Law school won't fire Clarence Thomas, despite pressure over abortion ruling

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas participates in taking a new family photo with his fellow justices at the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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  • Petition calling on George Washington University to stop Thomas teaching at its law school has more than 7,000 signatures
  • Duke Law, where Justice Alito regularly teaches, has not issued any statement on his status

(Reuters) - George Washington University Law School won’t cut ties with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, despite mounting public pressure following his concurring opinion in Friday’s decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion.

University Provost Christopher Bracey and law dean Dayna Bowen Matthew said in a campus-wide email Tuesday, a copy of which was provided to Reuters by a school spokesperson, that Thomas will not be fired as a law school adjunct and the constitutional law seminar he co-teaches will not be canceled.

An online petition calling for the university to fire Thomas was started by an undergraduate student at George Washington after the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization was published. It had been signed by more than 7,000 people as of Wednesday morning.

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Reuters was unable to locate contact information for the student who authored the petition.

The petition called Thomas' employment at George Washington “completely unacceptable.”

The message from Bracey and Bowen said Thomas' views neither represent those of the university nor of its law school.

“Additionally, like all faculty members at our university, Justice Thomas has academic freedom and freedom of expression and inquiry,” they said.

Thomas did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Nor did Judge Gregory Maggs, who is also a lecturer at the law school and with whom Thomas is slated to co-teach the constitutional law seminar in the fall.

Thomas reported $10,000 in income from teaching at the Washington D.C. law school on his 2021 financial disclosure. Such disclosures are required annually for sitting Supreme Court justices.

Thomas also reported earning $19,595 from teaching an undergraduate class at the University of Notre Dame.

Thomas also has ties to Creighton University School of Law, where he has occasionally taught a summer class on the Supreme Court and from where his wife, Virginia Thomas, graduated. Law dean Joshua Fershée said Wednesday that Thomas has not taught there since his co-professor retired in 2019.

There are no current plans for Thomas to return, Fershée said. He added that he has heard some general comments and social media posts expressing the hope that Thomas does not come back to Creighton.

Other law schools are also dealing with fallout from the Dobbs decision.

Students and alumni at Duke Law School in May wrote an open letter asking the school to terminate Justice Samuel Alito's position as a visiting professor after a draft of his majority opinion in Dobbs leaked.

The school has not issued any public statement on Alito’s status, though a spokesperson confirmed Wednesday he was on campus for two days in May to teach a class for Duke’s Master of Judicial Studies program.

It’s unclear whether Alito will teach at Duke during the upcoming academic year, the spokesperson said. He reported $15,000 in income from Duke in 2020. His 2021 disclosure has not yet been released.

Alito has also taught at Regent University School of Law. He reported receiving $9,000 from Regent in 2020. Regent, which was founded by former Southern Baptist minister Pat Robertson, bills itself a Christian college.

(NOTE: This story has been updated to add information from a University of Notre Dame spokesperson.)

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com