Obama’s super-short Supreme Court nominee list


WASHINGTON (Media General) — It could be any day now. President Barack Obama is said to have settled on a slimmed-down list of possible nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Three names have climbed to the top of the heap, as first reported by NPR’s uber-connected Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg.

Unlike Obama’s two previous nominees, the three leading names all belong to male judges, with each offering unique pros and cons.

Sri Srinivasan — D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

Since day one, Judge Sri Srinivasan has been a consistent leading candidate for the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Srinivasan to the nation’s most influential appellate court in 2013, where he has crafted middle-of-the-road opinions that would, in normal times, earn him diverse support on Capitol Hill.

These, of course, are not normal times and Srinivasan hasn’t been an automatic consensus candidate — but he’s as close as Obama will get in 2016.

Srinivasan was born in India before moving with his family to Kansas in his youth.

The 49-year-old judge would be the high court’s first Hindu and Asian-American justice.

Merrick B. Garland — Chief Judge, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

Mile-long resumes usually help applicants land plum jobs. In Merrick B. Garland’s case, it may sink his chances.

Garland is the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he has been on the bench since 1997.

The White House has promised a nominee with rock-solid credentials. If Obama selects Garland, the AP reports, “…a white 63-year-old with an Ivy-League, East-Coast background, would not add diversity to the court. But with a reputation as a judicial moderate and with broad respect in Washington, Garland could put maximum pressure on some GOP senators to crack from leadership opposition.”

Nearly 20 years on the federal bench also carries two decades of potentially problematic opinions on controversial topics that Republicans could trot out during confirmation hearings.

Paul J. Watford — U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit

The final top-liner is Paul J. Watford, a 48-year-old appellate court judge based in San Francisco. He would be the third African-American justice in the court’s history.

Watford, fortunately for his odds, hasn’t left many judicial or philosophical fingerprints, with only three years on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Regarded as a moderate appointee, he was also a clerk to influential 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” notes Politico.

Watford wasn’t warmly received by the Senate during his 2013 confirmation battle, gaining 34 nay votes. If Obama plans to select a slam dunk candidate, Watford might not be his guy.

>>RELATED: Obama says there’s no excuse for GOP not to vote on nominee

Other candidates

Attorney General Loretta Lynch withdrew her name from consideration.

Obama is still said to be considering and also meeting with two female federal jurists: District Court Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson and 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jane Kelly.

Overall, Obama appears set to pick a well-qualified moderate. The Associated Press surmises, “The choices suggest the White House plans to challenge the Republican Senate to block a nominee whose pedigree might have paved the way for a relatively easy confirmation, if the fight weren’t playing out in an election year.”

Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales

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