IU Maurer professor remembered for criminal justice work

April 7, 2015

A longtime professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law is being remembered as a ‘crusader for justice’ by those he worked with and taught.  

Frederick “Tom” Thomas Schornhorst, 80, died March 30 in Oxford, Mississippi, where he was an adjunct professor of law at the University of Mississippi. Schornhorst also was a Professor of Law Emeritus at IU Maurer. He joined the law school in 1966.  

He taught primarily in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, torts and admiralty. He retired in 1998 from IU Maurer but remained on the faculty as a professor emeritus of law. He joined the Mississippi school in 2008.

Fred Aman, the Roscoe C. O’Byrne professor of law at IU Maurer and dean of the school from 1991 to 2002, said Schornhorst was a “fierce advocate for criminal justice” for those who couldn’t afford lawyers or didn’t have very good ones and had to appeal.

Aman said Schornhorst came back to Bloomington regularly from Mississippi to work on pro bono cases.

“He was a great and revered teacher who instilled a deep sense of professionalism and compassion in students,” Aman said. “Compassion in the sense of realizing there were lots of people who needed representation who might not get it at a high level. And professionalism in the sense he was a strict task master. Students knew they really had to be on their best game with him.”

Schornorst even had a sign on his door that made people chuckle – “The floggings will continue until morale improves.” Aman said he was a very gentle man in many ways but he demanded a level of professionalism from his students which many very much appreciated.

The Indiana Public Defender Council paid tribute to Schornhorst in its weekly newsletter, calling him a longtime friend. The IPDC gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work “in improving criminal justice in Indiana as a teacher, litigator and mentor to young lawyers.”

Bargersville attorney Stacy Uliana wrote in the newsletter, “If Tom Schornhorst believed there was an injustice, you better hope you were on the right side of that injustice. He feared nothing and no one, not even the U.S. Supreme Court. In the early seventies, he, along with the late IU Law Professor Patrick Baude, took a Bloomington case all way to the U.S. Supreme Court and created a turning point for First Amendment rights,” referring to Hess v. Indiana, 414 U.S. 105 (1973).

Schornhorst was a veteran of the U.S. Navy and received his J.D. from George Washington University in 1963. He was in private practice for three years at a Washington, D.C., firm after graduating law school.

He is survived by his wife, Virginia, three daughters, one son, a sister, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society, 413 McElroy, Oxford, MS 38655, or to the Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

His obituary notes a memorial service will be held at a later date in Bloomington.


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