Judge Neomi Rao secured Senate confirmation on Wednesday to fill an influential seat that had been held by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
President Donald Trump first nominated Rao to fill the position on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on November 13.
She received strong support for her judicial experience but also faced opposition for past comments she made on issues such as sexual assault.
The Senate eventually voted to confirm her by a 53 to 46 vote.
Senate confirms Neomi Rao to Kavanaugh's seat on D.C. appeals court https://t.co/nldAa16TeC
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) March 13, 2019
She will become the newest judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
“This nominee is yet another of the president’s excellent choices to serve as a federal judge,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said from the floor before the vote.
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“Her record includes a distinguished tenure in academia, public and private sector legal experience, as well as a clerkship on the U.S. Supreme Court. Most importantly, in testimony before our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, she demonstrated a commitment to maintaining the public trust and upholding the rule of law.”
Rao attended Yale University and the University of Chicago Law School. She also worked as a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She later entered private practice as a lawyer before eventually becoming a judge.
She has also worked for former President George W. Bush and as a law professor.
“Thank you, Leader McConnell, for standing up to Senate Democrats’ bullying tactics and spearheading Neomi Rao’s confirmation,” Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director for the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, told LifeZette. “Rao’s experience and intellect make her uniquely qualified to fill Justice Kavanaugh’s shoes on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Rao will fairly apply the law and honor the Constitution.”
Rao has faced backlash from those who claim her views would harm certain communities, such as sexual assault survivors, gay individuals, and communities of color. Those critics have pointed to writings going back to her college days indicating her views were extreme. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR) argued her nomination was meant to stack the court politically.
“Rao’s comments disparage our most vulnerable communities, including sexual assault survivors, LGBTQ people, women, and communities of color,” Vanita Gupta, LCCHR’s president, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Her tireless efforts to roll back vital public protections for sexual assault survivors, victims of discrimination, and the environment demonstrate that she will not defend our fundamental civil and human rights. We deserve a fair-minded judge who will protect our rights, not disregard them. Rao is not that person.”
At a February 5 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, she addressed concerns about her past writings. Several senators asked her about her college writings, which critics saw as putting blame on the victims of sexual assault. Rao, in response, expressed her views that the person who commits the crime should be held responsible.
Kavanaugh faced his own controversy during his nomination process to the Supreme Court last year. Allegations of sexual misconduct first began spreading when a letter turned up from an unnamed woman detailing an alleged sexual assault she said happened decades ago when they were both high school teenagers in the Washington, D.C., area.
Kavanaugh repeatedly and consistently denied those claims.
California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford revealed herself as the accuser days after the letter she wrote leaked. She became the first of several women to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, charges he vehemently denied.
The Senate Judiciary Committee launched an investigation, postponing a vote to advance the nomination and scheduling a hearing to address the allegations. Kavanaugh and Ford both had the chance to testify before the committee.
After an investigation turned up no corroborating evidence, the Senate ultimately confirmed Kavanaugh to the high court on October 6.
One of the women who leveled charges of rape ultimately admitted she made the whole thing up as “a ploy to take down Kavanaugh’s nomination.” She was identified as a left-wing activist. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, referred the individual for criminal prosecution.
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