The first time Srikanth ‘Sri’ Srinivasan argued a case before the US Supreme Court, he stood before the black-robed judges with a single piece of paper in his hand so that he would not appear overconfident. That paper was blank.
Widely regarded by his peers as among the best appellate court advocates in the US, Srinivasan was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on May 23 after President Barack Obama nominated him to be a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the first South Asian American to serve on a US Circuit Court. Obama described him as “a trailblazer who personifies the best of America”.
With the DC court considered to be a springboard for the US Supreme Court, the buzz following Srinivasan’s confirmation naturally focused on his prospects of occupying a seat in the highest court of the land one day.
He was confirmed by the Senate as the first Indian judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
“As his brother-in-law, I’m hardly objective,” Bradley Joondeph joked in response to an Outlook request for this profile on Srinivasan. Joondeph, a law professor at Santa Clara University, is married to Srinivasan’s younger sister Srija. “He is kind, warm, generous, humble and incredibly smart. I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t like him, except perhaps some basketball teammates who’re jealous of how many shots he can take sometimes,” he says.
Srinivasan was born in Chandigarh on February 23, 1967. His father, T.P. Srinivasan, was on the faculty of the Punjab University in Chandigarh along with an economist named Manmohan Singh. The two forged a close friendship, the PM’s referred to as ‘Manmohan uncle’.
The Srinivasans moved to Berkeley, California, sometime in the ’60s. But the Berkeley of that era seemed like a different planet to Srinivasan Sr. The family eventually settled in Lawrence, Kansas. Growing up in this conservative heartland of America, Srinivasan developed a passion for basketball and the University of Kansas team, the Jayhawks. Joondeph recalls one time when the family drove through the night, across three states, to watch them play. “Sri had important work to do. But losing sleep or putting off some meetings was well worth getting to see Kansas play.” Even today, no matter how busy his schedule, Srinivasan makes it a point to coach his daughter Maya’s basketball team or attend son Vikram’s athletic events.
Ashish Kumar Sen in Washington