From Appellate Advocate to Appellate Judge: Judge Sri Srinivasan

adams-kristenNew ALI member Judge Sri Srinivasan of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit addressed the Institute this morning.  Judge Srinivasan  assumed office in May 2013, having previously served as the Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States.  He is the nation’s first federal appellate judge of South Asian descent.  His oath was administered by retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, (for whom Srinivasan clerked) who was quoted in the Washington Post referring to him as “fair, faultless and fabulous.”
In his remarks, Judge Srinivasan reflected on his transition from appellate advocate to appellate judge.  He noted how the former experience had prepared him for the latter, and described the challenge and concomitant opportunity to be impartial, as well as the value of the impetus toward consensus. In elaborating on this last point, Judge Srinivasan described the difference between a court, on the one hand, and a collection of individuals, on the other. As part of what Judge Srinivasan indicated he has experienced as a thoughtful and collegial process of collective decision-making, he  described judges as being not unduly inclined toward viewing cases as open-and-shut matters, but instead as generally being willing to approach a case with an open mind.
Judge Srinivasan also provided some advice to appellate attorneys, including the following:
  • Avoid personalizing the dispute.
  • Always answer questions directly and forthrightly.
  • Respond to the judges’ questions from the assumption that they are genuine and asked in an effort to address a real concern.
  • Make sure to answer every judge’s questions.
  • Acknowledge the places where your argument is vulnerable, then indicate why your client should nevertheless prevail.
  • Be careful when relying on arguments not fleshed out in the briefing.
  • Consider embracing a result that is more practical, palatable, and feasible, even if is arguably less pure.