With the death of Antonin Scalia on February 13, the US Supreme Court lost its staunchest conservative voice. The suddenness of his death has thrown the American political scene into chaos as politicians on both sides of the isle scramble to put together a response.
Scalia is only the second Supreme Court justice to die in office over the last 60 years and the issue of nominating his successor has already become a political maelstrom. The Republicans have threatened to filibuster any potential nominee, but that doesn’t mean President Obama won’t do his constitutional duty and appoint someone.
With the court now evenly balanced between liberal and conservative members, this promises to be one of the most important nomination battles in the history of the court. A shift to the left has the potential to impact American law and politics for a generation.
Obama’s Tough Choice for his Third Supreme Court Nominee
The president has appointed two justices already during his term in office.
Supreme Court justices appointed by Obama:
- Sonia Sotomayor
- Elena Kagan.
Sotomayor and Kagan were just the third and fourth female Supreme Court Justices, and Obama’s selection of two women previously makes it likely that he will nominate a male this go round.
Looking at the list of potential nominees there are some names that immediately stand out as likely choices and others which already look like red herrings. Below are the odds that offshore sportsbook BookMaker.eu offered on Tuesday, February 16.
Obama’s Likely Choices to Replace Justice Scalia
Merrick Garland +335
Kamala Harris +335
Loretta Lynch +615
Sri Srinivasan +750
Don Verrilli +750
Paul Watford +750
Neal Katyal +750
Patricia Millett +750
Jacqueline Nguyen +750
Supreme Court Nominees
Merrick Garland is one of the betting favorites and is considered by everyone to be on Obama’s short list for the nomination. Garland is the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals and has all the traditional trappings of a Supreme Court Justice.
Garland holds a law degree from Harvard, graduating first in his class, and most importantly, is considered a moderate. As a lame duck president with a Republican majority in the Senate, Obama has no shot to get a perceived liberal judge on the bench and Garland would assuage conservative fears.
Sri Srinivasan is one of the longer shots to be nominated at +750, but his odds should be lower than that. Like Garland, he is a judge of the D.C. Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, where three of the eight current Supreme Court Justices served before their appointments. Also, like Garland, he may be able to garner support from across the aisle. He was confirmed 97-0 just three years ago and counts many high-ranking Republican congressmen among his friends. If appointed, he would become the first Asian-American to sit on the Supreme Court. Given Obama’s penchant for making history with his nominees, he may be the President’s choice.
UPDATE: Senior Lines Manager, John Lester at Bookmaker.eu is reporting that there has been some recent line movement on Srinivasan, saying “A group of our sharper political gamblers hit Sri Srinivasan pretty hard the first 24 hours we opened the prop. We took limit bets on Srinivasan at +750, which drove the price all the way down to +340. He is now the favorite for the nomination.”
A nominee to avoid betting on is current California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Harris is currently listed as the co-favorite at +335 along with Garland, but is unlikely to be picked. Although Harris’ name has been floated around repeatedly for the Supreme Court vacancy, she flatly denies any interest and told the L.A. Times that her focus is on her role as attorney general and her intention to replace Barbara Boxer as one of California’s senators after Boxer retires.
If there is a woman to bet on for the nomination, it’s current U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She currently sits on +615 odds to be nominated to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court and at least one influential person thinks she should be the favorite.
Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog believes that Lynch is the leading contender due to her being questioned for her confirmation hearing as attorney general just last year. It would be a battle to confirm Lynch as the Republicans would try to block her nomination, but she could be the pick if Obama isn’t afraid of a protracted hearing to get his nominee confirmed.
For more political news and updates check out our political odds section.