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Georgetown Law official cleared over tweets on Supreme Court pick

Ilya Shapiro, who has been on paid administrative leave since late January, said he will start work Friday

Georgetown University Law Center in Northwest Washington. (Nick Anderson/The Washington Post)
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A Georgetown Law administrator who was placed on paid administrative leave this year for his tweets about President Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman for the Supreme Court has been cleared after a months-long investigation, officials said Thursday.

School investigators found that Ilya Shapiro, who was set to lead the Center for the Constitution starting in February, was not “properly subject to discipline” for his January tweets because they were posted before his employment started, William M. Treanor, the law school’s dean, said in an email to the campus.

Days before his appointment — and shortly after Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer announced plans to retire — Shapiro tweeted Biden should nominate the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but instead would pick a “lesser Black woman.”

Incoming Georgetown Law official placed on administrative leave for tweets about Supreme Court pick

Shapiro’s remarks — for which he apologized a day after they were posted — also included a tweet that said if Biden nominated a Black woman for the high court, she “will always have an asterisk attached.” Another tweet included a poll that asked if the president’s commitment to nominating a Black female judge was racist, sexist, both or neither.

His posts immediately incited some backlash, accusations of racism and a condemnation from the law school’s dean, who declared Shapiro’s remarks “appalling.” But dozens of students and faculty also came to Shapiro’s defense.

Shapiro was put on leave pending an investigation. On Thursday, he said he was “gratified” he will get to do the job for which he was hired.

“I look forward to teaching and engaging in a host of activities relating to constitutional education,” Shapiro wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “As befitting a Center for the Constitution, all students and participants in my programs can expect to be accorded the freedom to think and speak freely and to be treated equally: a diversity of ideas will be most welcome.”

In a separate tweet, Shapiro said he’d go to work Friday.

After controversies, Georgetown Law students call for culture shift

While Shapiro has been cleared of wrongdoing, Treanor’s note to campus said the university’s offices of human resources and institutional diversity, equity, and affirmative action — which led investigations into his conduct — found his “tweets had a significant negative impact on the Georgetown Law community, including current and prospective students, alumni, staff, and faculty.”

The dean said Shapiro will participate in implicit bias, cultural competence and nondiscrimination programming — a requirement for all law school senior staff. Shapiro has been asked to avail himself to meet with students concerned about his ability to treat them fairly, Treanor said.

The incident reflects the pressure on administrators nationwide to showcase their schools as sites of diverse viewpoints while also ensuring students feel safe and welcome. Georgetown Law has not yet reached a balance, said Amber Freeney, a third-year student and president of the campus’s Black Law Students Association.

Freeney said the university’s investigators should publicly release their findings into the Shapiro tweets. “I’m outraged,” Freeney said. “I believe in freedom of speech, but I do not believe in freedom from consequences. I feel like Georgetown University Law Center has failed to recognize the difference.”

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