Who is on Obama’s SCOTUS Nominee Short List?

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After the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last month, all eyes are on President Barack Obama as he seeks to nominate a SCOTUS replacement. A few names have been floating around for a while–all top judges and advocates in the U.S., but now a source from the White House has reported that Obama has narrowed the search down to three potential options:

Sri Srinivasan

Sri Srinivasan is only 49, and would be the first Asian-American and Hindu Supreme Court justice. He was born in India and then emigrated to Kansas with his family. He went to Stanford University for both his undergraduate degree as well as law school. He clerked for former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and worked in the Solicitor General’s office under both President George W. Bush and Obama. Srinivasan currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. When he was nominated to that position by Obama back in 2013, he was approved unanimously. 

Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSBlog conducted a seemingly exhaustive review of Srinivasan’s decisions while on the bench and came to the conclusion that he “seems to be as moderate a judge as Republicans could expect a Democratic president to nominate. His views seem to be solidly in the center of American legal thought.” Goldstein puts Srinivasan’s ideology on par with current Justice Elena Kagan.

Merrick Garland

Merrick Garland also sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. He’s 63, and a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School. He clerked on the Supreme Court when he was younger, for Justice William Brennan, and worked for some time in the private sector. He was nominated to the bench by President Bill Clinton. He’s also not clearly partisan; Vox’s Dylan Matthews cites the fact that he’s very pro-law enforcement as something that will be attractive to Republicans. He was considered as a replacement for retired Justice John Paul Stevens as well, so it makes sense he’s on the list again.

Paul Watford

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Paul J. Watford is 48. A Southern Californian, Watford went to Berkeley, and then UCLA Law. Like the other two contenders on the list, he clerked for a Supreme Court Justice–Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Then he worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office and in the private sector before he was nominated to the bench by President Obama in 2011. However, he was only confirmed by a 61-34 vote, and was vehemently opposed by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Pushback from the Republicans

The Republicans in the Senate have vowed not to hold hearings for any nominee that Obama proposes. The RNC is going so far as to launch a task force that will support those Senate Republicans with ads, petitions, and media campaigns. While the three choices that appear to be on the table are rather moderate, it doesn’t seem like the Republicans will really be playing ball. As White House spokesperson Josh Earnest quite bluntly put it:

It’s clear what Republicans are planning to do. They are planning to tear down the president’s nominee, without regard to who that person is.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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