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The Online Version
of the Magazine
of Cornell Law School

 

Fall 2013

 

Volume 39, No 2

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Professor Rossi began his teaching career at Cornell in 1966, six years after he graduated from the Law School. He would go on to teach for forty-seven years, the longest tenure of any professor in the history of Cornell Law.

 

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Doris Neimeth with Professor Rossi

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The Rossie family (from left: Paul, Christopher, Charline, Faust, Bridget, Nora, Owen, Maureen, and Matthew '94)

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Professor Rossi and Cyrus Mehri '88

Table of Contents  Featured Article

Faust Rossi '60: An Expert in Trial Techniques and a Legendary Teacher

by LINDA BRANDT MYERS  |  PHOTOGRAPHY by ROBERT BARKER, LINDSAY FRANCE, PATRICIA REYNOLDS, AND UNIVERSITY PHOTOGRAPHY | ILLUSTRATIONS by CUMULO CREATIVE, ANDREA JACCARINO, CRISTIAN LUNGO, RUSSELL TATE and VECTORIYA

Yes, he has taught more students than any other professor at Cornell Law School—ever.


Yes, he was a winner of the coveted Jacobson Award, which recognizes excellence in teaching trial advocacy and is awarded by the Roscoe Pound Institute to one professor annually.


Yes, he is an expert on expert witnesses and the author of Evidence for the Trial Lawyer, a definitive book on that subject.


He has given talks to law practitioners in forty-six U.S. states and offered courses abroad, from Oxford to Siena to Budapest to Paris, where he has been a regular at the school’s Paris Summer Institute for years.

But no, Faust Rossi, won’t acknowledge those accomplishments are anything special. That’s because the Samuel S. Leibowitz Professor of Trial Techniques, who retired in June after forty-seven years on the faculty, remains unfailingly modest.

Fortunately his admirers won’t let him leave until they toot his horn for him.“He’s one of the all-time great teachers at the Law School,” said antitrust lawyer Kevin Arquit ’78, partner with Simpson Thacher and Bartlett. In a talk at the Law School Reunion in June 2013 honoring Rossi, Arquit remembered him as being “memorable and entertaining, brilliant, clear, and spontaneous. It was just a joy to be in his classroom.”

Stephen Robinson ’84, also speaking at Reunion 2013, praised Rossi for being a lifelong mentor. “His confidence in me gave me the sense that I had a role in this profession,” said Robinson. A former federal judge for the Southern District of New York, he is now a partner at Skadden.

As a teacher, he has no peer,” asserted his colleague Kevin Clermont, the Robert D. Ziff Professor of Law, at the reunion event. “His teaching gift has benefited multitudes, and he brought the school nationwide fame through his celebrated bar review courses. I’ve heard all too often: ‘Oh yeah, Cornell Law, that’s the school where Professor Rossi teaches.’”

Glenn Galbreath, clinical professor of law, agreed. “Faust’s courses for the ABA and the National Institute for Trial Advocacy have done more to raise the school’s profile among practitioners than anything.” Introducing Rossi at the event, Stewart J. Schwab, the school’s Allan R. Tessler Dean, observed: “Faust’s hypotheticals are legendary in his teaching of Civil Procedure, Evidence, and Trial Advocacy, and his delivery is always impeccable,”

Indeed Rossi’s hypotheticals—the stories that give color and form to simulated cases—have been described by his fans as so bright they’re in virtual Technicolor.

Rossi’s brilliant cast of characters has included, over the years, Yuckl, who sued Grutz for defamation of character after Grutz called him a crook; Grutz, who embezzled and gambled away money from the bank he headed and maybe burned down the building to conceal evidence; Spano, who was accused of assaulting an elderly woman; Harvey, who shot and killed Victor, then asserted his victim was the one with a history of violence; Harvey’s wife, Madge, who failed to testify at Harvey’s trial for assaulting her; Mrs. Garibaldi, whose house was burglarized but who couldn’t recall the details; and other unforgettable types.

“How often, searching for a rule of evidence or civil procedure,” said Arquit, “would I hearken back to, say, Del Vecchio, the defendant. I would recall the story, and the rule of law followed.”

“As a judge I was able to make quick decisions,” said Robinson, “because I was able to call up vivid images such as witness Vinnie, and almost smell the plate of fettuccini served to him that reminded him of something key.”

When he was growing up in a traditional Italian neighborhood in Rochester, New York, Rossi developed an admiration for the skills of America’s great trial lawyers. “I read all the classic books about them—and everything on Clarence Darrow.”

Anthony Rossi, an older brother with a 1948 Cornell Law degree and a successful law practice in their hometown, became his mentor. “In high school I worked in his office in the summer and studied cross examinations,” Rossi said.

As an undergraduate at the University of Toronto he joined the debate team, where heckling was allowed. “Having the point you’re making interrupted with an insult makes for an entertaining debate,” Rossi quipped.

After a stint in the Navy’s Officer Training Command, where he got experience trying special court martial cases in Japan, he decided to apply to Cornell Law School, enrolling in 1957, with help from the G.I. Bill and a scholarship.

“I loved law school. It was exactly what I wanted to do,” said Rossi. “There were only fifteen faculty, but we had some extremely good teachers,” he recalls, “among them Rudy Schlesinger, who is considered the father of international and comparative law, and Joe Sneed, who went on to Stanford and then to the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals.”

A summer internship at Skadden led to a permanent job offer that Rossi turned down because working in a large firm wouldn’t offer him a chance to try cases himself. But graduating in the top ten percent of his class in 1960 qualified him for a job with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“I was assigned to its tax trial unit and immediately got my own docket—forty cases,” he recalled. But with little guidance, and a client that barely cared about case outcomes, Rossi decided to leave in 1962 to gain experience at his brother’s general practice firm in Rochester.

“It was a small firm, but I had a mentor to talk to about the cases, and direct contact with clients,” he said. “I felt I was really helping people, even though I often did more work than some clients could pay for.”

Once, he accompanied to the local motor vehicle bureau a client who could pass his road test, but not the written part of the test. “Realizing he couldn’t read, I asked to be allowed to read the questions to him or have staff do it. They agreed, and our client got his license.”

Rossi, who accepted a faculty position at the Law School in 1966, said: “I expected life as a law teacher would be quiet and solitary, but from 1966 to 1972 the campus was like a battleground, with students protesting about everything from ending the war in Vietnam to making the campus more diverse.”

With time came positive changes, however. Women, minorities, and international students began enrolling at the Law School in much greater numbers starting in the ’70s and ’80s. “They brought different perspectives, civility, and a certain graciousness,” which Rossi welcomed, he said.

Today, what was a good law school when he attended “has become a great one,” said Rossi at the reunion event. “Our students are the best in the world, and the joy I’ve gotten from teaching them has been immense. One of the greatest blessings has been the enormous satisfaction that comes from seeing their growth and success.”

Among Rossi’s most rewarding endeavors were his teaching of Trial Advocacy and his involvement in the Auburn, New York, Prison Project, a first-of-its-kind clinical course in which faculty and students aided prison inmates in select cases. “Co-ed Frees Con,” trumpeted a New York Post headline after one successful win, he recalled.

Among Rossi’s most rewarding endeavors were his teaching of Trial Advocacy and his involvement in the Auburn, New York, Prison Project, a first-of-its-kind clinical course in which faculty and students aided prison inmates in select cases. “Co-ed Frees Con,” trumpeted a New York Post headline after one successful win, he recalled.

 

To honor Rossi’s service and dedication, Schwab announced at Reunion that the Law School was renaming the former Winter Moot Court Competition in Rossi’s honor. Fittingly, Rossi was Moot Court adviser as a faculty member and won a competition prize as a law student.

Rossi, in turn, related a recent dream in which the stars of his hypotheticals—“Harvey, Madge, Grutz , Spano, Del Vecchio and the like”—came to him to complain. “They said: ‘You’re going to retire and be honored, but what about us? When you retire, we’re dead.’

Rossi, in turn, related a recent dream in which the stars of his hypotheticals—“Harvey, Madge, Grutz , Spano, Del Vecchio and the like”—came to him to complain. “They said: ‘You’re going to retire and be honored, but what about us? When you retire, we’re dead.’

“But I mollified the group by promising them a Facebook page,” Rossi said. He and his wife, Charline, are moving to the Washington, D.C., area, to be near one of the couple’s three sons, Matthew ’94, and his family. Rossi hopes to continue teaching there.

For a lengthy interview with Professor Emeritus Rossi by colleague and former Law School dean Peter Martin, visit this web page: ecommons.cornell.edu/handle/1813/33695.


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