College of Law professor earns 2024 Distinguished Teacher Award

| Wed, 04/24/24
Justin Sevier
Justin Sevier uses principles of social psychology to inform his teaching in the classroom. He incorporates contemporary references and hands-on demonstrations and practices that make students active participants in their learning. (FSU Photography)

Justin Sevier, the Charles W. Ehrhardt Professor of Litigation at the Florida State University College of Law, has earned the university’s most prestigious honor for teaching due to his interactive and captivating instructional style. 

Sevier received FSU’s 2023-2024 Distinguished Teacher Award during the annual Faculty Awards Celebration on Tuesday, April 23, at the Augustus B. Turnbull III Florida State Conference Center.  

“Professor Sevier exemplifies the kind of dedicated, student-centered educator that Florida State University strives to cultivate,” said FSU President Richard McCullough. “His passion for teaching and his masterful ability to make complex legal concepts accessible have inspired countless students and prepared them for great success in their careers.”  

This award is for faculty members who won a University Teaching Award at least five years ago and can demonstrate ongoing outstanding teaching for the next five years. Sevier will receive a $7,500 prize from the university.

“Florida State University is home to first-class academic researchers who are also fabulous teachers,” Sevier said. “I’ve based my own approach in the classroom on what I’ve learned from observing my colleagues at the College of Law and across campus. To be nominated by my students for this award and to be selected by my university colleagues is truly humbling and one of the greatest honors of my career.”

Sevier’s teaching style includes practical exercises to engage students with concepts and materials. His hands-on teaching style is meant to prepare students for quick and clever thinking when they are in front of colleagues, juries and judge

“My teaching style and mentorship are designed to get students to encode the material from my courses more deeply so that the information stays with them in the long term,” Sevier said. “It is my hope that by doing so, they will become excellent practicing attorneys that serve their clients well and that they will use their understanding of the law to help improve it for future generations.” 

Sevier uses principles of social psychology to inform his teaching in the classroom. He incorporates contemporary references and hands-on demonstrations and practices that make students active participants in their learning. 

“Professor Sevier is incredibly well-prepared, with lively slides, pop-humor and music and a perfectly timed delivery,” said Erin O’Hara O’Connor, dean and Donald J. Weidner Chair at the FSU College of Law. “At times the classroom feels like an entertainment event, but Professor Sevier uses his tools to impart highly sophisticated knowledge and to spark strong and valuable student engagement.” 

Sevier is highly regarded among his students for his unique ability to make complex concepts digestible.  

“To be nominated by my students for this award and to be selected by my university colleagues is truly humbling and one of the greatest honors of my career.” 

— Justin Sevier, the Charles W. Ehrhardt Professor of Litigation at the Florida State University College of Law

“For each class session, I visualize myself sitting in the lecture hall as a student,” Sevier said. “What can I do to make this material more accessible and memorable if I were learning it for the first time? That might entail showing a clip from a television show or movie where a complex legal concept plays out, performing an in-class role playing exercise where students cross-examine me as a trial witness, or engaging in other classroom demonstrations or group work.” 

Outside the classroom, Sevier hosts coffee and lunch hours on Fridays to seek student feedback and provide mentorship in the otherwise intimidating atmosphere of the law school class.

“Through his lunch and coffee hours, he made us feel like part of a community,” said Lucy Heady, a first-year student at the College of Law. “We knew we could reach out to him when we needed, and it made the learning experience well-rounded.”  

For Jack Knecht, a first-year student at the College of Law, Sevier’s efforts to connect with his students show in his teaching. 

“He knows all our names and tailors his presentations and lectures to accommodate our learning,” Knecht said. “The relationships with your professors are a lot more intimate in law school, and in the case of Professor Sevier, there’s no question I’m afraid or embarrassed to ask.” 

Sevier’s scholarship focuses on legal institutional design, investigating the circumstances in which the public willingly accepts legal rules, actors and tribunals. His research, primarily conducted through psychology experiments, scrutinizes jury behavior and non-lawyers’ perceptions of trial outcomes in the realm of evidence law. He also explores the influence of popular legitimacy on the legal frameworks governing business torts and consumer behavior. 

Sevier, who joined the FSU College of Law faculty in 2015, earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School and served as an associate research scholar at Yale Law School and a visiting assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. He is the inaugural recipient of the Open Door Faculty Teaching Award, which annually awards one professor at the College of Law by the vote of the graduating students.  

“I would be hard-pressed to identify a more talented and dedicated law professor anywhere else in the world,” O’ Hara O’ Connor said. 

For more information about the Distinguished Teacher Award, visit To learn more about FSU’s College of Law, visit

Other outstanding FSU faculty members recognized at this year’s faculty awards: 

Outstanding Undergraduate Advising Award 

Zoey Zeitlin, Division of Undergraduate Studies and College of Social Work
Tyrone Johnson, Career Center

Outstanding Teaching in the Major

Jennifer Farrell, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences
Casey Sammarco, College of Fine Arts
Mandy Bamber, College of Nursing
Melina Myers, College of Arts and Sciences
Matthew Mewhinney, College of Arts and Sciences
Ann Langston, Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship
Christopher Mills, College of Arts and Sciences
Chris Martin, College of Arts and Sciences
Alexandra Cockerham, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy
Elizabeth Hammock, College of Arts and Sciences 

Foundational Course Excellence

Johanna McNutt, College of Arts and Sciences
Kevin Curry, College of Fine Arts
Jay Goddard, College of Arts and Sciences
Rose Skepple, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences 

Outstanding Graduate Teaching

David Okerlund, College of Music
Michael Hanawalt, College of Music
Steve Johnson, College of Law
David Gross, College of Applied Studies and FAMU/FSU College of Engineering
Frank Gunderson, College of Music
Katie Sherron, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy
Rachel Bailey, College of Communication & Information 

Excellence in Online Teaching

Megan Buning, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences
Brenda Legaspi, College of Social Work

Community Engaged Teaching

Diana Dumlavwalla, College of Music
Panayotis League, College of Music 

Inclusive Teaching and Mentoring

Erika Loic, College of Fine Arts
Jinger Deason, College of Communication & Information
Grace Aneiza Ali, College of Fine Arts 

Innovation in Teaching

Jason Maurer, College of Motion Picture Arts
Vanessa Dennen, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences
Stephanie Dillon, College of Arts and Sciences  

Honor Thesis Mentor

Douglas Storace, College of Arts and Sciences
Crystal Taylor, DeVoe L. Moore Center
Ralm Ricarte, FAMU/FSU College of Engineering

Undergraduate Research Mentor

Irene Zanini-Cordi, College of Arts and Sciences  

Graduate Faculty Mentor

Andrea Meltzer, College of Arts and Sciences
Michelle Therrien, College of Communication & Information
Carolina Gonzalez, College of Arts and Sciences
Vladimir Dobrosavljevic, College of Arts and Sciences
Martin Bauer, College of Arts and Sciences

Community Engaged Research Partnership

Alisha Gaines, College of Arts and Sciences
Mollie Romano, College of Communication & Information
Tyler McCreary, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy 

Distinguished Research Professor

Paolo Aluffi, College of Arts and Sciences
Robin Goodman, College of Arts and Sciences
Linda Rinaman, College of Arts and Sciences
Ingo Ludwig Wiedenhoever, College of Arts and Sciences

Developing Scholar

Martin Bauer, College of Arts and Sciences
Shayok Chakraborty, College of Arts and Sciences
James Frederich, College of Arts and Sciences
Hadi Mohammadigoushki,FAMU/FSU College of Engineering
Allison Wing, College of Arts and Sciences
Rachael Yohay, College of Arts and Sciences
Patricia Homan, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy
Lindsey Eckert, College of Arts and Sciences 

Distinguished University Scholar

Banghao Chen, College of Arts and Sciences
Yan Liu, College of Arts and Sciences
Ellen Granger, College of Arts and Sciences 

Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor

Harrison B. Prosper, College of Arts and Sciences