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Hancock, Stanford law professor, dies at 81

STANFORD-- Moffatt Hancock, former Marion Rice Kirkwood Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, died Sunday, Dec. 5, at the Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif., following a heart attack. He was 81 years old.

A popular teacher with a theatrical flair, Hancock taught at Stanford for 23 years, from 1953 to 1976.

"Moffatt Hancock is the stuff of legend," Paul Brest, dean of Stanford Law School, said. "A true Renaissance man, he combined distinguished scholarship and teaching with cultural breadth, and is warmly remembered for his many contributions to the life of the School."

Hancock retired from Stanford with professor emeritus status at the age of 64, and then taught from 1976 to 1980 at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

An influential scholar, Hancock was an authority on property law, conflict of laws, jurisprudence and legal history.

His publications include two books, Torts in the Conflict of Laws (1942) and Studies in Modern Choice of Law: Torts, Insurance, Land Titles (1984), as well as numerous articles.

He received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1965 to write a series of articles on conflict of laws and land title litigation.

Also a devotee of the theater, Hancock wrote a paper, "Conflict, Drama and Magic in Early English Law," which was published as part of a symposium on law and psychology in 1953.

Hancock was admired by students and faculty alike for his phenomenal memory, a skill that enabled him to triumph over severe visual impairment.

Born in Toronto, Canada, on Aug. 19, 1912, Hancock graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto in 1936. He taught at the University of Toronto from 1937 to 1945, while earning a 1940 doctorate in law (S.J.D.) from the University of Michigan.

Hancock was on the faculty of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, from 1945 to 1949, holding the Viscount Bennett Professorship in Law. In 1979, Dalhousie presented him with an honorary doctorate.

Hancock moved to California in 1949 to become a law professor at the University of Southern California, joining the Stanford law faculty in 1953.

In 1970 he became president of the Stanford chapter of the Order of the Coif, the national legal honorary society, and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1976.

Hancock was a raconteur of great wit and versatility, as well as a talented songwriter and photographer.

He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Eileen, who lives on the Stanford campus, and by two children, five granddaughters and one grandson. His daughter, Catherine Hancock, is a law professor at Tulane University in New Orleans. His son, Graeme Hancock, is a partner in the law firm of Fennemore Craig of Phoenix, Ariz.

Services are pending. The family requests that memorial contributions be sent to Stanford Law School, for the benefit of the law library.



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