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Stephen M. Sheppard

Dean Emeritus | Charles E. Cantú Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus


Steve Sheppard Web 2021

Contact Information


  • J.S.D., Columbia Law School, 2006
  • LL.M., Columbia Law School, 2001
  • Litt.M., Oxford University, 1999
  • J.D., Columbia Law School, 1988
  • B.A., University of Southern Mississippi, 1985


After serving as Dean of the St. Mary’s University School of Law for five years, Stephen Michael Sheppard has returned to the faculty of St. Mary’s University.

Under Sheppard’s leadership, the School of Law launched the Law Success Program and established a Board of Visitors, the Law Student Pro Bono College, the Dean’s Fellows Program, became a host site for the Federal Judicial Training Center, and opened the Law Commons in the Sarita Kenedy East Law Library.

Sheppard has experience as a trial and appellate lawyer, representing both plaintiffs and defendants. He is a legal historian whose works have been relied on by the courts, a lexicographer and author of a new edition of a classic law dictionary and a legal philosopher whose works are studied in many countries.

Sheppard received a B.A. from the University of Southern Mississippi. Besides his doctorate (J.S.D.), he completed his J.D. and L.L.M., at Columbia and his Master of Letters at Oxford University, where he attended University College.

Sheppard completed his doctorate in the philosophy of law at Columbia University in New York, following work for his Master of Letters at Oxford University. His doctoral research is summarized in I Do Solemnly Swear: The Moral Obligations of Legal Officials, also published by Cambridge, and in other works. An active scholar in comparative and international law, Sheppard completed his post-J.D. certificate in Comparative Law in the Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law of the Columbia Law School. He has lectured or presented academic papers in many countries.

As an attorney, Sheppard has consulted for many law firms, corporations and government agencies, particularly in international law, environmental law, appellate litigation, trial work in law and in equity, technology transfer and licensing, regulatory compliance and oversight, and constitutional law. He was an associate with Phelps Dunbar LLP in New Orleans; Jackson, Mississippi; and London; after clerking for Judge E. Grady Jolly Jr. on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and Judge William Barbour on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Sheppard is a member of the bars of Mississippi, the U.S. Tax Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Though active in other fields of scholarship, Sheppard is a legal historian, with a focus on the development of the common law and of legal institutions, particularly legal education in the United States. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Historical Society especially for his work on early modern English law, including his three-volume anthology, The Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke. He is also a member of the Selden Society and a member of the editorial board of the Oxford University Press edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries.

His work in the law has been widely cited by courts including the Utah Supreme Court, (in State v. Reyes, 116 P.3d 305 (2005)) which changed the burden of proof for felonies in Utah citing Sheppard’s law review article, The Metamorphoses of Reasonable Doubt: How Changes in the Burden of Proof Have Weakened the Presumption of Innocence, as its only academic authority. He wrote a new edition of the great American legal dictionary by John Bouvier, The Wolters Kluwer Bouvier Law Dictionary.

An active scholarly editor, he has prepared new editions of several classic law books, including the massive Opera Omnia of John Selden and the contemporary classics, Bramble Bush by Karl Llewellyn and Introduction to the Legal System of the United States by E. Allan Farnsworth. He has written numerous articles in the history of legal education and law schools, edited the two-volume History of Legal Education in the United States and is writing The American Law School under contract for Cambridge University Press.

Sheppard was a reservist in the United States Coast Guard, enlisting in 1984; serving as deck gunner, boarding officer, vessels inspector, facilities inspector, and special interest vessel inspector, first as sailor and Boatswain’s Mate and then as an officer. He is an Eagle Scout and active Scouter. Sheppard lives in San Antonio with his wife, Christine, and two of their three children.



  • The American Law School: Past, Present, and Future (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2015).
  • The Wolters-Kluwer Bouvier Law Dictionary (Steve Sheppard, General Editor) (2011-12). A new edition of the classic law dictionary of John Bouvier, with over 8,000 entries for over 10,000 terms, all of which are newly written, incorporating over 40,000 common-placed quotations. The Desk Edition (3,300 pp.); Compact Edition (1240 pp.); Quick Reference (800 pp.); App., and E-books.
  • E. Allan Farnsworth, An Introduction to the Legal System of the United States, Fourth Edition (Steve Sheppard, ed.) (Oxford University Press, 2010). A full revision of this internationally standard text, with new notes and several new chapters, including a biographical introduction and narrative for readers.
  • I Do Solemnly Swear: The Moral Obligation of Legal Officials (Cambridge University Press, 2009). A clear description of what law is, how it works, and why it depends on the individual official to act from moral, not just legal, reasons. Though a normative argument in legal philosophy, the book presents a series of descriptive arguments from legal history, focusing on the laws of colonial Massachusetts and the history of legal philosophy, especially the neo-Aristotelean arguments of Cicero, Leibniz, Machiavelli, Thomasius, Weber, and Arendt. Despite all the philosophy, the book makes sense for lawyers, and it ends with a clear set of guidelines that apply its lessons to real legal questions.
  • Karl Llewellyn, The Bramble Bush: The Classic Lectures on Law School and the Law (Steve Sheppard, ed.) (Oxford University Press, 2008). A new edition of the most famous book on legal education in twentieth-century America, with a new introduction, notes, and index. The book is being translated into Mandarin and Japanese.
  • George P. Fletcher & Steve Sheppard, American Law In a Global Context: The Basics A (Oxford University Press, 2005). An introduction to the law and law practice of the United States, written with comparisons to related concepts in other national legal systems. This book has been adopted as the primary course book for the Master of Laws course at Columbia, Indiana, Miami, New York University, UCLA, and other schools. Reviewed by Janet E. Stearns in 54 American Journal of Comparative Law 489 (2006); Kirk Randazo, 15 Law and Politics Book Review 617 (2005); Amy Atchison & Catherine F. Halvorsen, Keeping up with New Legal Titles, 98 Law Library Journal 531 (2006). The book has been translated into Mandarin and German.
  • George P. Fletcher & Steve Sheppard, A Guide for Teachers: American La w in a Global Context: The Basics (Oxford University Press, 2005). A 250-page platform for web-based teaching support for the book at
  • The Selected Writing of Sir Edward Coke (Steve Sheppard, editor) (Three volumes) (Liberty Fund, 2003) (revised edition, 2005). This is the first modern anthology of one of the architects of the modern common law. Drawn from Coke’s Reports, judicial opinions, Institutes, minor treatises, and speeches in Commons, it includes extensive introductory, chronological, and scholarly matter by the editor. Reviewed in Charles M. Gray, Two Contributions to Coke Studies, 72 University of Chicago Law Review 1127 (2005), and in Achsah Guibbory, Recent Studies in the English Renaissance, 45 Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 (2005).
  • The History of Legal Education in the United States: Contemporary Essays and Primary Materials (Steve Sheppard, editor) (Two volumes) (Salem Press, 1998) (Lawbook Exchange, 2006). This reference work collects five original essays by the editor on the history of legal education (totaling over 100,000 words), with a collection of rare primary materials illuminated by other contemporary essays in a topical arrangement. Reviewed in 39 Reference & User Services Quarterly 92 (1999).


  • Series Editor, The Oxford Commentaries on American Law (Oxford University Press). A series of newly commissioned treatises, to be launched in 2013, with the collaboration of national board of editorial advisers and a target of ten titles per year.
  • Series Editor, Model Problems and Outstanding Answers (Oxford University Press). A series of new problem books for legal education, launched in 2011, with a target of nine titles.

Articles in a Periodical

  • The U.S. Lawyer in the Twenty-First Century: The Report for the United States on the Organization of the Legal Profession,  American Journal of Comparative Law, Supplemental Volume (2014) (The Report was presented at the Congress of Comparative Law, Vienna, July 2014).
  • Legal Jambalaya: A Commentary on Hohn Cairns’ “Blackstone on the Bayou,” in Re-interpreting Blackstone’s Commentaries: A Seminal Text in National and International Contexts (Wilfred Prest, ed.) (Hart Publishing 2014).
  • The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Law School Crisis, a book review of Brian Z. Tamanaha, Failing Law Schools, on H-Law. A methodical examination of a recent criticism of U.S. legal education, examining its poor use of history and policy. Apparently the longest review published on H-Net.
  • Abraham Fraunces, Legal Analysis, and Legal Scholarship in Abraham Fraunce, Lawyer’s logike (1588) (Lawbook Exchange, 2013). A biographical study of the lawyer to publish the first study of legal analysis in English, with an introduction to its Ramist scholasticism that foreshadowed modern deductive reasoning.
  • Academic Freedom: A Prologue: 64 Arkansas Law Review 177 (2012). A symposium essay summarizing the history and divisions of academic freedom that introduces lectures by Robert Post and Frederick Schauer.
  • Caperton, Due Process, and Judicial Duty: Recusal Oversight in Patrons’ Cases, 64 Arkansas Law Review 113 (2011). A symposium essay on judicial ethics and the U.S. Constitution.
  • What Oaths Meant to the Framers’ Generation: A Preliminary Sketch, 2009 Cardozo L. Rev. de novo 273. A consideration of cultural, personal, and legal expectations by an oath-taker in early federal America.
  • Sahib’s Courts and Babu’s Laws: An Introduction to Cowell’s Short Treatise on Hindu Law
    in Herbert Cowell, Short Treatise on Hindu Law (Lawbook Exchange, 2009). A biographical and critical introduction to a classic text of Anglo-Hindu law.
  • Teach Justice, 43 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 599 (2008). A contribution to the journal’s symposium on radical proposals for legal education, arguing for the teaching of practical tools of analysis that place a value on justice.
  • IntelligenceLaw and Democracy: A Hartman Hotz Symposium, 60 Arkansas Law Review 809 (2008) (with Lord Robin Butler, Alberto Mora, and William Howard Taft IV). A discussion of the use of torture and intelligence collection in the balance between law, democracy, and the practical demands of security.
  • The Works of John Selden: An Introduction for the American Reader in John Selden, Opera Omnia (Lawbook Exchange 2008). A biographical and critical essay on the life and works of John Selden, prefacing the only edition of his collected works.
  • Law, God, Custom, and Duties in Sir William Jones’s Ordinances of Menu: An Introduction for the American Reader in William Jones, Ordinances of Menu (Lawbook Exchange 2007). A biographical essay and comparative exercise in an essential text in native law developed as part of the colonial legal hybrid of India.
  • Legal Scholarship and the Courts in the United States (with Michael Hoeflich), 28 Zeitschrift für Neuere Rechtsgeschichte 20 (2006). A comparison of judges who have influenced U.S. law, this article proposes four models of the development of judicial influence.
  • Disciplinary Evolution and Scholarship Expansion: Legal History in the United States (with Michael Hoeflich), 54 American Journal of Comparative Law, Supplement, 32 (2006). A review of the scholarship and profession of legal history in the United States in recent years.
  • Officials’ Obligations to Children: The perfectionist Response to Libertarians, Conservatives, and Liberals, or When Adult Rights are Not Trumps, 2005 Michigan State Law Review 809 (2005). This symposium article explores arguments over the welfare of the child, focusing on home schooling, and proposes using legal perfectionism to improve arguments over the standards for such regulation. Reprinted as The State Obligation to Children, in The Rights of Children (Lahore 2008).
  • The Law of War in the Pre-Dawn Light: Institutions and Obligations in Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War, 43 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 905 (2005). This extended essay argues against the realist reading of this classic text and illustrates in it the institutional authority for an early form of the law of war comprising both jus in bello and jus ad bellum.
  • The Ghost in the Law School: How Duncan Kennedy Caught the Hierarchy Zeitgeist but missed the Point, 55 Journal of Legal Education 94 (2005). A contribution to the 25th anniversary of the publication of Duncan Kennedy’s 1983 polemic, Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy, arguing that the law requires hierarchies to protect social values, including freedom and equality.
  • Guerrilla Parties, The Lieber Code, and the Law of War, in Francis Lieber, Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States (Lawbook Exchange, 2005). This essay introduces the life of Francis Lieber and the history of the formative document for the modern law of war.
  • The Metamorphoses of Reasonable Doubt: How Changes in the Burden of Proof May weaken the Presumption of Innocence. 78 Notre Dame Law Review 1165 (2003). This article applies tools developed in The Moral Obligation of Legal Officials and historical analysis to argue that the current understanding of reasonable doubt is both altered by changes in culture and a diminished protection of the defendant from its original understanding. The Supreme Court of Utah quoted this article as authority when changing jury instructions for the burden of proof in that state. See State v. Reyes, 116 P.3d 305, 312 (Utah, 2005).
  • Passion and Nation: War, Crime, and Guilt in the individual and Collective, 78 Notre Dame Law Review 761 (2003). A consideration of George Fletcher’s theory of Romanticism and war, deriving arguments on the limits of the laws of war to apply to military actions against terrorism, with particular scrutiny of the nature of collective guilt and the nature of non-state enemies in war.
  • Paul Dudley: Heritage, Observation, and Conscience, 5 Massachusetts Legal History (2000). This 12,000-word commissioned article chronicles the life and work of Paul Dudley FRS (1675-1751) the first law-trained Chief Justice of Massachusetts.
  • The Perfectionism of John Rawls, 11 The Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 383 (1998). This 20,000-word, peer-reviewed article presents the first synthesis of John Rawls’s development of a theory of perfectionism, which Rawls describes throughout his writings. Drawing upon the work of Rawls’s interpreters, the article suggests that Rawls’s theory of justice is a form of Rawls’s theory of perfectionism.
  • Freedom to and Freedom From: A Response to Garvey and Arm a cost with a Tinge of Legal Perfectionism, 47 Drake Law Review 65 (1998). This symposium essay considers the sources and content of the morality of rights and the moral duty of lawmakers to maintain certain standards when framing laws, in a solicited response to articles by John Garvey and Barbara Armacost. Among other moves in the article, it locates John Garvey’s theory of rights on a scale with Randy Barnett’s and Lloyd Weinreb’s.
  • Casebooks, Commentaries and Curmudgeons: An Introductory History of Law in the Lecture Hall, 78 Iowa Law Review 547-644 (1997). This 55,000-word article chronicles books and lecturing methods in American legal education from Coke’s books to computer instruction. The study examines constants in the historical debates among competing forms of pedagogy as well as purposes, weaknesses, and strengths in historical and current classroom approaches. Reprinted as An Introductory History of Law in the Lecture Hall, in 1 The History of Legal Education in the United States, above.
  • An Informal History of How Law Schools Evaluate Students, with a Predictable Emphasis on Law School Exams, 26 UMKC Law Review 657-776 (1997). This symposium article studies the history of student evaluation, the advent of the written graduation and then course examination and the evolution of questions. An appendix reprints examinations from over a century.
  • The State Interest in the Good Citizen: Constitutional Balance Between the Citizen and the Perfectionist State, 45 Hastings Law Journal 969 (1994). This article reviews two comparisons of state to private interests – balancing and categorization – via the state police power to regulate morals as seen in Bowers v. Hardwick and Barnes v. Glen Theatre. Applying the requirement of educative coherence of legal perfectionism to measure disputes, neither comparison adequately measures the interests involved. Commentary is given in Vikram D. Amar, Some Questions About Perfectionist Rationality Review, 45 Hastings Law Journal 1029 (1994).
  • Another Such Victory?  Term Limits,  Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendments, ans the Right to Representation (with Mark Killenbeck), 45 Hastings Law Journal 1121-1221 (1994). A review of state- mandated limits on Congressional terms under other standards and under the Fourteenth Amendment, section 2, which might reduce the number of seats in the House of Representatives held by term-limiting states.
  • UNESCO ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEMS. These major articles (topic articles are to be 15,000 words; subject articles are to be 10,000 words in length) are original scholarly critical essays commissioned for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, as the primary educational vehicle for “the achievement of global security through sustainable development.” Information on the project as a whole may be found at,
    • Ethics, and Justice (Topic Article 6.31.4.)
    • The Rule of Law (Subject Article 6.31.1)
    • Equity and the Law (Subject Article
    • Philosophy of the Common Law (Subject Article 6.30.2)
    • Perspectives on Ethics and Justice (Subject Article

Shorter Work in Collection

  • The Jury is Dismissed, in the Library of Liberty,
  • Legal Education in the United States (with Shallen Carrell), in Jurisprudence at 36 (Bin Liang and Hong Lu, eds.) (China Remnin University Press, 2012).
  • Encyclopedia of American Political Legal History (Oxford University Press, 2012) (Donald T. Critchlow and Philip Vandermeer, eds.)
    • Due Process of Law
    • Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom
    • Christopher C. Langdell
  • 8 Hand- Holding Tips if Your Child Gets in Trouble With The Law, June 22, 2012 (last visited Aug. 9, 2012).
  • Legal Lingo You Should Know Before Saying, ‘I Do’ May 21, 2012 (last visited Aug. 9, 2012).
  • 6 Legal Words That Can Boost or Bust Your Budget,, May 2, 2012 (last visited Aug. 9, 2012).
  • Some Randomly Selected Entries from the New Edition of The Bouvier Law Dictionary, 2011 Arkansas Law Notes. This note introduced the dictionary to Arkansas lawyers.
  • Books for Lawyers f ro m 2010:  A Very Subjective View of the Scribes Prize Nominees, A 2011 Arkansas Law Notes. This note reviews law books published in 2006 in the United States.
  • Cheney is Wrong: There is Precedent for the Torture Investigation, Commentary, Sept. 2, 2009.
  • Sharon Keller, Tory Davis, and the Duty of a Death Case Judge, Commentary, August 24.
  • Supreme Court Finds No Right to Post-Conviction DNA Tests, Commentary, July 8, 2009.
  • Supreme Court Bans Judge Buying, Commentary, June 29, 2009.
  • Books for Lawyers from 2007: A Very Subjective View of the Scribes Book-Award Nominees, 2008 Arkansas Law Notes. This note reviews lawbooks published in 2007 in the United States.
  • The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism (Cato Institute, 2008)
    • Sir Edward Coke
    • Albert Venn Dicey
  • Books for Lawyers from 2006: A Very Subjective View of the Scribes Book-Award Nominees, 2008 Arkansas Law Notes. This note reviews lawbooks published in 2006 in the United States.
  • Book Review, (Neil Duxbury Frederick Pollock and the English Juristic Tradition ( Oxford Series in Modern Legal History) Oxford University Press 2004). 48 American Journal of Legal History 110 (2006).
  • Birth Pain of the Living Constitution (Review of Bruce Ackerman, The Failure of the Founding Fathers: Jefferson, Marshall, and the Rise of Presidential Democracy) H-Law, for, 2006, at
  • Method, Art, and Authority: An Introduction to Selden’s Tracts, in John Selden, Law Tracts (1683, Lawbook Exchange, 2006). This essay introduces Selden’s early life and writings.
  • Presidential Signing Statements: How to Find Them, How to use them, and What They Might Mean,  2006 Arkansas Law Notes. This note introduces lawyers to the presidential signing statement, demonstrates how to locate them, and explains uses that are likely to be valid and others that are not.
  • Books for Lawyers from 2005: A Very Subjective View of the Scribes Book-Award Nominees, 2006 Arkansas Law Notes. This note reviews 40 leading U.S. lawbooks of 2005. Reproduced at
  • Intelligible, Honest, and Impartial Democracy: Making Laws at the Arkansas Ballot Box, or Why Jim Hannh and Ray Thornton were Right about May v. Daniels, 2005 Arkansas Law Notes. This note examines ballot cases in Arkansas from 1925 to 2004, develops principles for decision of such cases, finds the most recent case problematic, and proposes tools for future use. This note is reprinted in Arkansas Politics: A Reader (Richard Wang & Janine Parry, eds.) (University of Arkansas Press, 2009).
  • First Priority? The Neglect of Rural Development by Federal Agencies, and How Arkansas Could Respond, 2004 Arkansas Law Notes. This note considers the effects of the Rural Development Act on the location of federal facilities and argues for greater state participation in that process. Reprinted and enlarged as Steve Sheppard and Allen Mazzanti, Liability of Federal Agencies for Failure to Abide by the Rural Development Act, published by the National Agricultural Law Center.
  • Arkansas 1, Texas 0: Sodomy Law reform and the Arkansas Law, 2003 Arkansas Law Notes. This note considers recent state and federal cases overturning some aspects of the statutes forbidding sodomy, and examines the implications for the remaining arenas of potential enforcement of such laws.
  • Introduction to the 1826 edition, in The Reports of Sir Edward Coke. (Lawbook Exchange, 2002). A 4,000-word forward to the re-published, authoritative 1826 edition of the thirteen-part Reports.
  • The Dictionary of American History (Stanley Kutler, ed., Scribner’s & Sons, 2002). These commissioned articles appear in the premiere reference work of American History.
    • Civil Rights Act of 1957
    • Due Process of Law
    • Enron Scandal
    • Ex Parte McCardle
    • Legal Profession
    • Law of War
    • Marbury v. Madison
    • Martin v. Mott
    • Neutrality
    • Neutral Rights
    • Police Power
    • Regulators
    • Right of Petition
    • U.S. v. E.C. Knight
  • The Unpublished Opinion Opinion: How Richard Arnold’s Anastasoff Opinion is Saving America’s Courts from Themselves, 2002 Arkansas Law Notes. This note considers the dispute raised by recent cases on the use of unpublished appellate opinions, arguing that the fundamental principles of the common law require their allowance.
  • Encyclopedia of Land Warfare (Stanley Sadler, ed., ABC-CLIO, 2002). Signed articles with emphasis on the legal dimensions of land warfare.
    • The Law of War
    • Nuremburg Doctrine
    • Field Order 100
  • Arkansas Tree Trusts: How Private Land Holders May Protect Arboreal Landmarks Through Civic Donations, 2001 Arkansas Law Notes. This note analyzes the Arkansas public trust statute and proposes the adoption of municipal ordinances to protect trees from destruction in Arkansas municipalities.
  • Annotated Glossary in Roscoe Pound, The Ideal Element in La w (Liberty Fund, 2002). These annotations make accessible Dean Pound’s specialized terms of common law and Roman law, emphasizing their context in his thought.
  • Encyclopedia of the Great Depression and the New Deal (James Ciment, ed.,) (M.E. Sharpe, 2001). Signed articles of 2,000 to 6,000 words each, emphasizing the legal and cultural influence of the subjects.
    • The Supreme Court
    • Franklin Roosevelt
    • The Second New Deal
  • Makers of Western Culture, 1800-1914: A Biographical Dictionary of Literary Influences (Derek Blakeley and John Powell, editors) (Greenwood Press, 2001). Two signed articles with an emphasis on archival resources available to the modern researcher.
    • James Mill
    • David Ricardo
  • Lives of Not-Quite Saints, Book Review of Harold M. Hyman, Craftsmanship and Character: A History of the Vinson & Elkins Law Firm of Houston, 1917-1997. H-Law reviews at
  • The Role of the Law Professor in the High Tech Law School,  1 Journal of Law School Computing 55 (1999). This essay argues for a more substantive approach to teaching professional character as the most principled basis for retaining large law faculties in lieu of supported computer-based distance learning. This article is commented upon in Stephen M. Johnson, Legal Education in the Digital Age, 1 Wisconsin Law Review 85 (2000).
  • Legal Education in the Magill Legal Guide (Timothy Hall, editor) (Salem Press, 1999). A signed article considering the history and missions of legal education in the United States.
  • The Canon and the Current in the Jurisprudence Course, The Law Teacher 5 (October, 1996). Remarks at the 1995 AALS Workshop on Jurisprudence, the article presents both a rationale for a general jurisprudence survey based on a preparation for the practice of law and an innovative methodology for instructing such a course.
  • Other published writings include the prefaces of five volumes of religious meditations by the Reverend Bill Sykes, the chaplain of University College, Oxford, as well as over fifty classical music reviews in The Clarion Ledger, the Gannet-owned state-wide daily newspaper of record in Mississippi.