This Tuesday was already shaping up as a good day for Sri Srinivasan, partner at O'Melveny & Myers in Washington. It was his birthday, his 43rd to be precise. A little after 10 a.m., his day got even better, with news that he had won a 9-0 victory for client Hertz in a major business case, Hertz Corp. v. Friend.
Srinivasan had managed to convince the Court to adopt a definition of "principal place of business" that only one lower court had embraced. It's a crucial issue in determining where a company can be sued, and it had seemed during oral argument last November that he had convinced the Court. But no one was sure. "Every circuit but the 7th had rejected it, but Sri made it look easy," said O'Melveny appellate chair Walter Dellinger, former acting solicitor general.
Srinivasan's calm, confident manner will put him in good stead as well on Monday March 1, when he argues on behalf of former Enron exec Jeffrey Skilling in another challenge to the federal "honest services" fraud statute, and a claim that the local hostility toward Enron should have led the judge to move Skilling's trial from Houston.
When the Court granted review in Skilling's case last October, his longtime lawyer Dan Petrocelli, also of O'Melveny, said, "my immediate feeling was that I'd argue the case myself." But Petrocelli was in the midst of a protracted trial, and he and Dellinger decided that "Sri is the best guy to do it. He's one of the best appellate advocates in the country, and he has the energy and enthusiasm to really commit himself to the representation." Client Skilling, who currently resides at the federal prison in Englewood, Colorado, is also "extremely pleased" with the choice, said Petrocelli. Srinivasan met Skilling in a prison visit last month and had a "very lengthy discussion" said Petrocelli, who added that Skilling is "heavily involved in the case, down to wanting to understand every footnote."
A former clerk to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Srinivasan is a veteran of the SG's office, where he worked between his earlier and current gig at O'Melveny. Srinivasan was a Bristow Fellow at the SG's office under Dellinger, and was Dellinger's first hire when he went to O'Melveny. "The one reason I got him," recalled Dellnger, "was that I offered him my ticket to the Duke at Carolina basketball game if he came. He did, and he went. He is huge fan."
Actually, Srinivasan is more than a basketball fan; he still plays a few times a week. A native of India, Srinivasan grew up in what he described as the "basketball-crazy" town of Lawrence, Kansas. Both of his parents worked at the University of Kansas. He was an all-state point guard at Lawrence High School, where a teammate was the famed Danny Manning, a top player for the University of Kansas Jayhawks who went on to star in the National Basketball Association and is now assistant coach for the Jayhawks. Dellinger said of Srinivasan, "He's a terrific advocate, and he has a deadly jump shot."
Srinivasan also grew up with another star of the Supreme Court bar: Kannon Shanmugam of Williams & Connolly. Shanmugam, 37, was younger but knew Srinivasan and his family as "the other Indian family in town. We've been friends forever. I try to trail in Sri's wake." Shanmugam is also a Jayhawks fan, and they shared another experience that sparked their interest in the law: they interned, while undergraduates, for 10th Circuit judge Deanell Tacha, who has chambers in Lawrence.
“I could have told you when they were in high school that they’d be terrific lawyers,” said Tacha. "They both had analytical minds and both had the ability to take very difficult concepts and get to the numb of the issue." What's more, she said, to this day "Sri and Kannon can both be spotted at more than a few Jayhawks games."
(Photo by Diego Radzinschi.)