< Browse All Faculty and Staff

Tom Russell

Visiting Professor of Law

A leading empirical scholar and legal historian, Professor Tom Russell is writing about the history of tort law and about the current practice of tort law. His articles also consider the history of American slavery and race and higher education.

Professor Russell’s legal history articles have been pathbreaking. In 2010, he published “‘Keep Negroes Out of Most Classes Where There are a Large Number of Girls’: The Unseen Power of the Ku Klux Klan and Standardized Testing at The University of Texas, 1899-1999.” The provocative title is from a memo that The University of Texas registrar sent to the university’s president a few days after the United States Supreme Court issued the Brown v. Board of Education opinion. Russell shows that UT responded to Brown by naming a building for a law professor who was a violent Ku Klux Klan organizer during Reconstruction and also by adopting standardized testing that university administrators knew would disproportionately exclude African Americans. Russell’s article was a cause of the university’s renaming of Simkins Hall, which was the first substantial building-renaming event in the early 21st century.

Russell’s empirical articles on the history of American slavery are early examples of Critical Race Theory. With research drawn from his Ph.D. dissertation, Russell put courts and legal officials at the center of American slave sales. He showed that legal officials who conducted slave sales separated families more often than private auctioneers. Professor Russell has argued for a new conception of slave property that more accurately represents the complicated legal relationships that spread the stake that Americans had in slave property.

The Social Science Research Network, which Malcolm Gladwell calls “the greatest website on the Internet,” ranks Professor Russell’s downloads in the top 1.3 percent worldwide. Professor Russell’s most downloaded work, “Frivolous Defenses,” is an empirical study of answers that insurance defense lawyers filed in car-crash lawsuits in Colorado. “Disrupting Frivolous Defenses” examines the efforts of the late Milton I. Shadur, a Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, to improve the quality of answers that defense attorneys file. As part of the ongoing Frivolous Defenses project, Professor Russell also published a comparative study of car-crash litigation in Colorado and Alberta, Canada.

Professor Russell has visited or held a permanent appointment at five top-25 law schools, including Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He will again visit the University of Florida Levin College of Law in the fall of 2023, as he did in the spring and fall of 2022. He was a tenured Professor of Law at The University of Texas at Austin. He also taught as a visitor at Stanford Law School and Berkeley Law.

Outside the top 25, Professor Russell was a visiting professor at the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco,. He still holds a permanent appointment at Denver Law.

Professor Russell’s international experience includes serving as a Fulbright Senior Specialist at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus in Trinidad and Tobago, where he taught the Caribbean’s first Restorative Justice class. He spent a fantastic year in the Republic of Ireland at Maynooth University, teaching the Irish law of Contracts and Torts to almost 200 first-year university students. In July 2022, Maynooth’s Department of Law and Criminology invited him to deliver a keynote address to mark the tenth anniversary of the law program.

From Stanford University, Professor Russell holds Ph.D. (History), J.D., and M.A. degrees. He earned a B.A. in American Studies from Northwestern University.

Professor Russell is proud to be an attorney in California and Colorado. He specializes in personal injury matters, including seven-figure verdicts and settlements. He actively litigates in Colorado’s trial courts, Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court and also before the Public Utilities Commission. Russell was second chair on Colorado’s first-filed marriage equality suit. Before Uber and Lyft destroyed the taxi business, he also successfully represented 150 East African immigrants who fought incumbent taxi companies and the Public Utilities Commission to form their own business.

Professor Russell lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife Amy and their cats RBG (Gigi) and Elena. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Professor Russell has deep family roots in Alameda County, California. He bicycles and runs and loves plants.

Read More