Who Is Sri Srinivasan, Obama's "Supreme Court Nominee in Waiting"?

| Wed Apr. 10, 2013 10:15 AM EDT
Principal Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan argues in front of the US Supreme Court.

The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin calls Sri Srinivasan, the government lawyer Barack Obama has nominated to the prestigious US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, "the Supreme Court nominee in waiting." But you could also call him a mystery.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Srinivasan's nomination to the DC Circuit—often considered a place for potential future Supreme Court nominees. He would be the first Asian American and Indian American judge on that court.

Srinivasan's background is as a litigator, meaning he's spent most of his career defending other people's positions rather than his own. That means that although he's well regarded among legal elites of all stripes, his own views are less than clear. At a time when Republican obstruction has ground the confirmation process to a halt, and the outspoken progressivismor even mild progressivism—of prior Obama nominees has run into GOP filibusters, Srinivasan's unclear record offers Republicans few legitimate reasons to block him. It also means that liberals can't be sure that Srinivasan actually shares their views.

"I don't think anybody is going to suggest that he's being put forth as the next Thurgood Marshall or Justice Brennan. He does not come out of that kind of background," says Caroline Fredrickson, president of the progressive American Constitution Society. But, she argues, he is "extremely well qualified" and "probably has the perfect resume for anyone who would be nominated to the DC Circuit." Doug Kendall, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center, calls Srinivasan "unquestionably brilliant" but acknowledges that Srinivasan's record "is not progressive-forward; it is as non-ideological as you can find." (Neither organization has formally endorsed Srinivasan's nomination).

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