Obama's potential Supreme Court justice nominees

The president has a third shot at changing the complexion of the U.S. Supreme Court, if Congress will let him.

By Will Creighton
Obama's potential Supreme Court justice nominees
People stand in line to enter the Supreme Court on Monday for the court's first oral arguments since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. President Barack Obama may appoint a replacement, but majority Republicans in the U.S. Senate have vowed to ignore his attempts. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

It was always going to be a fight. Two Supreme Court nominees from President Barack Obama are serving on the nation's highest court, and the last thing Republicans want is for him to have the opportunity to name a third.

With the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Obama has an opportunity to turn the court from conservative to liberal. Republicans in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate have vowed to ignore him, preferring to wait for a new president – maybe a Republican – in January.


Here's a look at seven potential Obama nominees who could change the direction of the court for the next 30 years.

Sri Srinivasan

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Srinivasan, 48, clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, is considered a good friend by Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to his current seat on the D.C. Circuit Court. Mentioned by The Wall Street Journal as a potential replacement for Scalia, Srinivasan is considered a moderate and would make history by becoming the first Indian-American Supreme Court justice.


Patricia Ann Millett

Millett, 52, considered by The New York Times to be under consideration for the vacant seat was nominated to the D.C. Circuit shortly after Srinivasan. However, her confirmation was not unanimous, with Republicans threatening a filibuster and Democrats utilizing the nuclear option to prevent them from doing so. Her nomination was eventually confirmed by a vote of 56-38.

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Merrick Garland

Garland, 63, identified by USA Today as a possible replacement for Scalia, was appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court by President Bill Clinton in 1997, where he's served as chief judge since 2013. A decade older than typical nominees, he is considered a moderate and therefore, a possible compromise candidate.

Paul Watford

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Watford, 48, according to NPR is another potential nominee regarded as a moderate. He has clerked for conservative Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, as well as liberal stalwart Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He was nominated by Obama for his current position on the Ninth Circuit in 2011 and confirmed by a 61-34 vote in 2012.


Jacqueline Nguyen

Nguyen, 50, is a Vietnamese-American, who like Watford, sits on the Ninth Circuit. Acknowledged by The New York Times as being one to keep an eye on, her confirmations to both the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California as well as the Ninth Circuit were fairly painless. In both instances, she was nominated by Obama.

Kannon Shanmugam

Shanmugam, 43, is a former clerk of Scalia's and a member of the Federalist Society. Mentioned by NPR as being on Obama's shortlist, Shanmugam has no judicial experience, though he has argued a number of cases before the Supreme Court.

Brian Sandoval

Sandoval, 52, would be a nominee straight out of right field, but according to both The New York Times and The Washington Post, he was under consideration. That was until Feb. 25 when Sandoval, now in his second term as the moderate Republican governor of Nevada, ended all speculation by saying he's told the president and others "I do not wish to be considered at this time for possible nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States."


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