President Donald Trump has reportedly interviewed Indian American law professor Neomi Rao to serve on the DC Circuit Court, to fill the position vacated by new Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed last month.
If confirmed, Rao would be the first Parsi jurist to serve in the Circuit Court, Arzan Wadia, editor and publisher of Parsi Khabar, told India-West.
Trump’s meeting with Rao was first reported by the online news site Axios. The DC Circuit Court is often referred to as the most powerful court in the nation, second only to the U.S. Supreme Court, because of its proximity to federal agencies.
Axios reported that – post interview – sources briefed on the meeting said Trump was not impressed by Rao. However, she may still be appointed to the court, as Trump has stated his intent to nominate a minority woman to fill the role, and a potential “feeder” to the Supreme Court. A source told Axios that Trump is reconsidering his initial impression of Rao.
“Rao's advantages: She's well respected at the OMB, knows regulatory law back to front, has the advantage of already being Senate-confirmed and is well-liked by several key Democratic senators,” opined the publication.
The Washington Times reported that former White House counsel Don McGahn recommended Rao to Trump for the open DC circuit court seat.
Rao, 44, currently heads up the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the Office of Management and Budget at the White House. She was confirmed to OIRA by the Senate on July 10, 2017. The New York Times reported that OIRA – a somewhat obscure agency created by former President Jimmy Carter’s administration to approve government data collections and determine whether agencies have sufficiently addressed problems during rule-making – is at the heart of Trump’s politically-charged agenda to overhaul government regulations.
Rao is the founding director of the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. In an op-ed for The Washington Post last year, as the Senate was considering Rao’s confirmation to OIRA, GMU law professor Jonathan Adler termed Rao “a well-respected administrative law expert” who was a “superlative pick” for the post.
Adler noted that Rao has clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has served in the Bush administration, and as a staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee, effectively serving in all three branches of the federal government.
Rao is the daughter of Zerin Rao and Jehangir Narioshang Rao, both Parsi physicians from India; she was raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and graduated from Yale. Rao then attended the University of Chicago Law School. She is married to attorney Alan Lefkowitz and has two children.