Sri Srinivasan – First Indian American to Lead Powerful DC Circuit Court

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Prominent Indian American judge Sri Srinivasan (52)  succeeded Merrick B. Garland as Chief Judge of the United State Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, on February 11, 2020. 

Srinivasan, who was born in Chandigarh, India, has created history in a stellar legal career by becoming the first Asian to lead a powerful federal circuit court in the United States. John Yang, the president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, called the appointment an inspiration to other people of color to pursue careers in the legal community.

Judge Merrick Garland, a member of the DC Circuit since 1997 and Chief Judge since 2013  will remain on the bench, according to a press release.

Sri Srinivasan is widely regarded as a moderate and one of the best legal minds in the country, who has successfully worked for both Republican and Democratic Administrations.  John Yang noted that Srinivasan’s quick wit and personality “helps him forge alliances and build consensus in ways that others might not be able to.” Yang observed that Judge Srinivasan’s down to earth manner, “The manner in which he relates to people … will serve him well in this role.”  

“Sri is a trailblazer who personifies the best of America” said Obama, who appointed Srinivasan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in May 2013. Srinivasan took his oath of office on the Bhagavad Gita  held by his mother Saroja Srinivasan.

Padmanabhan Srikanth ‘Sri’ Srinivasan grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, the son of a Fullbright Scholar originally from Tamilnadu in South India. His father T. Padmanabhan Srinivasan was a professor of mathematics at the University of Kansas, and his mother taught at the Kansas City Art Institute

Srinivasan paid tribute to his father in an acceptance speech for a NASABA Pioneer award, acknowledging that, “I think we are fooling ourselves if we think we are pioneers because of what we have done since we’ve been in this country. The true pioneers are the ones who have paved the way for us to be here, and my dad is one of those.”

Srinivasan, a basketball star in high school, graduated from Stanford University (JD/MBA ’95 (BA ’89)

After graduation he served as a law clerk to Fourth Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals and as a Bristow Fellow in the Office of the U.S. Solicitor General. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor described her former clerk as “always fair, faultless and fabulous in his year as my clerk.” She added, “He will be a superb judge.” 

Srinivasan served as the Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States from 2011 until his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals. He has argued a remarkable 25 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

US Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai congratulated Srinivasan on the appointment, tweeting, “A milestone for the Indian-American/Kansan community (and yet another piece of evidence my family can use that I’m underachieving!).

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents

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