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SCOTUS Candidate: Meet Judge Paul J. Watford of the 9th Circuit

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on March 14, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The leading contender for President Obama's nomination to SCOTUS is none other than 9th Circuit Judge Paul J. Watford. However, if the past is any indication, Watford's candidacy will be the source of much resistance. If Judge Watford occupies Justice Scalia's vacancy, he would be the third African-American Justice in the Court's history. But he isn't the only contender on President Obama's increasingly short list of candidates.

The nomination of a candidate to replace Justice Scalia has taken center stage in what is becoming yet another ugly Capitol Hill conflict.

Doesn't Rock the Boat

As far as the nomination process is concerned, Judge Paul Watford is an obvious nominee because his time on the bench has not been peppered with any strong judicial or philosophical "fingerprints" that could sully his chances with conservatives. The 48-year old is generally regarded as a moderate. He'd spent time as Judge Alex Kozinski's clerk and even clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Watford's rise to the circuit court was not the smoothest of sailing. In his 2012 Senate Confirmation hearing, 34 votes opposed him ascending to the Ninth Circuit bench.

Alternative Sterling Candidates

Unlike Judge Watford, D.C. Circuit Judge Sri Srinivasan earned an impressive 97-0 vote count -- a totally unopposed confirmation back in May 2013. It is generally believed that the unopposed vote will make it much more difficult for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to oppose his nomination by President Obama. His nomination would be at least just as palatable as Watford's nomination because he too is regarded as moderate, and has voiced preferences to maintain stability in the law.

His ascendancy to the bench would also happen to mark a first for immigrants: Srinivasan was born in India and would be the first Indian-American Supreme Court Justice.

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