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PICS: PM's family at Sri Srinivasan's swearing-in as top US court judge

September 27, 2013 12:07 IST

PICS: PM's family at Sri Srinivasan's swearing-in as top US court judge

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

Surrounded by luminaries, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s family, and with his hand placed on the Bhagwad Gita, Srikanth Srinivasan was formally sworn in as judge for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Aziz Haniffa reports from Washington, DC.

At 5 pm on Thursday (EST), with his hand placed on the Bhagwad Gita held by his mother Saroja Srinivasan, Srikanth ‘Sri’ Srinivasan, 46, was formally sworn in as the new federal judge in the United States Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, the second most powerful court in the US after the Supreme Court, by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the Ceremonial Courtroom on the E Barrett Prettyman US Courthouse.

The Senate had unanimously confirmed Srinivasan in May, making him the first South Asian American circuit court judge in the history of the immigrant experience.

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Image: Sri Srinivasan (extreme right) with Gursharan Kaur, his mother Saroja Srinivasan, PM's daughter Upinder Kaur and Srinivasan's sister Srija Srinivasan
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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The investiture ceremony saw over 500 guests in attendance, including legal luminaries, senior Obama administration officials and family and friends of the Srinivasans like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur and her daughters Amrit Singh, a human rights lawyer, and Upinder Singh, a professor and author -- so much so that an overflow room had to be opened.

It was a testament to the great respect, admiration and popularity of Srinivasan, who is already being talked of as a potential Supreme Court nominee the next time a vacancy arises in America’s highest court.

Just before administering the oath, O’Connor, for whom Srinivasan had clerked for years, said, “What a treat this is for all of us.” She predicted he would “be a superb judge on the Court of Appeals and our nation will be enriched.”

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Image: Sri Srinivasan takes oath with his hand placed on Bhagwad Gita beside his mother Saroja Srinivasan
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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PICS: PM's family at Sri Srinivasan's swearing-in as top US court judge

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Chief Judge Merrick B Garland, who was presiding over the ceremony, then called on “the stars of the show” Srinivasan’s 11-year-old twins Maya and Vikram to assist in the wrapping of the robe on their dad to sustained applause.

In his initial remarks, Srinivasan gave a taste of his signature humour, saying he was humbled by the “honored and distinguished guests and some of my somewhat less honourable friends from my earlier years.”

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Image: Sri Srinivasan's twins Maya and Vikram assist in the wrapping of the robe on their father
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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He recalled, “The last time I gave a speech to an audience wearing a robe was at my high school graduation where I was the commencement speaker, and the president said my speech was a rap. It seemed like a very fine idea at the time. I want this occasion to be truly memorable, but not that memorable. Besides I had a really hard time thinking of an appropriate rhyme for the word investiture.”

To laughter, he said, “Candidly, but somewhat curiously, pedicure came to mind.”

He said he quickly dropped that thought: “Rest assured, there will be no more rhyming today.”

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Image: Sri Srinivasan addresses the gathering at his swearing-in ceremony
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Then getting serious, Srinivasan said, “The overriding sensation that I feel today in a sense is of how incredibly fortunate I’ve been so far -- and I can’t emphasise that more.”

“This kind of occasion happens and this opportunity came along, thanks to the decision my parents made a long, long time ago,” he said, recalling how his father “came from the humblest of humble beginnings from India.”

He said, “The journey that took him from there to this country and took us all to this occasion is virtually inconceivable. He and my mom, brought me and Srija and Srinija at a very early age in search of the classic immigrant dream -- in pursuit of opportunity and happiness… I’d like to think that those aspirations have been, very much been realised.”

He added, “My dad grew to love this country because of the possibilities it gave us and this country loved us immensely back. There is no more sterling confirmation of that than this occasion today -- what this occasion signifies and the warmth and kindness in this room.”

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Image: Sri Srinivasan with Gursharan Kaur and his sister Srija Srinivasan
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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PICS: PM's family at Sri Srinivasan's swearing-in as top US court judge

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Srinivasan thanked all the speakers for their “incredibly touching remarks,” and their “enduring friendship.” All of them had spoken of his brilliant legal acumen and professionalism and laced their remarks with humor, particularly about his obsession and love for the Kansas Jay Hawks basketball team.

Srinivasan was born in Chandigarh, but was raised in Lawrence, Kansas, and attended Lawrence High School where he was an accomplished basketball player.

Among the speakers were Judge J Harvie Wilkinson, III, under whom Srinivasan had first clerked; former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger; former colleague and friend both in the public and private sector Professor Irving L Gornstein; and his sisters Srija and Srinija Srinivasan, who was Yahoo!’s fifth employee in 1995 and vice president and editor-in-chief when she stepped down in 2010.

Both sisters evoked much laughter and emotion speaking of their growing up years and their brother’s love and understanding and unshakable character and his passionate standing up for the underdog.

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Image: Gursharan Kaur speaking to Srija Srinivasan. Also seen is Amrit Kaur, PM's daughter
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Srija said, “I can say without equivocation or reservation that he’s an awesome big brother. I looked up to him all my life in more than just height. I admire him, I’ve learnt from him and I’ve always looked forward to spending time with him… He is just a tremendously great guy -- a guy I am honored and appreciative to have serving our country and furthering the public good.”

Srinija said, “I am his baby sister and his number one groupie,” and spoke of how she was “gunning for perfect attendance,” being there for 24 of his 24 oral arguments before the Supreme Court.

Judge Srinivasan spoke emotionally about his family.

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Image: Gursharan Kaur with Sri Srinivasan's twins Maya and Vikram
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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“My sisters Srija and Srinija, I have relied on your love from an early age and it has sustained me throughout,” he said. “Maya and Vikram, you two give more love and inspiration to me than any parent can rightfully expect from a child. To my mom, you’ve been with all of us at every meaningful step of the way, so it’s especially fitting that you were able to stand with me today to assist me in taking this oath of office.”

He also thanked White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, who read out his Commission and paid tribute to President Barack Obama for nominating him and the US Senate for confirming him. And he told the sizeable number of Indian American guests on hand to witness this historic swearing, ‘I am touched by your efforts and I am humbled by your confidence.’

Then turning to the Prime Minister’s wife, who was seated in the front row, with her two daughters and Saroja Srinivasan, he said, “What a terrific thing that you were able to be here with us today -- essentially fresh off the plane from India (the First Lady had landed in Washington earlier that day). That means especially much to us given my late father’s most recent passing and the incredibly close relationship that the Prime Minister and you had with him and my mom.”

He added, “I know today, it’s a very special day to you and your household and so, I want to extend to the Prime Minister, a very happy birthday from all of us.”

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Image: Sri Srinivasan waves to a guest during his swearing-in ceremony
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Srinivasan also thanked Justice O’Connor: “You challenged me from the very first day I met for the interview for my clerkship. You’ve challenged me over the years and you’ve challenged all of us and we are all the better for it.”

He said, “I have worked in two places in the law -- the office of ‘O’Melveny & Myers and then in the Solicitor General’s Office after my clerkship years,” serving three terms in the private sector and four terms in the SG’s office, the last as the Principal Deputy Solicitor General.

“Two wonderful institutions with amazingly gifted lawyers and wonderful colleagues infused with inspiring ethics, of decency, integrity and public spiritedness. I can’t think of two more fulfilling places to have worked in.”

He added, “I now have a third home in the law and that’s here in this court. To my colleagues on the DC Circuit, you’ve welcomed me so warmly and so graciously and it’s an incredible privilege to be in your midst. It’s going to be a place I am going to love to come everyday.”


Image: First Lady Gursharan Kaur with her two daughters Upendra Kaur and Amrit Kaur at Sri Srinivasan's swearing-in ceremony in Washington, DC
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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