The most important court in Washington, D.C. may just be the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The D.C. Circuit, as it's known, hears some of the most important federal cases. It's the court that hears most of the emergency injunctions over federal regulations on everything from food safety to air quality, to some national security challenges that often need a decision in a matter of hours.
The D.C. Circuit is more than just an opening act for the U.S. Supremes. It has the power to shape and direct the overall judicial agenda. It's also seen as a pool of possible Supreme Court justices.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings today on the nomination of Sri Srinivasan to the D.C. Circuit. There are currently four vacant seats on the court. President Obama has yet to fill any, in part because he's been slow to name nominees, but also because of threats of Republican opposition and filibustering.
Jeff Rosen is a professor of law at George Washington University and legal affairs editor of The New Republic. He also served as a law clerk to this very court from 1991-1992 for Abner Mikva, who was then chief judge on the D.C. circuit.