replace Scalia.”

Old profiles and write-ups about the 48-year-old judge began popping up in tweets and on Facebook pages, including one that called him Obama’s “Supreme Court nominee in waiting”.

Obama named Srinivasan to the US Court of Appeals (roughly like India’s high courts) for the DC Circuit, generally considered a stepping stone to the Supreme Court, in 2013.

Read | US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dead at 79

The president described Srinivasan a “trailblazer” while sending his nomination to the senate and once again after he was confirmed, adding this time he “personifies the best of America”.

He was confirmed unanimously, in a 97-0 vote, becoming the first Indian-American judge of a court of appeals.

Srinivasan was born in Chandigarh, where his family lived and met and became friends with Manmohan Singh, who would become the prime minister of India one day.

Both his parents were teachers -- his father was a mathematics professor at the University of Kansas, and his mother taught at the Kansas City Art Institute.

Sri, as he is known to everyone, graduated from Stanford University and did a joint law and business masters from Stanford Law School and Stanford Graduate School of Business.

“He is very hardworking and very humble,” Saroja Srinivasan, a distinctly proud mother, told Hindustan Times at his confirmation hearing in April, 2013..

Srinivasan worked for the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers, where he made a reputation representing corporate clients including Enron boss Jeffrey Skilling.

The first time he appeared before the Supreme Court, Srinivasan brought along just a single sheet of paper, ostensibly notes, so as to not appear overconfident. But the paper was blank.

Singh’s family attended Srinivasan’s swearing-in as circuit judge. And now he could well be headed for another swearing in, as the first Indian American US Supreme Court judge.

There will be others in contention too, for sure.

But the Republicans, who control the senate, which must consider and then confirm or reject the president’s nominee, want the successor to be named by the next president.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” he said in a statement.

Republicans running for president weighed in too, agreeing “We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement,” said Ted Cruz in a tweet.

Obama has 342 days left, and some Democrats said it would be unprecedented to leave the Supreme Court short by one judge — there are nine in all including the chief — for nearly a year.

Obama said in remarks on Scalia’s passing late Saturday that he intends to nominate someone as successor.

If it’s Srinivasan and he is confirmed, he will make history again: this time as the first Indian American judge of the Supreme Court.

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