Obama backs Indian-American for top judicial post

If appointed,S Srinivasan will be first appeals court judge of South Asian origin

Written by New York Times | Washington | Published: April 11, 2013 1:01 am

JEREMY W PETERS

The Obama administration is pushing for the confirmation of a senior Justice Department lawyer to the country’s most prestigious appellate court. If the effort fails,it could lead to a confrontation with the Senate over the long-simmering issue of judicial nominees.

The White House is lobbying some of the President’s most vocal foes,including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas Administration officials are trumpeting the endorsement of top Republican lawyers like Kenneth W Starr,the special prosecutor who investigated the Clintons. And former clerks for Supreme Court justices are writing letters of support for the nominee,Sri Srinivasan.

On Wednesday,the Senate Judiciary Committee Was scheduled to begin hearings on his nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The nomination will test an aggressive new strategy that the White House and Democrats are hoping will put Republicans in a bind: approve the highly regarded Srinivasan or risk forcing a change to Senate rules that could prevent Republicans from filibustering nominees.

Beyond its import for other nominations,Srinivasan’s confirmation matters for its own sake. Obama has yet to leave his mark and fill any of the four vacant seats on the court,which often decides major federal cases and has been a steppingstone for Supreme Court justices. Four of the current justices served there first.

As a 46-year-old Indian-origin lawyer with bipartisan backing who would become the first appeals court judge of South Asian heritage,Srinivasan himself is a potential Supreme Court candidate.

Like some recent Supreme Court nominees,Srinivasan,the principal deputy solicitor general,does not have the kind of long paper trail on divisive issues that could complicate his prospects,although that background also creates anxiety among some of Obama’s allies.

Srinivasan has argued two dozen cases before the Supreme Court. Most recently,he was on the Obama administration’s side in arguments last month over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The list of high-profile lawyers supporting his nomination reads like a strange bedfellows guide to Washington. Along with Starr,Paul D Clement and Theodore B Olson,both solicitors general under President George W Bush,signed a letter of support. So did nine other former solicitors general or top deputies.

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