Faust Rossi, Revered Legal Educator and Scholar, Passes Away at Age 91

Faust F. Rossi, J.D. ’60, the Samuel S. Leibowitz Professor of Trial Techniques Emeritus and a respected educator, mentor, and legal scholar, died on March 6 in Bethesda, Maryland. He was 91.

Rossi’s nearly 50-year career at Cornell was defined by a commitment to teaching and innovation in trial advocacy and evidence law. He is thought to have taught more students than any other professor at Cornell Law, influencing the careers of countless attorneys and leaving an indelible imprint on the practice of law.

“When I travel throughout the country and around the world, chatting with alumni, particularly those who have focused on trial work, and asking them about professors to whom they credit their success, Faust’s name comes up almost every time. Every time,” stated Jens David Ohlin, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law.

Rossi, the son of Italian immigrants, grew raised in Rochester, New York and studied at the University of Toronto. After serving in the Navy’s Officer Training Command, where he conducted special court martial cases in Japan, he applied to Cornell Law School and enrolled in 1957 with the assistance of the G.I. Bill and a scholarship. Rossi started his legal career as a trial attorney in the United States Department of Justice Honors Program, then worked as a litigation partner in a Rochester law firm before joining the Cornell Law School faculty in 1966.

His classes in civil procedure, evidence, and trial advocacy were popular with students, and many alumni consider them crucial in their professional development. Generations of alumni remember his lively and entertaining classroom presence, particularly his vividly produced hypotheticals and the colorful cast of individuals who inhabit them. In 1992, he received the Roscoe Pound Institute’s coveted Jacobson Award for excellence in teaching trial advocacy.

“As a teacher, he has no peer,” stated Kevin Clermont, the Robert D. Ziff Professor of Law, during a June 2013 Law School Reunion honoring Rossi. “His teaching ability has benefited countless people, and his acclaimed bar review classes have helped the school gain national recognition. ‘Oh yeah, Cornell Law, that’s the school where Professor Rossi teaches.'”

Rossi was also a major authority on expert witnesses, having written the book “Evidence for the Trial Lawyer,” which is largely regarded as the standard work on the subject. He spoke to lawyers in 46 states and taught several courses abroad, including in Budapest, where he was a frequent visiting lecturer at Central European University, and Paris, where he attended the Law School’s Summer Institute at the Sorbonne.

In 2013, the Law School renamed the previous Winter Moot Court Competition the Faust F. Rossi Moot Court Competition to honor Rossi’s work and dedication when he retired. The name change was the consequence of an endowment established by alumni who were moot court teammates who benefited from Rossi’s counsel and assistance while competing in numerous internal and external moot court events.

“Our students are the best in the world, and the joy I’ve gotten from teaching them has been immense,” Rossi remarked at a 2013 event honoring his career. “One of the greatest blessings has been the enormous satisfaction that comes from seeing their growth and success.”

Plans for memorial services will be shared with the community as soon as they are available.

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