In 2016, Srinivasan was considered by President Obama as a potential nominee to the Supreme Court.
Srinivasan was born Padmanabhan Srikanth Srinivasan in Chandigarh, India. His father, Thirunankovil Padmanabhan Srinivasan, was from Mela Thiruvenkatanathapuram, a village near Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. Srinivasan's family first moved to the United States in the late 1960s when his father had a Fulbright fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley. The family briefly returned to India before finally emigrating to Lawrence, Kansas in the early 1970s when Srinivasan was four years old. His father was a professor of mathematics at the University of Kansas, and his mother, Saroja, taught at the Kansas City Art Institute and later worked at the University of Kansas computer science department. Srinivasan graduated from Lawrence High School in Lawrence, where he played basketball, sharing the court with future NBA star Danny Manning.
Srinivasan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1989 from Stanford University and then earned a Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration in 1995 from Stanford Law School and Stanford Graduate School of Business, respectively.
After law school, Srinivasan worked as a law clerk for United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III and then was a clerk for United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
After his clerkships, Srinivasan worked for the law firm O'Melveny & Myers and then joined the office of the United States Solicitor General, where he worked from 2002 until 2007. He rejoined O'Melveny & Myers in 2007 as a partner, and was the firm's hiring partner for its Washington, D.C. office. While at the firm, he represented ExxonMobil for accusations of human rights abuses by hired military personnel at an Indonesian gas plant. In 2010, he represented former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling in his appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, which challenged the "honest services" fraud statute and also that Skilling's trial was never moved from Houston. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Skilling on the "honest services" fraud statute, but rejected the trial location argument.
Srinivasan also was a lecturer at Harvard Law School, where he co-taught a course on Supreme Court and appellate advocacy. In 2005 he received the Office of the Secretary of Defense Award for Excellence from the United States Department of Defense.
On August 26, 2011, Srinivasan was appointed to replace Neal Katyal as Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States. As of May 2013, Srinivasan had argued 25 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier in his career, he also performed pro bono work for presidential candidate Al Gore during the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election.
In 2013, he was part of the legal team that presented arguments before the Supreme Court against the Defense of Marriage Act in the case of United States v. Windsor.
He left the Solicitor General's office on May 24, 2013, upon a 97–0 appointment to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
In March 2010, National Review blogger Edward Whelan wrote that the Obama administration had been considering nominating Srinivasan to one of two vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and that the idea of nominating Srinivasan had run into opposition from some Obama supporters because of Srinivasan's work in the U.S. Solicitor General's office during the Bush administration, and union animosity to Srinivasan's corporate clients in private practice.
In June 2012, Obama nominated Srinivasan to the seat on the D.C. Circuit. On January 2, 2013, his nomination was returned to the President, due to the sine die adjournment of the Senate; the next day he was renominated to the same office.
His Senate confirmation hearing on April 10, 2013 was uneventful. His nomination was reported to the floor of the Senate on May 16, 2013, by a unanimous vote of 18 ayes to 0 nays. A final vote on his nomination took place on May 23, 2013, where he was confirmed 97–0. He took the oath of office before Chief Judge Merrick Garland in June. At his formal swearing-in ceremony in September, administered by retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor, he took the oath on the Hindu holy book Bhagavad Gita and became the first federal appellate judge of South Asian descent.
In Sierra Club v. Jewell, 764 F. 3d 1 (2014), Srinivasan authored the majority opinion in the D.C. Circuit's split decision holding that environmental groups seeking to protect the site of the historic Battle of Blair Mountain possessed Article III standing to challenge the removal of the site from the National Register of Historic Places in federal court.
Srinivasan authored the D.C. Circuit's decision in Pom Wonderful v. FTC, 777 F.3d 478 (2015), which upheld FTC regulations that require health-related advertising claims be supported by clinical studies while simultaneously trimming the number of studies required on First Amendment grounds.
In Home Care Association of America v. Weil, 799 F. 3d 1084 (2015), Srinivasan authored the D.C. Circuit's decision reinstating, under Chevron deference, regulations that guarantee overtime and minimum wage protection to home health care workers, citing "dramatic transformation" of the home care industry over the past forty years as reason for the change.
Srinivasan authored the D.C. Circuit's decision in Hodge v. Talkin, 799 F. 3d 1145 (2015), which upheld a federal law prohibiting demonstrations in the U.S. Supreme Court Building's plaza as justified by the Supreme Court's interest in not giving the appearance of being influenced by public opinion and as consistent with nonpublic forum viewpoint-neutral restrictions, where demonstrations could proceed on nearby public sidewalks.
In Jarkesy v. SEC, 803 F. 3d 9 (2015), Srinivasan authored the D.C. Circuit's decision holding that the securities laws under the Dodd–Frank Act provide an exclusive avenue for judicial review that plaintiffs may not bypass by filing suit in district court.
Srinivasan authored the D.C. Circuit's decision in Simon v. Republic of Hungary, Slip Op. (2016), holding that Article 27 of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act merely creates a floor on compensation for Holocaust survivors because the text of the 1947 peace treaty between Hungary and the Allies does not bar claims outside of the treaty and because the Allies "lacked the power to eliminate (or waive) the claims of" Hungary's own citizens against their government.
In April 2013, Mother Jones suggested that Srinivasan ultimately might be nominated by President Obama for the Supreme Court of the United States; during the same month, Jeffrey Toobin also opined that should he be confirmed for the D.C. Circuit, he would be Obama's next nominee to the Supreme Court. If nominated he would be the first Indian American, first Asian American and first Hindu candidate for the Supreme Court.
Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13, 2016, Srinivasan was again widely speculated to be among the most likely contenders to be appointed to fill the seat, prior to the nomination of Merrick Garland. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened to refuse to consider any Obama appointee to fill the seat in an election year, it was thought that Srinivasan, who was confirmed 97–0 in 2013, would be politically difficult to block, had he been nominated.
Srinivasan lives in Arlington County, Virginia with his wife Carla J. Garrett. He has two children, Maya and Vikram, who are twins.