Last week, the Supreme Court lost its longest-serving justice, and undoubtedly one of the most recognizable figures: Antonin Scalia, who passed away at a ranch in West Texas. Consequently, all of Washington, D.C. is hotly debating whether President Obama should nominate a new justice in the last year of his term (the answer is yes, obviously, he should), and who he might pick. And there's one name that seems to be topping all the shortlists, too ― Sri Srinivasan, who'd be the first Hindu Supreme Court nominee ever, as well as the first Indian-American to receive the distinct honor.
Obviously, the Supreme Court isn't solely about representation, even though it's currently more diverse than at any other time in history. There's no assurance that you're going to be happy with a justice, or that they'll made prudent decisions, strictly on the basis of their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation or identity.
But those various identities can definitely inform and influence justices when they're considering cases that involve some ideological or experiential overlap. For example, however much some conservatives might like to deny it, you'd be hard pressed to argue that Scalia's alleged "constitutional originalism" never gave way to his ardent Catholicism.
Srinivasan is currently 48 years old, and serves as a D.C. circuit court appellate judge, a position he was nominated for in 2012, and confirmed by the Senate by an overwhelming 97-0 vote in 2013. As The Hindu reported at the time, his faith was apparent at his swearing-in ― he took his oath with his hand placed on the Bhagavad Gita, the holy book of the Hindu religion. The ceremony was performed by former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor (he clerked for O'Connor early in his career), who described him as "fair, faultless and fabulous," according to the newspaper.
Make no mistake, it's not as though Srinivasan is a sure thing to be nominated, let alone confirmed. While his sometimes pro-big business reputation could help him in a Republican-controlled Senate ― he represented former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling during his 2010 Supreme Court appeal, successfully chopping ten years off the disgraced former CEO's federal sentence ― the challenges run deeper than simple politics or jurisprudence. The GOP effectively turned this nominating process into a political football within hours of the news of Scalia's death, and it's going to be tough for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to walk that back without further inflaming the party's base, a particularly fraught situation in the midst of a presidential primary race.