What do we know about Neomi Rao, the former law school professor who is Donald Trump’s pick to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals? For one, she is the current head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget, where she has championed deregulation and the dismantling of the so-called “administrative state.” Before that, she founded the Center for the Study of the Administrative State, with money from the Koch brothers, at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. (This sentence came from hell.) Another thing to know about Rao is that she is a noted defender of a fucked up practice called “dwarf-tossing.”
I will admit that I’ve never heard of this activity, which sounds extremely odious based on Mother Jones’ description: “Especially popular in Florida bars, dwarf-tossing is the strange spectacle in which competitors throw Velcro-clad little people at a wall or mattress like a shotput. The longest toss wins. The sport has been banned some American states and parts of France, where a judge upheld such bans because of ‘considerations of human dignity.’”
But for Rao, bans on the activity amount to attacks on people’s personal freedom to choose how to live their lives—an argument that breaks down if examined too closely—and she has raised the example numerous times in her legal writings.
From Mother Jones:
In one article, she wrote that the decision in France upholding the dwarf-tossing ban was an example of “dignity as coercion” and that it “demonstrates how concepts of dignity can be used to coerce individuals by forcing upon them a particular understanding of dignity.”
Dwarf-tossing is an odd cause for a federal judicial nominee to champion. Even weirder, Rao has invoked it repeatedly in her writing to make the case that a misguided focus on human dignity is leading US courts to run afoul of the Constitution in decisions that advance LGBT rights and racial equality. These are areas of the law where, she argues, judges are letting the pernicious influence of international human rights law creep into their jurisprudence at the expense of American exceptionalism and personal freedom.
As the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which Mother Jones calls “the most important government office you’ve never heard of,” Rao has expressed some alarming opinions. According to the Washington Post, Rao “has written that the independence of federal agencies should be abolished, their rules subject to White House review, and the heads of those agencies subject to dismissal by the president.”
Rao has an impeccable conservative pedigree—a former intern at the Heritage Foundation, she attended law school at the University of Chicago, where she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Post-graduation, she then worked in the Bush administration before becoming a law professor at the aforementioned George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.
What a peach.