Neomi Rao, Trump nominee for D.C. Circuit, in crosshairs of liberal activists

February 1, 2019

Liberal activists on Friday blasted an Asian woman President Trump has nominated to a high-profile appeals court, saying that while she might be a step for diversity on the bench, she wouldn’t protect minorities in her rulings.

The activists have made it a top priority to try to derail Neomi J. Rao, who has been picked to fill the seat left vacant on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia when Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh left to join the Supreme Court.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham has announced Ms. Rao will have her confirmation hearing Tuesday the first one of the new Congress.

“She is not the role model we need for our community and certainly not the one I want for my daughter,” said Shiwali Patel, senior counsel at National Women’s Law Center and also a South Asian woman.

Ms. Rao, who works in the White House budget office, came under scrutiny after several news outlets reported this month about college writings in which she defended white men, suggested intoxicated women are partly to blame for sexual assaults and said LGBTQ issues were “trendy” political movements.

“These kind of comments deter survivors from speaking out,” Ms. Patel said.

Activists also complained about her work for the Trump administration, saying her role in cutting regulations means she’s too pro-business.

Dan Goldberg, legal director at Alliance for Justice, said Ms. Rao once mocked environmental protectionism by calling it “eco-insanity.” He said her current record shows she is still tied to the views she held as a college student.

“Rao’s views have not matured she has not evolved,” he said. “She is the same person who wrote harsh, narrow-minded things in her 20s,” he said.

But Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, has defended Ms. Rao’s record, calling the attacks “absurd” and adding she’s extremely qualified for the federal judgeship.

“She’s an accomplished professional lawyer who has served in two administrations at high levels, she’s been an assistant professor of law and she clerked for Justice [Clarence] Thomas at the Supreme Court. Further, she is a national expert on administrative law and that’s the most important part of the D.C. Circuit docket, so her qualifications are unparalleled,” Ms. Severino said.

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