WASHINGTON: Three Indian-American legal luminaries may be among the possible candidates whom US President Barack Obama could nominate as a Supreme Court judge following the sudden death of conservative icon Justice Antonin Scalia.
Within hours of the death of Mr Scalia at a ranch in Texas, the name of Chandigarh-born Sri Srinivasan popped up as the top contender to the post.
Sri Srinivasan, 48, is currently the US Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit which many call as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court.
He is not only considered as a favourite of Barack Obama, who has called him as a trailblazer, but also his nomination to the Court of Appeals was confirmed by a record 97-0 votes, which is an achievement given the bitter political divide in the US Senate.
The White House yesterday refused to give any indication of the list of persons President Obama is looking into to zero in on his nomination for the next Supreme Court judge.
But given his track record – wherein he has appointed a record number of Indian-American judges to various US courts – and him publicly praising some of them, it would not be a big surprise that in addition to Mr Srinivasan a few other individuals from the community too figure up in his list.
Among them could be his home town resident Neal Katyal, who served as Acting Solicitor General of the US from May 2010 until June 2011 and California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is considered to be very close to President Obama.
Ms Harris, who traces her roots to Chennai, is currently running for the US Senate seat in California.
On Monday several media outlets mentioned Ms Harris as among the potential ones who could replace Mr Scalia in the Supreme Court.
Ms Harris, 51, who was among the six people mentioned by New York Times, has not reacted to the speculation so far.
In 2011, she became the first African-American, Asian-American, Indian-American and woman to hold the post of California attorney general.
Many say Mr Katyal, who would turn 46 on March 12, could emerge as a dark horse in the process.
With extensive experience in matters of patent, securities, criminal, employment, and constitutional law, he has orally argued 27 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, with 25 of them in the last six years.
Barack Obama intends to nominate someone as Supreme Court judge who honours constitutional responsibilities, have impeccable credentials and understands how laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives, the White House said.
“I would not anticipate an announcement this week, especially given that the Senate is out on recess,” White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters. Schultz refused to engage in speculation about lists and names.
When asked about what kind of individual President Obama is looking to nominate someone to be the next Supreme Court judge, Schultz said President’s judicial nominees should adhere to a number of basic principles.
“Number one, I’d say the President’s judicial nominees are all eminently qualified with a record of excellence and integrity. The President looks for individuals who have impeccable credentials,” he said.
“Number two, the President intends to nominate individuals who honor constitutional responsibilities. These are individuals who have a commitment to impartial justice, respect the integrity of the judicial process, and adhere to precedent. The President seeks judges who will faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand,” he said.
“And lastly, the President is also mindful that there are rare cases where the law is not clear, and we acknowledge that those incidents occur most often at the Supreme Court,” he said, adding that in those times, a judge will have to bring his or her own ethics and moral bearings into a decision.