Mary Sue Backus

Contact Information

  • Professor Emeritus
  • Robert Glenn Rapp Foundation Presidential Professor Emeritus
  • Hugh Roff Professor of Law Emeritus


B.A., College of William and Mary, 1981

M.A.T., University of Alaska, Anchorage, 1990

J.D., William and Mary School of Law, 2001


Professor Mary Sue Backus retired in August 2022 after 18 years as a faculty member. During her tenure she taught a wide array of courses including Torts, Criminal Law, Civil Procedure, Professional Responsibility, Evidence and Evidence Lab. In her final year as a tenured professor, she also served as Dean of Students. She was named the Robert Glenn Rapp Foundation Presidential Professor in 2013 and appointed the Hugh Roff Professor of Law in 2019. Students awarded Professor Backus their Outstanding Professor award on multiple occasions and in 2016 she was recognized with the Regents’ Award for Superior Teaching.

Professor Backus’s early scholarship focused on the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel and the failings of the indigent defense system in the United States while her later scholarship addressed assorted Oklahoma legal reform issues, including juvenile competency and virtual charter schools. She was a frequent speaker at CLEs around the state and a regular presenter at the Oklahoma Judicial Conference on evidence and ethics issues.  She served on the Oklahoma Advisory Committee for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Oklahoma Uniform Jury Instructions Committee advising the OK Court of Criminal Appeals. In 2012-2013 she served as a Fulbright Scholar in China at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhou and she coordinated the law school’s China Law Summer Program. 

Professor Backus joined the OU College of Law faculty in 2004 after a semester as a visiting assistant professor of law at William and Mary School of Law, where she taught evidence and a seminar on indigent defense systems. She graduated first in her class at William and Mary Law School in 2001, and began her legal career as a law clerk on the United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit and as a litigator with the Washington, D.C. firm of Covington and Burling.

Additional Information

Courses Taught


  • Criminal Law 5223
  • Education Law 6130
  • Evidence 5314

Professional Associations

Order of the Coif

Order of the Barristers

Member of the Virginia Bar

Member of the District of Columbia Bar

Oklahoma Close Up Board of Directors

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