MAALL 2009 Conference

Keynote Address: Dean Stephen D. Easton,
University of Wyoming College of Law

The Use of Historic Trials in Legal Education

Stephen D. Easton

Stephen D. Easton was appointed Dean at the University of Wyoming College of Law in July 2009. As a faculty member at the University of Missouri School of Law from 1998-2009, he focused his research, writing, and speaking on expert witnesses, effective trial advocacy, and professional responsibility (ethics). At Missouri, he won several university and national teaching and writing awards, including the Pound Civil Justice Institute Richard S. Jacobson Award for Excellence in Teaching Trial Advocacy, the University of Missouri's William T. Kemper Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching, the American Inns of Court Warren E. Burger Writing Prize, and Mizzou's Excellence in Education and Golden Chalk Awards. He is a popular continuing legal education speaker who has been invited to speak to groups of practicing trial attorneys in dozens of states.

Historic trials have become an important part of Dean Easton’s teaching repertoire. He regularly invokes history in the classroom to encourage his students to engage in broader thinking and reflection about the law. His (In)Famous Trials course uses historically prominent trials to help students extract lessons about the development of the American criminal and civil justice systems. From studying these trials, students gain deeper insight into litigation tactics, the effect of racial and other prejudice on juries, and the interaction of public sentiment, politics, and litigation.

Three years ago at Missouri, Professor Easton brought history to life in the law school experience when he founded the Historical and Theatrical Trial Society (“HATTS”). HATTS explores notable historical events for which there were no trials (until now). Students research and prepare case files that frame the untried legal issues. The HATTS troupe of students, faculty, staff, and members of the community then reenact the researched history in a courtroom venue in an unscripted trial that combines live theatre with trial practice. Dean Easton’s keynote will explore his innovative uses of historic trials in legal education and also set the “stage” for related Thursday programming, culminating with the fourth annual HATTS trial that evening at the Missouri Theatre.

In law school, Dean Easton was associate managing editor of the Stanford Law Review and president of the Stanford Law Forum. Before starting his teaching career, he was a law clerk to The Honorable Joseph T. Sneed of the United States Court of Appeals in San Francisco, Calif.; an associate and partner with the Pearce & Durick in Bismarck, N.D.; and the U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota in Fargo and Bismarck, N.D.

Dean Easton has published articles in the American Journal of Trial Advocacy, Arizona State Law Journal, Clinical Law Review, Indiana Law Journal, Journal of Dispute Resolution, Review of Litigation, Saint Louis Law Journal, SMU Law Review, South Carolina Law Review, and University of Richmond Law Review. His most recent book, Attacking Adverse Experts was published by the American Bar Association in 2008.

Dean Easton earned his A.A. (1978) at Northland Community and Technical College, received his B.A. summa cum laude (1980) at Dickinson State University and earned his J.D. (1983) at Stanford Law School.