A Supreme Court Justice With An MBA?

Srikanth "Sri" Srinivasan

Srikanth “Sri” Srinivasan

The most likely nominee to the Supreme Court to replace the late Antonin Scalia is an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Srikanth “Sri” Srinivasan, who earned his business and law degrees in 1995 from Stanford, is currently a U.S. Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

If President Obama, who had nominated  him to his current position, forwards Srinivasan’s name to the Senate for confirmation, it would be the first time an MBA graduate will have been nominated for the nation’s highest court. Srinivasan also would be a difficult nominee for the Senate to turn down. He had been confirmed by a vote of 97-0 for the U.S. Court of Appeals in May of 2013.

Born in Chandigarh, India, he emigrated with his family to the U.S. at the age of four in the late 1960s, settling in Lawrence, Kansas. His father was initially a professor of mathematics at the University of Kansas, while his mother first taught at the Kansas City Art Institute. “School was part of the fabric of our lives,” he told Stanford’s law school alumni magazine in an interview three years ago.


He was thrilled, the magazine noted, when he was admitted to Stanford for his undergraduate studies. But first he had to make the case to his 
father, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, earlier in his career, who suggested his son compose an essay explaining his choice of Stanford over Cal. “I dutifully did so,” says Srinivasan. “Apparently, it was enough to persuade him.” He earned his undergraduate degree from Stanford in 1989 and then worked for a couple of years for the County of San Mateo.

His decision to take a dual degree was motivated in part by one of his two sisters. She was already in Stanford’s MBA program at the time. “She’d helped me get through my undergraduate years, so why not business school?,” he said. His interest in law was fueled by the notion that it was the path into a career of public service and would set him up to work on public policy issues that he had become increasingly interested in. The alumni magazine noted that three Srinivasan siblings together have six Stanford degrees, and between his parents, who have relocated to Silicon Valley, and two sisters there are three Srinivasan homes within five blocks of Stanford’s campus.

While at Stanford, he did a summer internship in D.C. with the solicitor general’s office, where he would work on four different occasions in his career–as an intern, then as a Bristow Fellow, an assistant solicitor general, and principal deputy solicitor general—under five different solicitors general and under Republican and Democratic presidents.  “The Office of the Solicitor General has a deeply ingrained fundamental institutional culture that has stood the test of time for decades,” he told the alumni magazine. “I went because I wanted to do public service and do an appellate practice at the very highest levels I could.”


After law school, Srinivasan worked as a law clerk for United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III and then was a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. During his career as a lawyer, Srinivasan returned repeatedly to O’Melveny and Meyers, as a summer associate, associate, and eventually partner and chair of its appellate practice. He argued his first case before the Supreme Court at the age of 34 when he was an attorney in the solicitor general’s office in 2002. Since then, Srinivasan has argued some 25 cases before the Court, including a well-publicized case in which he represented Harvard MBA and former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling.

“Sri is the whole package—a brilliant lawyer, a calm temperament, a perfect colleague, and an incredibly decent person,” Stanford Law School Dean M. Elizabeth 
Magill said about him.

When Srinivasan was named to the Court of Appeals, a brief profile in The New Yorker predicted that he would be a likely nominee for the Supreme Court. The headline? “The Supreme Court Nominee-in-Waiting.” The magazine, writing before his confirmation for the Court of Appeals, noted that “If Srinivasan passes this test and wins confirmation, he’ll be on the Supreme Court before President Obama’s term ends.”

With the unexpected death of Scalia, he’s certainly on the short list of nominees–and very possibly could be the first Indian and MBA to be a Supreme Court Justice.





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