Some of President Donald Trump’s judicial picks have raised eyebrows for their unique hobbies — such as Alabama District Court nominee and amateur ghost hunter Brett Talley, whose nomination was eventually dropped — and now Neomi Rao, Trump’s choice to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the DC Circuit, is in the spotlight for her pet cause of dwarf-tossing.
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 in some American states and parts of France, where a judge upheld such bans because of “considerations of human dignity.” Rao considers these laws an affront to individual liberty that fails to recognize the right of the dwarf to be tossed. 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.