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Thomas Keck Named a 2024 Guggenheim Fellow

April 19, 2024

The prestigious honor will support the Maxwell political scientist’s research on judicial responses to free speech restrictions in the United States and Europe.

Thomas M. Keck

Thomas M. Keck

Thomas M. Keck, professor of political science and Michael O. Sawyer Chair of Constitutional Law and Politics, has been named a 2024 Guggenheim Fellow. Keck was included among a diverse class recognized by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation as “culture-creators.”

“This is a highly prestigious recognition and an honor earned from Professor Thomas Keck’s research and long engagement on critical issues of democracy and governance. I congratulate him for this accomplishment,” says David M. Van Slyke, dean of the Maxwell School. “I thank him for being a valuable contributor to the Maxwell School and its students and for the public impact that his evidence-based research will have on dialogue, decision-making, and policy in the United States and beyond. His expertise and insight on the U.S. Supreme Court and the first amendment help strengthen our society’s democratic institutions.”

The Guggenheim Fellowship will support Keck’s research on judicial decisions related to free speech in the contemporary United States, in European democracies facing similar threats, and in the U.S. during prior periods of democratic crisis. Ultimately, it will fund a book project titled “Extremist Speech and Democratic Backsliding.”

“I am so grateful for this fellowship, as it will enable me to devote a full year of research and writing to this book project focused on speech restrictions during instances of democratic backsliding,” says Keck. “Free speech restrictions are a recurring feature of democratic backsliding. I plan to examine whether and to what degree courts across time and space have checked anti-democratic and, arguably, pro-democratic speech restrictions amid democratic crises.”

Keck is among the country’s foremost experts on the modern Supreme Court and has been cited extensively by the media for recent rulings such as Dobbs v. Jackson. Keck’s research has also appeared in leading journals; his 2007 article on Supreme Court decision-making, published in the American Political Science Review, received the American Political Science Association’s (Law and Courts Section) Houghton-Mifflin Award in 2008 for the best journal article in the field of law and courts by a political scientist.

In addition to Keck’s analysis of the Supreme Court, his current scholarly work focuses on the tension and balance between freedom of expression and academic freedom.

Keck earned a Ph.D. at Rutgers University in 1999 and taught at the University of Oklahoma for several years before joining the Maxwell School in 2002. In 2004, Keck’s first book, “The Most Activist Supreme Court in History: The Road to Modern Judicial Conservatism,” was published by the University of Chicago Press. It is considered one of the most important works on the expansion of conservative judicial activism. His second book, “Judicial Politics in Polarized Times,” was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2014.

This year’s Guggenheim Fellows were chosen from almost 3000 applications based on “prior career achievement and exceptional promise,” and following a peer review process. Since the fellowship was established in 1925 by Senator Simon Guggenheim, the foundation has honored 19,000 fellows that include artists, scholars, photographers, novelists, essayists, poets, historians, choreographers, environmentalists and data scientists. The recognition includes a stipend that allows awardees to pursue their work under “the freest possible conditions.”

The full list of 2024 fellows can be found at

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