IWF congratulates Neomi Rao on her confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

A respected legal scholar and expert on administrative law, Judge Rao has worked in all three branches of government. She is particularly well-suited to serve on the D.C. Circuit, where approximately two-thirds of the cases concern regulatory or other civil matters involving the federal government.

Despite Judge Rao’s sterling credentials (or perhaps because of them), opponents attempted to smear her by grossly mischaracterizing her writings from a quarter century ago while an undergraduate at Yale. Although the Senate ultimately confirmed Judge Rao, not a single Democratic senator voted in her favor. 

Sadly, party line votes on judicial nominations are becoming typical.  According to Thomas Jipping, Director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, “Trump’s judicial nominees are being treated very differently than those of previous presidents.”

Although the Senate has confirmed 91 of President Trump’s nominees to the federal bench, including 53 federal trial judges and two Supreme Court justices, Jipping notes that these nominees “have received more negative confirmation votes than the 2,653 judges confirmed to the same courts during the entire 20th century combined.”

Opposition to Republican nominees to the federal bench stems largely from those who view the courts as just another policy-making branch of government and who, therefore, want only federal judges who share their personal and political viewpoints. These proponents of judicial activism oppose any nominee who expresses fidelity to the law as written or who understands the role of a judge to be that of a neutral arbiter.

Although Republicans control the Senate, opponents of president Trump’s judicial nominees continue to pressure Senate Democrats to hold up nominations as long as possible. According to an article in the Hill,

Senate leaders usually agree to a package of judicial and executive nominees before a major holiday recess. But [at the end of 2018 Minority Leader Chuck Schumer faced] increasing pressure to crack down on Trump’s picks, with progressives accusing Senate Democrats of not doing everything in their power to block or at least slow the nominees from being confirmed to lifetime appointments.

As of today, there remain 152 federal judicial vacancies with 66 nominations pending. Expect Senate Democrats to continue their use of character assassination and inappropriate opposition research tactics to slow down the process as much as possible.