No sooner than Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was confirmed Feb. 13 morning did the twitterati begin speculation that Indian American D.C. Circuit Court Judge Srikanth “Sri” Srinivasan would be President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the vacant seat.
“Keep your eye on DC Circuit Court Judge Sri Srinivasan as Scalia successor,” tweeted CNN legal analyst and The New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin.
“My mole in the White House tells me Obama will nominate 46-year-old Judge Sri Srinivasan,” posted Robert Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. “Having confirmed him unanimously just three years ago, it would be difficult — but hardly impossible — for Republicans to oppose him now,” wrote the noted author and political economist, adding: “My suspicion is Obama couldn't do better than Srinivasan. No other nominee will get a majority of Senate votes.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately told news media he would block any nomination during the remainder of Obama’s term, which may mean that the seat will be left open for more than a year.
Srinivasan was sworn in June 18, 2013 as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the second most powerful court in the U.S. after the Supreme Court. He won confirmation to the post on a vote of 97-0 by the U.S. Senate.
“You all made it possible,” the 46-year-old Srinivasan told members of the Indian American community at a reception after his swearing-in ceremony, hosted by former Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Nirupama Rao. “I am incredibly honored and humbled by the tremendous support you have given me,” he added.
M.R. Rangaswami, founder of Indiaspora, told India-West: “Sri is smart, argues with conviction and has built a sound body of legal work to date.”
“He is also a consensus builder and will bring much-needed diversity to the Supreme Court. The Indiaspora community wholeheartedly supports Srinivasan and is excited at the prospect of his nomination.”
“We hope President Obama makes the right choice,” said Rangaswami.
Responding to rumors that Republicans may block any nomination during Obama’s final months in office, Rangaswami noted that the late President Ronald Reagan managed to get Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy confirmed in February of his final year in office.
Indian American business leader and political activist Saif Khan also heralded the news of Srinivasan’s possible nomination to the Supreme Court. “While I disagreed with Justice Scalia on almost everything and the only thing we shared in common was that we were both born on 11 March, I was shocked to hear about his passing. My thoughts and prayers are with the Scalia family,” said Khan.
“I believe it is very important that President Obama name a replacement soon as there are several cases pending before the Supreme Court,” he said, noting that – with only eight justices on the bench – votes will likely be split 4-4 along ideological lines. If votes result in a tie, the lower court ruling would stand.
During the Feb. 13 Republican debate, front-runner Donald Trump advised the Senate to “delay, delay, delay,” any confirmations. “I believe such suggestions are ludicrous and not to mention “totally out of step with our history and our constitutional principle,” said Khan, paraphrasing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s response.
“Judge Srinivasan is very fair and puts hard work and logic above ideology. Having read some of his opinions, he carefully weighs in all factors before issuing a decision,” said Khan. “He is the first circuit court judge of South Asian descent. Now I would like to see him as the first Asian American Supreme Court Justice.”
Dilawar Syed, co-founder of the Asian American Pacific Islander Victory Fund – which launched last month – told India-West: “We are vigorously advocating for an Asian American to be appointed to the Bench. There is an historic opportunity here to create a Supreme Court composition that reflects what will be one of the largest communities in the U.S.”
Despite Republican opposition, the president has made it abundantly clear that he intends to nominate, said Syed. “Filling the vacancy in a very polarized climate is going to be an uphill task,” he noted.
“This is a high-stakes appointment, consequential for the future of our country,” he said. “Despite the climate, the country must understand that the third branch of government cannot effectively be stalled for a year,” stated Syed, noting that when there is an even number of justices in the Court, it is always difficult to eke out a majority position.