Starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic can be challenging at best. But when that job includes teaching students without ever meeting them face-to-face, “challenging” may be an understatement. For Professor Thomas Bennett, Mizzou Law’s newest faculty member, finally getting to step foot in a classroom this fall was a vast improvement over how he spent his first year teaching at Mizzou.
Bennett, an associate professor of law and a Wall Family Fellow at the University of Missouri School of Law, began teaching at Mizzou in 2020 when most Mizzou Law classes took place over Zoom. Now that all classes are back in-person, Bennett can teach his constitutional law class while looking his students in their eyes.
“I’m so grateful for the in-person interaction with students and my fellow faculty members,” Bennett said. “Trying to communicate complicated legal topics over Zoom was difficult, so receiving in-person feedback, questions and comments truly makes all the difference.”
Bennett came to Mizzou Law by way of the New York University School of Law, where he served as a Furman Academic Fellow. Prior to his first position in higher education, Bennett completed two clerkships with federal judges in New York and then spent four years in private practice litigating appeals, complex civil cases and administrative matters.
At Mizzou Law, Bennett teaches, researches and writes about constitutional law, administrative law and civil procedure. The highlight of his early academic career came in June 2021 when Bennett’s paper “The Paradox of Exclusive State-Court Jurisdiction Over Federal Claims,” was cited by USSC Justice Clarence Thomas in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez.
Bennett says he is drawn to studying constitutional law because of its confluent nature.
“Constitutional law is so fascinating to me because it allows for the mixture of politics, history and law,” Bennett said. “It takes abstract ideas and makes them concrete. I love teaching it because it allows me to put my history nerd hat on and not only teach the law, but also give historical context to students for why the law is written and practiced the way that it is.”
As the newest faculty member to teach at Mizzou Law, Bennett says he was attracted to the school because of its sense of community.
“I was very impressed by the kinship and collegiality that was apparent among the faculty, staff and students,” Bennett said. “It was clear that the students cared a great deal about having close relationships with their professors and that was an atmosphere that I wanted to join.”
It’s an atmosphere that is only invigorated by Professor Bennett’s energy and expertise.
Beyond serving as an associate professor of law, Bennett also holds an appointment as an associate professor of constitutional democracy in the MU Kinder Institute for Constitutional Democracy. He also was appointed as a UM System Presidential Engagement Fellow in 2021. In this position, he travels around the state of Missouri educating Missourians about constitutional law issues and how they relate to current events.