A host of conservative legal luminaries are showering praise on President Obama’s nominee to a coveted seat on the second highest court in the land.
The conservatives are vouching for Principal U.S. Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan, whom President Obama renominated to fill a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that was vacated in 2005 by now-Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Their support would normally bode well for a key judicial pick by a Democratic president. But Senate Republicans have indicated a desire to maintain the court’s notoriously high vacancy rate — at least as long as Obama’s president. Earlier this year, they filibustered a different, widely respected Obama nominee to the same court. And so the broad ideological consensus behind Srinivasan makes it harder for Republicans to oppose his nomination without appearing as though they’re abusing their advise and consent power for partisan purposes.Srinivasan is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a confirmation hearing next Wednesday.
A letter signed this week by six former Democratic and Republican U.S. solicitor generals calls on the Senate to confirm Srinivasan to the position, saying he has a “first-rate intellect, an open-minded approach to the law, a strong work ethic, and an unimpeachable character.” They called him “one of the best appellate lawyers in the country,” saying he’s “extremely well prepared to take on the intellectual rigors of serving as a judge on the DC Circuit.”
The signatories include conservative legal stars Paul Clement, Ted Olson and Ken Starr, of Clinton-impeachment fame, among others. Last week, Clement and Srinivasan argued against each other before the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.
“Simply put, Sri would be an excellent court of appeals judge,” they wrote. “We urge his timely consideration by this Committee and his swift confirmation in the US Senate.”
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is a feeder to the Supreme Court — the former home of sitting Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Roberts. As the country’s second most powerful court, it’s also a body where policy is settled and made. And, as such, nominees to serve on it all face a rough confirmation process. Four of 11 seats on the court are vacant — no nominee has been confirmed since 2006 — leading to delays and higher caseloads.
The former government lawyers aren’t the only conservatives vouching for Srinivasan.
Orin Kerr, a libertarian constitutional scholar at George Washington University and former clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy, wrote on the right-wing legal blog Volokh Conspiracy that if the Obama nominee were to be confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court, “it will be excellent news. Srinivasan has a sterling reputation; he is highly respected by liberals and conservatives alike.”
Obama recently withdrew his nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the court after Republicans filibustered her confirmation. The persistent GOP filibusters of nominees have left Obama and Democratic leaders deeply frustrated. It’s unclear how Republicans will approach Srinivasan’s confirmation. A GOP Judiciary spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Srinivasan, 46, was born in India and raised in Kansas. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a JD/MBA from Stanford before starting a law career. He has worked in the solicitor general’s office during both the Bush and Obama administrations.
You can read the full letter below: