Jul 27, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Justice Thomas backs out of teaching fall seminar at GW law school

Photo of Clarence Thomas speaking from a podium
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas speaks at the Heritage Foundation on Oct. 21, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has backed out of teaching a seminar at George Washington University's law school after calls to remove him from his position as adjunct professor.

Why it matters: The protests followed the Supreme Court's move to overturn Roe v. Wade, as well as Thomas' concurring opinion in the case, which called on the court to reconsider opinions protecting same-sex relationships, marriage equality and access to contraceptives. It's unclear if Thomas' decision not to teach the seminar is related.

What they're saying: "Justice Thomas informed GW Law that he is unavailable to co-teach a Constitutional Law Seminar this fall. The students were promptly informed of Justice Thomas' decision by his co-instructor who will continue to offer the seminar this fall," George Washington University spokesperson Josh Grossman said in a statement.

  • Grossman added that the university does "not have additional information to share regarding Justice Thomas' teaching availability."
  • The spokesperson did not comment on Thomas' future at the institution.

The College Republicans chapter at George Washington University said it is "extremely disappointed and worried" by the announcement.

  • "The university has lost a key figure who provides an invaluable contribution to the wide ideological spectrum that the university strives to promote," spokesperson Jackson Hoppe told Axios via email.
  • "We recognize that the current reports indicate Justice Thomas made this decision based on his availability, but the uproar from the student body regarding his presence as faculty – and the incessant hostility shown towards conservative students and beliefs on campus in general – is great cause for alarm and must be addressed by the university."

The big picture: After the Roe ruling was released, some GW students launched a petition urging the university to remove Thomas from teaching and cancel the constitutional law seminar he teaches at the law school. The petition was signed by over 11,000 people as of Wednesday.

  • GW stood by Thomas, writing in a letter that "[b]ecause we steadfastly support the robust exchange of ideas and deliberation, and because debate is an essential part of our university’s academic and educational mission to train future leaders who are prepared to address the world’s most urgent problems, the university will neither terminate Justices Thomas’ employment nor cancel his class in response to his legal opinions."

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from the College Republicans at George Washington University.

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