Indian American poised to become top US judge

Indian American poised to become  top US judge

President Barack Obama's nominee Srikanth Srinivasan, currently the principal deputy solicitor general, inched closer to becoming the first Indian...

President Barack Obama's nominee Srikanth Srinivasan, currently the principal deputy solicitor general, inched closer to becoming the first Indian American judge in the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which is America's second most important court. Srinivasan is very much in the news as a lawyer representing the Obama administration in the high-profile gay marriage case. If the Supreme Court strikes down the section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) under review, married gay and lesbian couples in nine US states and the District of Columbia will start receiving federal benefits.

Obama had problems in his first term in quickly nominating judges and winning even routine confirmations in the face of a determined Republican opposition. He has had fewer judges confirmed than any president in a quarter of a century. In his first term, he tried to fill two vacancies on the powerful DC Circuit Court of Appeals, which decides challenges to federal regulations. But no luck: Senate Republicans blocked both of his nominees. One of his nominees was Srinivasan, who was first nominated last June, and then re-nominated in January this year.

Now there's every sign that Srinivasan, who is described by The New York Times as "an exceptional and moderate candidate," has survived a stalled nomination. The Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Monday that it would hold Srinivasan's confirmation hearing on April 10. "Sri is a highly respected appellate advocate who has spent a distinguished career litigating before the US Supreme Court and the US Court of Appeals, both in private practice and on behalf of the United States for both Democratic and Republican administrations," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney playing up Srinivasan's bipartisan appeal.

Srinivasan, who is described by Obama as a "trailblazer," has all the ingredients called for in a judicial nominee. First, he's a progressive who happens to have had plenty of conservative bosses: He clerked for Judge J Harvie Wilkinson and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court and won accolades in the solicitor general's office during the George W. Bush administration. He has since shuttled between private practice at O'Melveny & Myers and stints in the solicitor general's office.

Secondly, Srinivasan also has a standout bio which isn't short on human interest. He was born in Chandigarh and later moved to the US with his parents, and played high school basketball in Kansas before going on to Stanford for college and law school. If he were confirmed, Srinivasan would be the first person of Asian descent to serve on the DC Circuit, according to the North American South Asian Bar Association. Four of the nine current US Supreme Court justices previously served in the DC Circuit.

Obama also has his heart set on Srinivasan's appointment to the DC Circuit because it is crucial to increasing his administration's impact. Firmly in Republican control thanks in part to three appointees of President George W. Bush, the DC Circuit recently struck down clean-air rules put forth by the Obama administration for coal-burning power plants.

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