In Memory of Faust Rossi

by Chris Brouwer

Cornell Law School and the broader legal community mourn the loss of revered educator, mentor, and legal scholar, Faust F. Rossi ’60, Samuel S. Leibowitz Professor of Trial Techniques, Emeritus, who died March 6 in Bethesda, Maryland, at age ninety-one.

Rossi’s distinguished career at Cornell, which spanned nearly fifty years, was marked by unparalleled dedication to teaching and innovation in trial advocacy and evidence law. He is believed to have taught more students than any other professor at Cornell Law, shaping the careers of countless attorneys and leaving an indelible mark on the practice of law.

“When I travel across the country and across the world, speaking with alumni, especially those who have focused on trial work, and I ask them about faculty to whom they owe their success, Faust’s name comes up every single time. Every time,” says Jens David Ohlin, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law.

The son of Italian immigrants, Rossi grew up in Rochester, New York, and attended the University of Toronto. After a stint in the Navy’s Officer Training Command, where he tried 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. Rossi began his legal career as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice Honors Program and then became a litigation partner in a Rochester law firm before joining the Cornell Law School faculty in 1966.

Rossi’s courses in Civil Procedure, Evidence, and Trial Advocacy were beloved by students and credited by many alumni as being pivotal in their professional development. He is remembered fondly by generations of alumni, who recall his dynamic and engaging classroom presence, especially his vividly crafted hypotheticals and the vibrant cast of characters that peopled them. His dedication to legal education was recognized with the prestigious Jacobson Award, awarded by the Roscoe Pound Institute for excellence in teaching trial advocacy.

“As a teacher, he has no peer,” asserted his colleague Kevin Clermont, the Robert D. Ziff Professor of Law, in a talk at the Law School Reunion in June 2013 honoring Rossi. “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.’”

Rossi’s contributions were manifold. He was a leading expert on expert witnesses and the author of Evidence for the Trial Lawyer, a definitive book on that subject. He gave talks to law practitioners in forty-six states and taught many courses abroad, including in Budapest, where he was a frequent visiting professor at the Central European University, and Paris, where he was a regular participant in the Law School’s Summer Institute at the Sorbonne.

In 2013, the Law School renamed the former Winter Moot Court Competition as the Faust F. Rossi Moot Court Competition to honor Rossi’s service and dedication upon his retirement. The name change was the result of an endowment established by alumni who were moot court teammates who benefitted from Rossi’s guidance and advice throughout their participation in various internal and external moot court competitions.

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