Obama will choose a Supreme Court nominee as early as Monday

Obama will choose a Supreme Court nominee as early as Monday

Obama will choose a Supreme Court nominee as early as Monday

President Obama is close to selecting a nominee to fill Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. The three reportedly in the running are Sri Srinivasan, 49, and Merrick Garland, 63, who both serve as appellate judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Paul Watford, 48, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court

Both Srinivasan and Watford are Obama donors. Srinivasan donated $4,250, and Watford has donated $1,000. Garland has not donated to Obama.

Srinivasan, who was born in India and grew up in Kansas, would be the first Asian-American and first Hindu on the high court. Obama appointed him to the appeals court in 2013. The Senate confirmed him in a 97-0 vote.

Srinivasan served in the Justice Department under Democratic and Republican presidents and worked as a clerk to the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, a Republican appointee.

Garland, who has earned praise from lawmakers of both parties, is the chief judge of the Washington appeals court, where he has served since being appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1997, winning confirmation in a 76-23 vote. Prior to that, he served in the Justice Department under Clinton.

Watford, 48, is a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, winning Senate confirmation in a 61-34 vote in 2012. He previously worked as a prosecutor and in private practice.

If confirmed, he would be the nation’s third black justice, following current justice Clarence Thomas, appointed in 1991, and Thurgood Marshall, who retired in 1991 and died in 1993.

Srinivasan is a bright young legal mind. He graduated from Stanford Law School and has argued several times before the Supreme Court representing the United States. His family immigrated from India and now have deep roots in Kansas. It appears that he might have bipartisan support considering that his 2013 confirmation included no nay votes:

[H]e sailed unanimously through the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate with what Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, one of the Senate’s most conservative members, acknowledged was “broad bipartisan support.”


Garland was under consideration in 2010 for Justice’s Steven’s seat which was eventually granted to Elena Kagan. Garland is a Harvard Law graduate and has spent time in both the public and private sector. He clerked for Justice William Brennan. He has been described as being more center than to the left.

Merrick Garland
Merrick Garland

Watford is a California native and graduated from UCLA Law School. He clerked for Judge Alex Kozinski on the Ninth Circuit and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Kosinski is known for his controversial positions outside of his colorful opinions, and Ginsberg is of course known to be quite liberal. Despite this, Watford receives praise from conservatives and fair minded thinkers. Eugene Volokh has said he is “calm and judicial and attentive to precedent.” Daniel Collins, former colleague in private practice and fellow Superme Court clerk (for Justice Scalia) said of Watford:

“He just embodies the definition of judicial temperament — very level-headed and even-keeled.”

Collins, who clerked for conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and was a government lawyer in both Bush administrations, said he considered Watford a moderate who would be widely admired and respected.

Paul Watford
Paul Watford

It remains to be seen if the Senate will hold the line on confirming a new justice before a new president is elected, so there is a very real possibility that one of these three men will become the newest justice on the Supreme Court. None seem to be cut from the same cloth as Justice Scalia, but if I had to choose one I would pick Sri Srinivasan. He appears to have approached his legal career with the right kind of sober contemplation, energy, and respect for the law that conservatives can appreciate. I have great respect for his appellate career. Family, tradition, and hard work seem to be important to him. He is a Hindu, and of South Asian descent. We do not have many Hindus or South Asians in the judiciary and I feel that these characteristics could bring an independent spirit such that maintaining his integrity above all else would be the most important thing to him. He may be able to shake off the influence of being an Obama nominee and reject joining the liberal cabal.

I don’t desire someone on the Supreme Court who will take an ideological position on every issue just for the sake of being conservative – I don’t believe that’s how Justice Scalia approached the job. In the spirit of Justice Scalia, I want someone who will adhere to the task of interpreting the law within the limits of the Constitution. I don’t think you need to be a conservative to get that right – you just have to have a respect for the law.


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