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Antonin Scalia Law School’s Ranking Boost Linked to Supreme Court Justice Connections
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Antonin Scalia Law School, affiliated with George Mason University, experienced a remarkable rise in rankings after strategically cultivating ties with Supreme Court justices, according to a memo obtained by the New York Times. The memo, written by an administrator in 2017, highlighted the potential game-changing opportunity of establishing a strong relationship with Justice Neil Gorsuch, the newest addition to the Supreme Court at the time.

Recognizing the potential benefits, the law school successfully recruited Gorsuch to teach a summer class in Italy and hired other justices. These justices were viewed as “strategic assets” in the school’s ambition to become a prominent institution for conservative legal scholarship and influence, akin to Yale or Harvard. As a result of these efforts, Antonin Scalia Law School has made significant strides in its rankings and is now tied for the 30th position according to U.S. News & World Report.

Under the leadership of Dean Henry Butler, who assumed the position in 2015, the law school witnessed a resurgence. Prior to his tenure, the school had dropped to the 45th spot in the rankings. In addition to climbing the rankings, the school attracted students with stronger credentials, further bolstering its reputation. Moreover, a growing number of graduates secured prestigious clerkships at the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts, contributing to the enhancement of Scalia Law’s standing.


Butler received support from Leonard Leo, the former executive vice president of the conservative group Federalist Society, to enhance the school’s reputation. After the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, Butler and Leo successfully secured a $30 million agreement with donors to rename the law school in his honor. This renaming was a symbolic bridge connecting the institution to the Supreme Court.

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The dedication festivities for the renamed law school saw the attendance of seven justices, three of whom went on to teach summer classes. Gorsuch taught in various locations, including Italy, Iceland, and a U.S. resort. Justice Clarence Thomas taught on campus, while Justice Brett Kavanaugh taught in Britain and at a U.S. resort. Justice Elena Kagan joined Gorsuch as a distinguished guest during his teaching stint in Iceland.

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Notably, when Gorsuch was recruited to teach in Italy, he was allowed to select the city where he would teach. Correspondence revealed that his teaching schedule would only occupy the mornings, allowing ample time for excursions. This summer, Gorsuch is slated to teach in Portugal.

Despite a judicial advisory opinion discouraging the use of court employees for paid outside activities, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Thomas regularly employed court employees to coordinate their academic duties, according to the New York Times.

Butler sought to leverage his close relationships with the justices, frequently engaging in text conversations with Kavanaugh and Thomas, to bolster fundraising efforts. Emails demonstrate Scalia Law’s persistent invitations for justices to attend various law school activities as guests or speakers. Additionally, students were granted tours of the Supreme Court, personally escorted by the justices themselves.

The New York Times contacted a Supreme Court spokesperson for comment, but no response was provided.

In summary, the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University orchestrated a deliberate strategy to strengthen ties with Supreme Court justices, resulting in a significant surge in rankings and an enhanced reputation. The school aimed to establish itself as a premier institution for conservative legal scholarship and influence through the recruitment of justices as teachers and the involvement of court employees. The impact of these efforts was evident in improved rankings, increased student quality, and a higher number of graduates securing prestigious clerkships.



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