Indian American jurist Sri Srinivasan was named Chief Judge to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals Feb. 12 as Justice Merrick Garland’s role ended after seven years.
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals is the nation’s second most-powerful court. Srinivasan — 52, and an alumnus of Stanford Law School — was appointed to the court in 2013, during the Obama administration, and sailed through his Senate confirmation process.
Garland will continue to serve on the court, hearing cases. Srinivasan was next in line for the post of chief judge, being the oldest member of the 16-person court, who is also under the age of 65. He is the first Indian American and the first Asian American to serve as chief judge to the powerful court. Indian American jurist Neomi Rao was nominated to the court in 2018 by President Donald Trump, and underwent a rocky hearing process before being confirmed.
The National Law Journal noted that Srinivasan will now sit on the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policy-making body for the federal judiciary, which has recently taken up reviews on issues such as workplace misconduct, like sexual harassment, within the courts.
On top of making decisions that could help advance the D.C. Circuit on technology and transparency, the chief judgeship will also put Srinivasan in a spot to weigh in on similar decisions for the entire federal judiciary, noted the Journal.
It added that while Srinivasan “is not a purposeful choice for chief judgeship, having a person of color sitting at the top of such a prominent appellate court is likely to give a boost to diversity in the federal judiciary, which has been criticized for being predominantly male and white.”
Born in Chandigarh and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, Srinivasan — the brother of Srinija Srinivasan, Yahoo’s fifth employee — received a B.A. from Stanford University, a J.D. from Stanford Law School, and an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
He served most prominently as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and as principal deputy solicitor general during the Obama Administration from 2011 until he was appointed to the DC Court.
In 2016, almost immediately after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, rumors quickly began floating that President Barack Obama would nominate Srinivasan to the role. Obama instead chose Garland, whose confirmation was interminably stalled in the Senate during the remainder of Obama’s term.
The South Asian Bar Association, which has termed Srinivasan a “trailblazer,” congratulated the judge on his new role.
Srinivasan shares Garland’s moderate style in his rulings and in his demeanor in questioning lawyers who argue before the court. He is similarly well-liked by colleagues and is viewed as slow to talk but quick to listen on a court known for its collegiality, reported The Washington Post.