>Death of a serving judge of the U.S. Supreme Court has set off acrimonious exchanges between the Democrats and the Republicans on whether President Barack Obama should nominate a new judge in the last year of his presidency. Mr Obama has declared that he would nominate a replacement for Antonin Scalia who died on Saturday at 79, ending a controversial tenure through which he steered the court towards right with a series of pronouncements.
> India-born Srikanth Srinivasan whose family came to the U.S from a village in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu figures as the most probable choice to succeed Scalia, according to media reports. Forty-nine year old Srinivasan is currently > U.S. Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia , which served as a stepping-stone for at least three judges of the SC. Scalia too was in the Court of Appeals for DC before President Ronald Reagan nominated him to the Supreme Court.
Judge Srinivasan’s appointment was confirmed by the Senate unanimously in 2013, a rare event given the Republican majority in the chamber. His bipartisan acceptability is among the reasons cited by a lot of U.S. commentators who believe President Obama could pick him for the post. Judge Srinivasan graduated from Stanford University in 1989 and Stanford Law School and Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1995. From 2011 to until his judicial appointment, Judge Srinivasan served as the Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States. He has also taught at Harvard Law School.
U.S. Supreme Court has eight judges other than the chief justice and on several sensitive issues the judges have split 5-4, with conservative views maintaining a lead of one vote. For instance, the Supreme Court, through a 5-4 vote settled in 2010 a judgment that allowed unlimited spending by corporations in election campaigns. Campaign financing is a hot topic of debate in the current election season. With the passing of Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court is evenly split and the stakes are high for both the conservative and progressive camps, in selecting the next judge. Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed for their lifetime. The President nominates the judges and the Senate must confirm them.
Two of the remaining eight judges are in their late seventies and one is 82. The fact that the next President may likely nominate several Supreme Court judges has been a recurring talking point on both sides of the American political divide. The sudden death of Scalia allows Mr. Obama the opportunity to nominate one more before his term ends. He has nominated two already.
“I plan to fulfill my Constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor (to Scalia) in due time….There will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote,” Mr. Obama said.
But the Republican presidential candidates and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that they would not cooperate with the President. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President," Mr. McConnell said. Senator Ted Cruz said during the Republican presidential debate on Saturday that the President should not be allowed to nominate a liberal to the Supreme Court. “The Senate should not abdicate its constitutional responsibilities for partisan political reasons,” said Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
Pointing out that the Supreme Court has before it cases affecting women’s health, immigration, workers’ rights, and other important issues, Neera Tanden, president of the Centre for American Progress, said the President and the Senate must move forward without delay, “to ensure a full court makes these critical decisions.” “Seventeen Supreme Court justices have been confirmed during presidential election years,” she said.