Who Could Replace Antonin Scalia?

The bench of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is draped with black wool crepe on February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

With the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, President Barack Obama faces a rare opportunity to move the court to the left. Obama's choice is whether to nominate a moderate jurist or an out-and-out liberal, neither of whom is likely to be approved considering Republicans are balking at approving any nominee.

Sri Srinivasan: Out of all the nominees available to Obama, Srinivasan may be the most palatable to Senate Republicans if they drop their opposition to approving any Obama nominee. An Indian immigrant who grew up in Kansas, Srinivasan is considered a business-friendly moderate, having argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of Enron and ExxonMobil. Currently, he sits on the federal appeals court for D.C., long considered a "feeder" for the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg all sat on this court before being nominated to the Supreme Court. The Republican-led Senate approved him 97-9 in 2013 for his current job, which would make it difficult for them to oppose him now. He also has the all-important Reagan credential, having clerked for Sandra Day O'Connor, a Reagan appointee. Even Ted Cruz, whose opinion on the court carries a lot of weight in conservative circles, approves of Srinivasan, having called him a "longtime friend." But Srinivasan isn't entirely "safe": His views on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion are largely unknown, but he was part of the team that successfully argued against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013, which could hurt him among social conservatives.

Loretta Lynch: Lynch is the sitting attorney general and is viewed by some as Obama's most likely choice. If Obama wants to replace Scalia soon, Lynch can be in front of the Senate the fastest. Having been recently vetted for attorney general, Lynch's vetting for Supreme Court would be streamlined, putting the pressure on Republicans to approve her nomination. And as a black woman, a Lynch nomination would likely drive voter turnout among black voters, a reliable Democratic constituency, in the 2016 election. And as SCOTUSBlog's Tom Goldstein points out, there is perhaps something symbolic for Obama about appointing a black, liberal justice to counterbalance Clarence Thomas, one of the court's most conservative.

Paul Watford: Watford sits on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the West, Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii. At 48, Watford is among the youngest nominees available to Obama and, like Lynch, he is black, so his nomination could motivate African-American voters in the presidential election. He clerked for Ruth Bader Ginsburg before becoming prosecutor in California. And Republicans have already said yes to him once: His nomination to the 9th Circuit was confirmed in 2012 by a margin of 61-34.

Kamala Harris: Harris is the sitting attorney general of California. She is the first woman and the first person of color to hold that post. The daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, Harris attended Howard University and received her J.D. from UC Hastings in San Francisco and, like Lynch, would likely motivate black voters come the 2016 election. But while Harris would be a popular pick among liberals, conservative Republicans are likely to reject her. And Harris might have a better job lined up anyway: After longtime California Senator Barbara Boxer announced that she intends to retire at the end of her term in 2017, Harris announced her intention to run.

Patricia Millett: Millett serves on the same court Sri Srinivasan serves on, the federal appeals court for D.C. She was appointed to it by the Senate in a 56-38 vote in 2013 after a seven-month filibuster by the GOP that resulted in changes to the rules for the filibuster. She's an experienced litigator who has argued in front of the Supreme Court 32 times. Millet has bipartisan support, and would be relatively easy for Obama to get through the Senate. She has served in the Department of Justice under Republican and Democrats, and her husband, Bob King, is a Navy veteran who served in Iraq.

Jacqueline Nguyen: A refugee from Vietnam, Nguyen sits on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. She graduated from Occidental College, Obama's alma mater, and received her J.D. from UCLA. If appointed, she would be the first Asian-American Supreme Court Justice. Nguyen was confirmed 91-3, so refusing her nomination now would prove difficult for Republicans. But Nguyen is a bit of cipher, judicially, and few can say with any authority where she would come down on the big cases of the day, making her another risky choice.