Judge Steve Leben Named Stripp Professor of Law

Leben is the fourth UMKC faculty member to earn the honor
Steve Leben sits on a leather couch in an office

The newest Douglas R. Stripp Missouri Distinguished Professor of Law Steve Leben brings a wealth of experience in the courtroom to the position.

Leben joined the UMKC School of Law faculty in 2020 as a visiting professor after 27 years as a Kansas judge – the past 13 as a member of the Kansas Court of Appeals – and 11 years of law practice in Kansas City.

“I’ve seen in the past two years the great training we give our students, and I’m glad to fully join UMKC’s well-recognized advocacy program,” Leben said.

Advocacy — essentially the art and science of persuasion — takes many forms. UMKC School of Law has long had a strong reputation in both trial and appellate advocacy education. The school’s advocacy program is A-rated by National Jurist magazine, and the school is ranked 31st in the country for advocacy by U.S. News and World Report. Professor Leben's leadership is already evident. Just this month, UMKC Law students competed in the national moot court regionals and both teams took away top honors and one team member was named Best Oral Advocate. As the undefeated winning team, UMKC Law will be heading to the national finals.

Leben brings both expertise and scholarship to elevate the advocacy program. He is a nationally recognized expert on procedural justice, and he has trained judges around the United States on how to improve perceptions of fairness in court proceedings. In 2014, the National Center for State Courts gave him its highest award for a judge, the Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, in recognition of his work on procedural-justice issues. Leben is an elected member of the prestigious American Law Institute, an officer of the American Bar Association Judicial Division’s Appellate Judges Conference and past president of the American Judges Association.

He becomes the fourth faculty member to serve as the Stripp Professor of Law, following S. Rafe Foreman (2011-2019), Robert Klonoff (2003-2007) and Andre Moenssens (1996-2002).

In his role as the Douglas Stripp Professor, Leben said he would focus primarily on enhancing the school’s appellate advocacy program.

“I want to bring more appellate judges in from around the country to participate in our competitions and speak to our students,” he said. In addition to appellate advocacy, Leben teaches another important form of advocacy in his legislation course, in which students learn about public policy advocacy and the legislative process.

The Douglas Stripp Professorship was created and funded by Bebe and R. Crosby Kemper through the R. Crosby Kemper Charitable Trust and Foundation. It is named for Bebe Kemper’s father, a lifelong Kansas City resident and internationally known trial lawyer, who practiced law in Kansas City for more than half a century until his death in 1983.

Stripp worked alongside Charles Evans Whittaker (J.D. 1924) in Kansas City before Whittaker was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Stripp’s passion was mentoring young attorneys in the art of persuasion and advocacy. Professor Leben will carry on this legacy as the Stripp Professor.

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Published: Jan 17, 2023

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