Neomi Rao

Neomi Jehangir Rao (born March 22, 1973)[1] is an American attorney, jurist, and legal scholar who serves as a Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2019, having served in the Trump Administration from 2017 to 2019 as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.[2]

Neomi Rao
Neomi Rao (Official).jpg
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Assumed office
March 18, 2019
Appointed byDonald Trump
Preceded byBrett Kavanaugh
Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
In office
July 18, 2017 – March 18, 2019
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byHoward Shelanski
Succeeded byPaul J. Ray
Personal details
Born (1973-03-22) March 22, 1973 (age 47)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S
Spouse(s)Alan Lefkowitz
EducationYale University (BA)
University of Chicago (JD)

Early life and educationEdit

Rao was born in Detroit, Michigan, to mother Zerin Rao and father Jehangir Narioshang Rao, both Parsi physicians from India.[3] She was raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and was educated at Detroit Country Day School.[4] After graduating from high school, Rao attended Yale University, graduating in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts cum laude in ethics, politics & economics, and philosophy. Rao then attended the University of Chicago Law School, where she was a comment editor on the University of Chicago Law Review and executive editor of a symposium issue of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. She graduated from Chicago Law in 1999 with a Juris Doctor with highest honors and as a member of the Order of the Coif. Rao then clerked for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit from 1999 to 2000, then for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from 2001 to 2002.[5]


After her clerkships, Rao moved to London to join the British law firm Clifford Chance, where she practiced public international law and arbitration. During the second term of the presidency of George W. Bush, Rao worked in the White House counsel's office and as a staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee.[5] Later, she became a professor at George Mason University School of Law (subsequently renamed the Antonin Scalia Law School, a change she advocated),[5] where she received tenure in 2012. In 2015, she founded the Center for the Study of the Administrative State.[6][5][7]

She is a member of the Administrative Conference of the United States and the governing council of the American Bar Association's Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, where she co-chairs the section's regulatory policy committee.[2][8] She is a member of the Federalist Society.[9]

Office of Information and Regulatory AffairsEdit

On April 7, 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Rao to become the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within the Office of Management and Budget. Former OIRA Administrator Susan Dudley, who served under President George W. Bush, described Rao as "an excellent choice to lead OIRA...In addition to a sharp legal mind, she brings an openness to different perspectives and an ability to manage the competing demands of regulatory policy."[10] Legal commentator and law professor Jonathan H. Adler wrote that "Trump's selection of Rao suggests the administration is serious about regulatory reform, not merely reducing high-profile regulatory burdens."[2] Rao was confirmed to the position by the United States Senate on July 10, 2017.[11]

Nomination and confirmationEdit

On November 13, 2018, Trump announced that he would nominate Rao to the seat Brett Kavanaugh had occupied on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit until he was elevated to the Supreme Court of the United States.[12] Her nomination was sent to the Senate later that day.[13] On January 3, 2019, her nomination was returned to the president under Rule XXXI, Paragraph 6, of the United States Senate. On January 23, 2019, Trump announced his intent to renominate Rao for a federal judgeship.[14] Her nomination was sent to the Senate later that day.[15]

Rao's nomination attracted some opposition due to some of her college writing on race, sexual assault, and feminism.[16] In response, Rao publicly apologized for these writings.[17] A hearing on her nomination before the Senate Judiciary Committee was held on February 5, 2019. Rao was asked by several Senators about her college writings, some of which they viewed as sexual assault victim blaming. Rao responded, "A victim of a horrible crime is not to blame and the person who commits those crimes should be held responsible."[18] Democrats expressed concern that rules Rao worked to repeal in her role as administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs could face legal challenges and wind up before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considered the second most powerful appeals court. Rao said she would "look carefully at the standards for recusal, consult with her colleagues and follow the precedent and practices of the D.C. Circuit."[18] Republican Senator Josh Hawley questioned whether she was sufficiently socially conservative regarding abortion rights but ultimately voted for her confirmation.[19] On February 28, 2019, her nomination was reported out of committee by a 12–10 party-line vote.[20] On March 13, 2019, the Senate voted to confirm Rao by a 53–46 party-line vote. She received her judicial commission on March 18, 2019.

Federal judicial serviceEdit

In an October 11, 2019, opinion of a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Rao was the dissenter in a 2–1 ruling to affirm a district court ruling supporting a congressional subpoena for President Trump's records from the accounting firm Mazars.[21] She wrote in her opinion that "allegations of illegal conduct against the president cannot be investigated by Congress except through impeachment."[22]

Rao participated in the May 2020 appeal of Judge Emmett Sullivan's actions appointing amicus curiae in response to the Department of Justice moving to dismiss charges in United States v. Flynn. The Appeals Court initially ordered Judge Sullivan to file a response regarding the appeal within 10 days.[23][24][25] On June 24, 2020, Rao wrote the 2–1 decision to dismiss the conviction of Flynn, joined by Judge Karen Henderson and with the dissent from Judge Robert Wilkins.[26] Observers were surprised because Henderson had expressed skepticism over the government's position during the hearing.[27] "I don't see why we don't observe regular order and allow him to rule," Henderson said.[27] Flynn's lawyer, Sidney Powell, argued there was no longer any case or controversy, and the trial judge must dismiss the case against Flynn, at the request of the Trump Justice Department. After vacating the Rao decision, the full court heard the case on August 11, with many of the judges expressing skepticism about upholding the ruling.[28][29] On August 31, 2020, the appeals court en banc ruled 8–2 in favor of denying the writ of mandamus, and not reassigning the case to a different district court judge, and remanded the case to Sullivan, with Judge Rao writing in dissent, joined by Henderson.[30][31]

Personal lifeEdit

Rao is married to Alan Lefkowitz, with whom she has 2 sons.[32] After marrying her husband, Rao converted to Judaism, however she still identifies as a Zoroastrian.[33][34][35]


  1. ^ Voruganti, Harsh (February 11, 2019). "Neomi Rao – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit". Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Adler, Jonathan (April 7, 2017). "White House names Neomi Rao as next 'regulatory czar'". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  3. ^ "Neomi Rao To Lead OIRA In US". Parsi Times. Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  4. ^ "Alumni Class Notes" (PDF). Bee Hive, for Alumni, Friends and Family of Detroit Country Day School (Winter): 39. 2005. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Eder, Steve (July 9, 2017). "Neomi Rao, the Scholar Who Will Help Lead Trump's Regulatory Overhaul". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  6. ^ Mufson, Steven (April 20, 2017). "Pick for rules czar would hand more power to Trump". Washington Post. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  7. ^ Waddell, Melanie (April 11, 2017). "Scalia Law's Neomi Rao Picked for Trump Regulatory Chief". National Law Journal. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  8. ^ "Indian-American Neomi Rao nominated as Trump's regulatory czar". Deccan Chronicle. April 8, 2017. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  9. ^ McDonald, Laughlin; Dudley, Susan E. (April 12, 2017). "President nominates Neomi Rao to head OIRA". Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  10. ^ Devaney, Tim (April 7, 2017). "Trump nominates regulatory chief". The Hill. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  11. ^ Siegel, Josh (July 10, 2017). "Senate confirms Neomi Rao to lead White House office overseeing regulations". Washington Examiner. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  12. ^ Gray, Noah (November 13, 2018). "Trump nominates Neomi Rao to replace Kavanaugh on DC Circuit". CNN. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  13. ^ "Two Nominations Sent to the Senate". Retrieved November 16, 2018 – via National Archives.
  14. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Judicial Nominees". – via National Archives.
  15. ^ "Nominations Sent to the Senate". – via National Archives.
  16. ^ Cassesn Weiss, Debra (January 16, 2019). "DC Circuit nominee under fire for college writings on race, feminism, date rape". ABA Journal. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  17. ^ Cassesn Weiss, Debra (February 12, 2019). "DC Circuit nominee Neomi Rao apologizes for controversial writings on sexual assault". ABA Journal. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  18. ^ a b Homan, Timothy R. (February 5, 2019). "Trump's pick for Kavanaugh's old court seat grilled over date-rape comments". The Hill. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  19. ^ Karni, Annie; Haberman, Maggie (February 26, 2019). "Senator Josh Hawley Raises Questions About Neomi Rao's Abortion Stance" – via
  20. ^ "Results of Executive Business Meeting – February 28, 2019, Senate Judiciary Committee" (PDF).
  21. ^ Shuham, Matt (October 11, 2019). "Appeals Court Upholds House Subpoena Of Trump Financial Records". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  22. ^ Liptak, Adam (November 18, 2019). "Chief Justice Gives Trump Temporary Reprieve in Financial Records Case". Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  23. ^ "USCA ORDER as to MICHAEL T. FLYNN re: Emergency Petition for a Writ of Mandamus" (PDF). D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. May 21, 2020.
  24. ^ "DC Circuit Court Of Appeals Order" (PDF). May 21, 2020.
  25. ^ "DC Circuit Court Of Appeals Opinions" (PDF). June 24, 2020.
  26. ^ Polantz, Katelyn and Marshall Cohen, "Appeals court orders judge to dismiss Michael Flynn case", CNN, June 24, 2020.
  27. ^ a b DC Circuit Didn't Sound Eager to Force Dismissal of Case Against Michael Flynn, National Law Journal, C. Ryan Barber, June 12, 2020. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  28. ^ "Federal appeals court skeptical of Michael Flynn's effort to immediately dismiss criminal charge". POLITICO.
  29. ^ "Judges appear reluctant to immediately end case against Trump ex-aide Flynn". August 11, 2020 – via
  30. ^ "READ: Appeals court ruling in Michael Flynn case". CNN. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  31. ^ Marimow, Ann E.; Hsu, Spencer S. "Michael Flynn case does not have to be immediately dismissed, appeals court rules". Retrieved September 19, 2020 – via
  32. ^ "Hearing on the Nomination of Neomi Rao to be the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, Statement of Neomi Rao" (PDF). United States Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. June 7, 2017. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  33. ^ Kampeas, Ron (March 14, 2019). "Senate confirms Jewish nominee to DC court after abortion views hiccup". Jewish Standard. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  34. ^ Johnson, Scott (February 7, 2019). "Booker's row with Rao". Power Line. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
  35. ^

Selected publicationsEdit

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Howard Shelanski
Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Succeeded by
Paul J. Ray
Legal offices
Preceded by
Brett Kavanaugh
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit