She has never tried a case in court.
Since her nomination, a number of opinion pieces written by Ms Rao during her time at Yale College have resurfaced in which she criticises affirmative action and discusses race, date rape and LGBT rights.
In one column for the Yale Herald in October 1994, entitled ‘Shades of gray’, Ms Rao wrote that while a man who rapes a drunk woman should be prosecuted, “a good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober”.
“Unless someone made her drinks undetectably strong or forced them down her throat, a woman, like a man, decides when and how much to drink,” she said.
“And if she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was a part of her choice.
“Implying that a drunk woman has no control of her actions, but that a drunk man does strips women of all moral responsibility.”
In the same publication the following month, she wrote about friction between a campus LGBT organisation and a newly-formed group for conservative gay students, in which she said: “Trendy political movements have only recently added sexuality to the standard checklist of traits requiring tolerance.”
She also criticised environmental groups that “accept issues such as global warming as truth with no reference to the prevailing scientific doubts”.
Dan Goldberg, legal director of the left-leaning Alliance for Justice, called Ms Rao’s writings, especially those on sexual assault, “deeply troubling”.
“They are vile, they are terrible and she has never disavowed those views,” he said.
Mr Goldberg and other critics claim Ms Rao’s writings can be directly connected to her work at the White House, where she oversees Mr Trump’s bid to dismantle rules that protect the environment, consumers and workers.
The US president argues the rules destroy jobs and stifle economic growth.
Shiwali Patel, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Centre, said Ms Rao’s nomination was particularly troubling since it came just a few months after sexual assault accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.
However Senate Republicans pushed back against Ms Rao’s critics, saying her college writings are not outside the mainstream, and referencing a 2013 column from online magazine Slate.
In the piece, Emily Yoffe wrote: “Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice.
“But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.”
Ms Rao’s nomination was set to be heard by the Senate judiciary committee at a hearing on Tuesday.
The American Bar Association said it deemed Ms Rao “well-qualified” for the appeals court.