GWU Students Cancel Justice Thomas’ Fall Teaching Plans

After student petitions, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas cancels plans to teach at George Washington University Law School

A crowd of protesters with a woman holding a sign saying “Enough.” Photo by Liam Edwards for Unsplash
A crowd of protesters with a woman holding a sign saying “Enough.” Photo by Liam Edwards for Unsplash.

This article was originally published on BLAC Detroit Magazine.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the justices that penned the jurisprudence which overturned Roe v. Wade, has cancelled his plans to teach at the George Washington University Law School.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is not listed as an instructor for any law courses on the website for the George Washington University (GWU), where he’s taught since 2011. Following the high court’s controversial decision undoing nationwide protection for women’s right to abortions, several student petitions have rapidly filled calling for Justice Clarence Thomas to leave. What started with 50 students of the university signing an open letter calling for the removal of the justice from teaching at the law school, motivated another 11,600 to sign an online petition to “Remove Clarence Thomas from teaching at GW.”

These student actions came after Justice Clarence Thomas specifically when he wrote an opinion piece on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision helping to eventually overturn Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) decisions. Justice Thomas’ personal opinion killed the foundation which abortion rights have been based on and this decision now allows each individual state to legally declare abortion as illegal and in some cases even a crime. Thomas, among the five justices who voted to overturn the precedent established by Roe v. Wade, also authored a concurring opinion suggesting the court should also revisit other precedents, including those entitling Americans access to contraception, same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas giving a lecture George Washington University Law School in 2011. Photo courtesy of Claire Duggan.

Student publication The Hatchet broke the news after an email was sent to the students of a Constitutional Law Seminar announcing Thomas’ decision to relinquish his fall teaching position. “Unfortunately, I am writing with some sad news: Justice Thomas has informed me that he is unavailable to co-teach the seminar this fall,” Judge Gregory E. Maggs of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces wrote in an email obtained by The Hatchet. “I know that this is disappointing. I am very sorry.” Maggs is the coteacher of the Constitutional Law Seminar Justice Thomas was scheduled to teach.

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The George Washington University spokesperson, Tim Pierce, said that Thomas was simply unavailable to teach the seminar yet declined to comment if the justice’s decision came as a response to the student petitions. He also declined to comment if Justice Thomas will not be teaching at the George Washington University at all, as the students called for in the open letter and petition, or if the justice will be returning to teach other seminars in the future. The law school dean, Dayna Bowen Matthew, however, commented that, while the views of Justice Clarence Thomas does not represent the views of the university or of its law school, employing Thomas will allow for the exchange of ideas and debate that is fundamental to the school’s mission.

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