Robert C. Owen

Clinical Professor of Law


Rob Owen is a Clinical Professor of Law.  Since becoming a lawyer in 1989, he has defended clients facing the death penalty at every level of the state and federal court system.  He is a noted appellate advocate, having successfully argued four capital cases at the United States Supreme Court and numerous capital cases in other appellate courts.

He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Georgia in 1984, earning an A.B. in Comparative Literature with highest honors.  After completing an M.A. in Speech Communication at the same institution in 1986, he received his J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1989.

Prof. Owen spent the first six years of his career as a lawyer with the nonprofit Texas Resource Center in Austin, representing prisoners on Texas’ death row in state and federal post-conviction litigation.  He then served as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Seattle from 1995-1998, representing indigent clients charged with federal crimes ranging from traffic offenses to homicide, before returning to Texas. 

From 1998-2006, Prof. Owen divided his time between handling cases in his private criminal defense practice and supervising law students in clinical work at the University of Texas at Austin.  In 2006, he became a full-time clinical professor and co-founded the Capital Punishment Center there.  From 2006-2013, he served as co-director of the Center, working with law students in the Capital Punishment Clinic and leading a freshman seminar on the death penalty in U.T.-Austin’s undergraduate honors program. 

Prof. Owen is regularly invited to appear as a faculty member at trainings around the nation for capital defense lawyers, and has testified before state legislatures in Washington and Texas regarding proposed changes in death penalty law. 

In 2011, the Conference of the Bar of the City of Paris bestowed a medal on Prof. Owen to honor his work in the struggle for human rights.  He previously received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York for his efforts in fighting the death penalty, and in 2008 was recognized by the law students of U.T.-Austin for having gone “above and beyond” on their behalf.

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Areas of Expertise

  • Death Penalty
  • Criminal Law

Selected Publications

  • Overlooked Guidelines: Using The Guidelines To Address The Defense Need For Time and Money, 41 Hofstra Law Review 623-634 (Spring 2013) (with Meredith Martin Rountree).
  • Absolute Power, Absolute Corruption in Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America’s Poor , edited by Paul Wright and Tara Herivel (2003).
  • Thawing Out the ‘Cold Record’: Some Thoughts on how Videotaped Records May Affect Traditional Standards Of Deference On Direct And Collateral Review, 2 The Journal of Appellate Practice And Process 411 (Summer 2000) (with Melissa Mather).

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  • AB, The University of Georgia
  • MA, The University of Georgia
  • JD, Harvard Law School

Prior Appointments

  • Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, 2011-2012, Northwestern University School of Law
  • Clinical Professor of Law, 2006-2013, University of Texas at Austin
  • Adjunct Professor of Law, 1998-2006, University of Texas at Austin

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