While conversations among Hawaii progressives and some liberal Democrats in the Islands right after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia favored a quick presidential recess appointment to replace him, this is very unlikely to happen.

Not only would a recess appointment give the GOP tons of ammunition to accuse Barack Obama of “over-reach,” the mechanics of such an appointment are actually somewhat in doubt and, that being the case, the arguments against it most likely would have to be brought before the Supreme Court — just think that one through a bit.

The conventional wisdom at this point is that, while the Republicans in the Senate are indeed in a legal position simply to sit on any nomination from the White House from now until January 2017, they would be unwise to do so. The political price this coming November for total obstructionism (their leitmotif for the past several cycles) could cost them dearly at the polls in the close Senate races that at least five GOP senators face.

Supreme Court Building. 23 feb 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Who will President Obama put forward to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court? Interesting choices are already surfacing. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

If the Republicans lose both the Senate and the White House in November (distinct possibilities as of today), that’s the end of the conservative wing of the Republican Party for at least four more years, if not longer. It’s also the end of “Citizens United,” and the end of most state-sponsored anti-abortion restrictions, realistic challenges to ObamaCare, the constant assault on union rights, and/or any prospects for legal opposition to gay marriage.

Eventually, it could also put an end to the current ludicrously broad interpretation  of the Second Amendment (largely the work of the late Justice Scalia).

This means that the President will most assuredly nominate someone for the Supreme Court in a rather short while from now. Who are the most likely candidates?

U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh
U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh Asa Mathat for Re/code

Going out on a limb (more like a coconut frond leaning over the Ala Wai), here is my prediction: It will either be a sitting Democratic senator or a federal judge who was already confirmed either unanimously or nearly unanimously by the GOP-majority Senate.

Having to vote against the former would make the Republican senators look “un-collegial,” if not downright mean-spirited. For them to vote against the latter would clearly be irresponsible, especially if they now voted against someone they had all voted for before.

This calculation bodes well for Obama’s nominating a sitting federal judge.

With Scalia gone, there are currently five men and three women on the bench. There are six Caucasians, one African American and one Hispanic.  There are five Catholics and three Jews. There are no Asian Americans. There are no Protestants, no Buddhists, Muslims or Hindus.

U.S. Circuit Judge Padmanabhan Srikanth "Sri" Srinivasan
U.S. Circuit Judge Padmanabhan Srikanth “Sri” Srinivasan 

In view of all of the above, two possible names stand out: Sri Srinivasan on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Lucy Koh, a United States district court judge for the Northern District of California.

Srinivasan (the half brother of PBS anchor-man Hari Srinivasan), a Tamil-American, is slightly more high-ranking and experienced. But Lucy Koh, who is a Korean-American, would help make the SCOTUS gender balance more closely reflective of the national demographic.

A GOP majority previously favored both of these jurists for the federal bench. If they now find them publicly unacceptable, they will rue the day, especially if ultra-conservative lobbyists secretly try to leak scandalous accusations against them to the right-wing media as has been their wont.

So we’re going with either Koh or Srinivasan. Place your bets, folks.

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