#RejectRao: Taking A Stand

Deepa Iyer
4 min readFeb 7, 2019


A round-up of activities, links, and next steps for people interested in learning about and opposing Neomi Rao’s nomination for a seat on the DC Circuit Court.

At the White House Diwali gathering in 2018, President Trump nominated Neomi Rao to take Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s old seat on the DC Circuit Court, considered to be the second most powerful appellate court in the country. Rao is an attorney, law professor, and current head of a federal office that reviews and implements regulations. Over the past week, South Asian women lawyers, law professors, and survivor advocates have been amplifying our concerns about Neomi Rao’s viewpoints, writings, and decisions. Here is a guide with links and next steps:

Representation Matters, but Stances on Justice and Equity Matter More.

  • Read the letter from 70 South Asian women lawyers, law professors, and survivor advocates to the Senate Judiciary Committee that identifies why her viewpoints and policy decisions on gender justice, the environment, affirmative action, and LGBTQ communities are deeply alarming . We write:

“We firmly believe in the importance of a diverse federal judiciary, and it is not lost upon us that if confirmed, Neomi Rao would be the first South Asian American woman to sit on a federal appellate court. However, we are deeply alarmed by Neomi Rao’s record, particularly around gender rights, and we do not believe that she will bring independence and fairness to the federal bench.”

  • The letter was officially entered into the record at Rao’s confirmation hearing on February 5, 2019, and referred to in remarks by both Senator Coons and Senator Hirono (videos below).
During the Rao hearing on Feb 5th, South Asian women stand up in silent opposition when the letter cited above is referenced by Senator Hirono (from L to R, Deepa Iyer, Darakshan Raja, Shiwali Patel, and Qudsia Raja).

Why Oppose Rao?

  • A federal judge must be an independent and fair arbiter. But Rao’s positions and her decisions in her current role show that she has conservative views on a range of issues from affirmative action to the rights of survivors of sexual assault. In her current role as head of a federal office that implements and reviews federal regulations, Rao has gutted the Clean Power Plan, a gender and racial equity pay initiative, and more.Read Sarah Von Der Lippe on affirmative action, and Shiwali Patel on sexual assault survivors.
  • Rao’s writings express alarming viewpoints on multiculturalism, date rape, sexual assault, LGBTQ communities, environmentalism, and people with disabilities. While Rao walked back her victim-blaming language from college at her hearing, Shiwali Patel also notes: “At the hearing, when Rao was asked about her comments about sexual assault survivors, she didn’t fully walk back on her rape-apologist rhetoric. Rather, when she was asked about her statements from college, Rao responded that she was simply trying to make a “common sense observation” on “actions women can take to be less likely to become victims.”
  • Rao’s writings from college and her law review articles and her decisions as the head of OIRA show clear through-lines. Read this from the Alliance for Justice which makes it clear what Rao said and what she has done.

Next Steps: By the end of February (or earlier), Rao‘s nomination will be voted on, so taking the below steps quickly is important.

  • Most important, call your Senators and let them know you oppose Rao’s nomination for the DC Circuit Court because she cannot be a fair and independent arbiter on issues such as gender justice, affirmative action, and LGBTQ rights.
  • Write an oped in your local paper.
  • If you are a South Asian or Asian American lawyer, ask your South Asian and Asian American bar association chapter to take a stand.
  • If you are a South Asian woman and a lawyer, law professor, or survivor advocate, please sign onto the letter referenced above here. If you aren’t, and want to oppose Rao’s nomination, consider coming together with like-minded people (professionally or geographically) for a brief statement.
  • Spread the word on social media using #RejectRao. Sample tweet: “I stand with South Asian women lawyers and survivor advocates in opposing Neomi Rao’s nomination to the DC Circuit Court. This is why: letter.stoprao.com. #RejectRao.”



Deepa Iyer

Social change movements & Solidarity. Work at Building Movement Project. Writer, Social Change Now; We Too Sing America. Host, Solidarity is This podcast.