“Unfortunately, I am writing with sad news: Judge Thomas has informed me that he will not be available to teach the seminar this fall,” Maggs wrote, according to the Hatchet. “I know this is disappointing. I’m very sorry.”
The university confirmed the message. “Justice Thomas has informed GW Law that he will not be available to co-teach a seminar on constitutional law this fall,” a university spokesperson said. “The students were promptly notified of Justice Thomas’s decision by his co-instructor who will continue to offer the seminar this fall.”
Maggs, through an assistant, referred questions to the university. Thomas did not immediately respond to messages left at the Supreme Court’s public information office.
Thomas, who has served on the Supreme Court for over 30 years, has taught at DC Law School since 2011. His position there as a teacher sparked controversy this summer after he conservative majority of court overthrown Roe v. Wadethe landmark 1973 ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion.
Thomas joined the majority in the June 24 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. He also wrote a unanimous opinion that the court should reconsider previous rulings based on legal reasoning, similar to what the court developed in roeincluding decisions to protect same-sex marriage rights and access to contraception.
After that, thousands signed a petition calling for Thomas to be removed from law school.
University leaders opposed those demands, saying on June 28 that they “steadfastly support the robust exchange of ideas and deliberation” and that “the university will not terminate Judge Thomas’s employment nor cancel his class in response to his legal opinions.”
GWU defends Thomas’ appointment amid calls for law school removal
Thomas’ critics on Wednesday celebrated the news that the judge was withdrawing from his curricula.
“This is a huge win,” said Jon Kay, who helped organize the petition. The 20-year-old GWU junior from South Orange, NJ, majoring in international affairs and philosophy, said he was surprised to learn that Thomas was retiring. Groups of students had planned demonstrations in the fall, he said, assuming Thomas would teach. “We’ll keep working to make sure he doesn’t come back in the spring semester,” Kay said.
But a GWU law professor, Jonathan Turley, called Wednesday’s development “deeply worrisome.” Turley complained about what he called a “cancellation campaign” in college.
“Justice Thomas has been teaching this course for many years and our students have benefited greatly from his insights and his experiences,” Turley wrote in an email. “He is known as someone who enjoys interacting with students and has often shown a lot of interest in their careers. This is a huge loss for our school.”
Maggs, a former clerk for Thomas and for retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, has told students the class is continuing. “The seminar has not been canceled, but I will be the only instructor now,” Maggs said in the email the Hatchet received. “For those of you who are still interested in taking the course, I assure you we will make the best of the new situation.”