ARLINGTON, Virginia — George Mason University School of Law, a top-tier law school known for a faculty that includes conservatives as well as liberals, announced that it is being named the Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University.
George Mason University is a public university in Virginia, with 33,000 students. Although the main campus is in Fairfax, its law school is in a separate facility in Arlington, close to the Potomac River, as part of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
With an enrollment of approximately 500 students, George Mason’s law school has been ranked as a Tier One (top 50) law school for almost half of its 37-year existence.
The university is named for the Founding Father who refused to sign the U.S. Constitution because it granted government vast powers but did not also explicitly declare the people’s individual rights. His protest in large part led to the addition of ten constitutional amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights, two years after the ratification of the original Constitution.
On March 31, the Board of Visitors of George Mason University announced that it was renaming the university’s law school in honor of Justice Scalia. Similar to the university’s having been named in recognition of Mason’s role as the Father of the Bill of Rights, the board chose to name the law school in recognition of Scalia’s role as a historic figure in the development of American law and a champion of constitutional government.
The law school announced it had received two large donations totaling $30 million, $10 million of which came from the Charles Koch Foundation, and the other $20 million from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, but who asked for the name change.
These donations will fund three new scholarships and the hiring of additional faculty. George Mason’s law school is well known for having a faculty that has at least as many conservatives and libertarians as liberals, providing a balanced education in terms of constitutional interpretation and legal philosophy.
As a Washington-area law school, many of the professors have had extensive experience on Capitol Hill and in top executive-branch positions, including the White House and U.S. Justice Department. Several federal appeals judges have served on faculty as either adjuncts or full-time professors. Justice Scalia—who was a law professor before becoming a federal judge—had also lectured at the law school.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg responded to the news of the school’s taking Scalia’s name, saying that it was a fitting tribute to her dear friend:
Justice Scalia was a law teacher, public servant, legal commentator, and jurist nonpareil. As a colleague who held him in the highest esteem and great affection, I miss his bright company and the stimulus he provided, his opinions ever challenging me to meet his best effort with my own. It is a tribute altogether fitting that George Mason University’s law school will bear his name. May the funds for scholarships, faculty growth, and curricular development aid the Antonin Scalia School of Law to achieve the excellence characteristic of Justice Scalia, grand master in life and law.
In announcing the name change, Henry Butler, the dean of the law school, added:
Justice Scalia’s name evokes the very strengths of our school: civil liberties, law and economics, and constitutional law. His career embodies our law school’s motto of learn, challenge, lead. As a professor and a jurist, he challenged those around him to be rigorous, intellectually honest, and consistent in their arguments.
The anonymous donor of the multimillion-dollar gift approached Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the influential Federalist Society, and also a close personal friend of Scalia and his family. Leo said:
The Scalia family is pleased to see George Mason name its law school after the justice, helping to memorialize his commitment to a legal education that is grounded in academic freedom and a recognition of the practice of law as an honorable and intellectually rigorous craft.
The name change must be approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, which is expected to allow the change.
Ken Klukowski is legal editor for Breitbart News. He is also a graduate of George Mason’s law school. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.