President Donald Trump is hoping to fill Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's former seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit with a former law professor whose early writings on the government and justice betrayed misogynist and bigoted views—leaving critics concerned on Monday that the president is remaking the country's second-highest court in his own image.
As Buzzfeed reported, Neomi Rao is currently an administrator in Trump's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs who has never served as a judge. Before her career in government and as a law professor, Rao attended Yale University, graduating in 1995. During her time at Yale and just after graduating Rao wrote a number of troubling essays and articles about rape survivors, the poor, and race relations.
"She didn't just carve out a conservative political position in these writings, she affirmatively attacked the equal dignity of the kinds of people who most need the protections of law that our constitution guarantees." —Marge Baker, People for the American WayOne article for the Yale Herald, written in 1994, garnered much of the condemnation aimed at Rao. The nominee wrote that if a woman who has been raped drank "to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was part of her choice," and suggested that she's therefore partially to blame for the crime.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called the comments "disturbing" and said a record of such views should disqualify Rao from consideration for the D.C. Circuit court, from which presidents have often selected Supreme Court nominees.
This is very disturbing. Based on these biased & controversial writings, as well as her lack of experience disclosed via Senate questionnaire, Neomi Rao is not qualified to serve as an impartial federal judge for life on the nation’s second highest court. https://t.co/ad5GfquW7f
— The Leadership Conference (@civilrightsorg) January 14, 2019
Neomi Rao—Trump's pick to fill Kavanaugh's old seat and a reported SCOTUS contender–spent her twenties writing victim blaming articles like the one below.
— Know Your IX (@knowyourIX) January 14, 2019
Rao was nominated last November to replace Kavanaugh after he was confirmed as Trump's second Supreme Court pick. The Senate adjourned at the end of December with her confirmation still pending, but Rao's nomination is expected to be resubmitted by the White House.
Other writings that were submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee after Rao's initial nomination included a 1996 Weekly Standard article in which she dismissed race as a "hot money-making issue" for activist and author Cornel West and called the LGBTQ rights movement a "trendy" political moment.
Also in the 1996 in the Weekly Standard, Rao called affirmative action "the anointed dragon of liberal excess."
A year earlier, she had taken aim at affirmative action as well as "women's rights, special rights for the handicapped, and welfare for the indigent and lazy," as evidence that "elitism is a forgotten and embarrassing concept" in an article for the Yale Free Press.
A spokesperson for Rao told Buzzfeed that the views she had expressed were "intentionally provocative"—but critics argue that her crudely-worded hostility toward those with disabilities, women, and people who rely on government assistance has since been mirrored by the president who nominated her for the judgeship.
"Neomi Rao's columns are consistent with this administration's support of candidates who make racially insensitive statements and comments hostile to sexual assault survivors. She shouldn't be awarded a seat on the second highest court in the country," said Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, on Twitter.
Aron also told Buzzfeed that "Rao had decades to disavow what she wrote in college and had not."
"The statements made by Neomi Rao are alarming evidence of her unfitness for the bench," said Marge Baker of People for the American Way. "No one who reads these writings can possibly believe that people of color, survivors of sexual assault, and LGBT people can expect an equal hearing in her courtroom. She didn't just carve out a conservative political position in these writings, she affirmatively attacked the equal dignity of the kinds of people who most need the protections of law that our constitution guarantees."
"The Senate needs to make clear that its constitutional responsibility to ensure equal justice outweighs politics and partisanship," Baker added.