Indian-origin judge Sri Srinivasan today lost the race for nomination as US Supreme Court judge with President Barack Obama choosing long time jurist Merrick Garland, calling him as one of the country’s “sharpest legal minds”.
The nomination of 63-year-old Garland that risks a showdown with Senate Republicans in an election year was made amid intense speculation that Obama could pick 48-year-old “trailblazer” Srinivasan to the country’s highest judicial body.
A moderate judge who enjoys impeccable bipartisan support, Chandigarh-born Srikanth ‘Sri’ Srinivasan would have been the first Indian-American to be on the bench of the US Supreme Court. He is currently a member of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit–a traditional launching pad for Supreme Court nominees.
The nomination of Garland is for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the sudden death of conservative icon justice Antonin Scalia last month.
The centrist judge, who hails from Obama’s home town of Chicago, currently serves as the chief judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia–a post he took over in 2013.
Obama formally announced his intent to nominate Garland, who has earlier been on the shortlist twice, in a ceremony at the White House’s Rose Garden in the presence of Garland himself and US Vice President Joe Biden.
“Garland would bring integrity, modesty and even- handedness and excellence to (the) Supreme Court,” Obama said as he described the nominee as someone who is widely recognised as a legal luminary.
The President called the long-time jurist and former prosecutor as “one of America’s sharpest legal minds”. Garland has served on the DC appellate court since 1997, when he was nominated to the bench by the then President Bill Clinton. He was confirmed with a 76-23 vote.
Agraduate of Harvard and Harvard Law School, he has supervised the investigations in the Unabomber case as well as the Oklahoma City bombing as a Justice Department lawyer.
White House officials said that the former prosecutor “has more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history”.
The nomination comes at a time of bitter political divide when it would be tough for Obama to get through his choice of the judge and sets the stage for an intense showdown by Senate Republicans who have maintained that Obama should not choose Scalia’s successor, with less than a year left for his presidency.
The Senators have said they do not plan to vet or hold hearings on the nominee, and say the next President should choose the new judge on the nine-member bench. However, Obama and Democrats are of the view that that with 10 months left, there is plenty of time for the Senate to take up and confirm a new justice.