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Joel A Nichols

Interim Dean and Mengler Chair in Law

  • Education
  • J.D., high honors, Emory Law School
    M.Div., Candler School of Theology, Emory University
    B.A., summa cum laude, Abilene Christian University

  • Expertise
  • Church and State, Contract Law, Compliance (general), Corporate Governance, Family Law, Human Rights Law, Marriage Law and Policy

Joel A. Nichols serves as interim dean of the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Under his leadership, the law school is pursuing three strategic objectives: Contributing to a More Just World, Supporting the Lifetime Success of Students, and Building a Beloved Community.

Dean Nichols joined the University of St. Thomas School of Law in 2007, received tenure in 2009 and was promoted to professor of law in 2012. He served as theAssociate Dean for Academic Affairs from 2013-2022. He is also an affiliated faculty member of Emory University's Center for the Study of Law and Religion. Building on his expertise in both law and theology, his writing often focuses on the intersection of law and religion. His most recent book is Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment, 5th ed. (Oxford Univ. Press, 2022) (with John Witte, Jr. and Richard W. Garnett). He has also authored more than two dozen publications, including books with Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and Westview Press; articles in NYU Law Review, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law and Journal of Law and Religion; and book chapters with Mohr Siebeck, InterVarsity Press and Cambridge University Press. He has also been a reviewer for several prominent publishers.

Prior to joining St. Thomas, Dean Nichols practiced complex civil litigation in Washington, D.C., at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now WilmerHale), clerked for Judge Gerald Bard Tioflat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and then taught at Pepperdine Law School. He has served in leadership roles for several sections of the American Association of Law Schools, including as chair of the AALS Section on Associate Deans; participated on accreditation site teams for the American Bar Association; and worked closely with state and local bar organizations and the Board of Law Examiners.

Dean Nichols has also advised organizations on strategic planning and leadership and has served on nonprofit boards of directors for church organizations, human rights organizations, and bar organizations.

Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment (5th ed.) (Oxford Univ. Press, 2022) (with John Witte Jr. and Richard W. Garnett), 418 pp.

Marriage and Divorce in a Multicultural Context: Multi-Tiered Marriage and the Boundaries of Civil Law and Religion (edited collection) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012), 392 pp. (also available in paperback, 2013).

“Religious Liberty in the Thirteenth Colony: Dissent and Disestablishment in Colonial and Early National Georgia,” in Disestablishment and Religious Dissent: Church-State Relations in the New American States, 1776-1833 (Eds. Carl H. Esbeck and Jonathan J. Den Hartog) (Univ. of Missouri Press, 2019), pp. 225-247.

“'Come Now Let Us Reason Together': Restoring Religious Freedom in America and Abroad,” 92:1 Notre Dame Law Review 427-450 (2016) (with John Witte Jr.).

“Religious Law and Religious Courts as a Challenge for the State - Country Report USA,” in Religious Law and Religious Courts as a Challenge to the State: Legal Pluralism from a Comparative Perspective, Ed. Uwe Kischel (Verlag Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2016) (with John Witte Jr.), 83-111.

“Religion, Family Law, and Competing Norms,” in Negotiating State and Non-State Law: The Challenges of Global and Local Legal Pluralism (Ed. Michael Helfand) (Cambridge Univ. Press 2015), 197-214.

“Civil Law and Civil Disobedience: The Early Church and the Law,” in Law and the Bible: Justice, Mercy and Legal Institutions (Eds. Robert F. Cochran Jr. & David van Drunen) (InterVarsity Press, 2013) (with James W. McCarty III), 183-207.

“Religion, Marriage, and Pluralism,” 25 Emory International Law Review 967-985 (2011).

“Evangelicals and Human Rights: The Continuing Ambivalence of Evangelical Christians' Support for Human Rights,” 24 Journal of Law and Religion 629-662 (2009).

“Multi-Tiered Marriage: Ideas and Influences from New York and Louisiana to the International Community,” 40 Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 135-196 (2007).