• Assistant Professor (Lecturer), Political Science Department

Research Summary

My research explores the intersection of law and public policy, and includes substantive policy areas such as criminal jurisprudence, immigration policy, and education policy. Most of my publications appear in law review journals published by law schools across the country.


  • J.D., S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah
  • Ph.D., Political Science, University of Utah. Project: The King's Wrongs and the Federal District Courts: Understanding the Discretionary Function Exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act


I taught my first class in the Political Science Department in Fall Semester 2004 and have since taught over 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students at the Univesity of Utah. While I have taught a number of different courses over the years, I most frequently teach classes related to law and public policy, like POLS 3220 (Introduction to Criminal Jurisprudence), POLS 5120 (Judicial Process), and POLS 3390 (Introduction to Environmental Policy and Sustainability).  I also regularly teach sections of POLS 1100 (Introduction to American Government) and PADMN 6300 (Administrative Theory).

In addition to teaching, I am a career (in other words, not a political appointee) prosecutor with the United States Department of Justice.  I serve as an Assistant United States Attorney assigned to the Violent Crime Section of the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Utah.  In this capacity, I serve as the Anti-Gang Coordinator for the District of Utah and prosecute narcotics conspiracy cases, firearms violations, and other violent federal crime committed by gang members.  In my career, I have chaired over 80 felony jury trials, including murders, attempted murders, aggravated sexual offenses, RICO, narcotics conspiracies, robberies, and many other violent crimes.   

I am fortunate to have received a number of national and local awards during my time as a prosecutor, including but not limited to the following:

- Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Administrator's Award (2020)

- Frederic Milton Thrasher Award from the National Gang Crime Researrch Center for "Superior Accompolishments in Gang Prosecution" (2020)

- United States Attorney's Award for Exeptional Performance (Criminal Division - District of Utah) (2020)

- United States Attorney's Award for Exceptional Performance (Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force "OCDETF" Section) (2020)

- Exexutive Office of the United States Attorney (EOUSA) Director's Award for Superior Performance by a Criminal Asisstant United States Attorney (2019)

- Salt Lake County Sherifif's Star (2018, 2019, 2020)

- Salt Lake Area Metro Gang Unit Project Director's Award (2017, 2019, 2020)

- OCDETF West Central Region District Award (2018)

- Special Recognition for Demonstrated Excellence, United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (2014)

- United States Attorney's Office for the District of Utah Award for Superior Litigative Performance as a Team (2013)




“Chapter 8: Batson Issues,” Stephen L. Nelson and Stewart M. Young, A Prosecutor’s Reference Guide for Trial Problems, 1st ed., Office of Legal Education (OLE), Dep’t of Just. (November 2020) (part of the DOJ OLE Litigation Series).


“The Small but Powerful Voice in American Elections: A Discussion of Voting Rights Litigation on Behalf of American Indians,” Jennifer L. Robinson and Stephen L. Nelson, Baylor L. Rev. (Fall 2018). 


“Administrative DREAM Acts: Examining State Higher Education Governing Board Policies Regarding In-State Tuition for Undocumented Immigrant Students,” Stephen L. Nelson, J.L. Robinson, A. Bergevin, Georgetown Immig. L.J., Vol. 28, pp. 555-596 (Spring 2015).


“States Taking Charge: Examining the Role of Race, Party Affiliation, and Preemption in the Development of In-State Tuition Laws for Undocumented Immigrant Students,” Stephen L. Nelson, J. L. Robinson, and K. H. Glaubitz, Michigan J. of Race and Law, Vol. 19, pp. 247-286 (Spring 2014).


“Reduced Tuition Benefits for Undocumented Immigrant Students: The Implications of a Piecemeal Approach to Policymaking,” Stephen L. Nelson, K. H. Glaubitz, and J. L. Robinson, Santa Clara L.Rev, Vol. 53 pp. 897-936 (Spring 2013).


“The King’s Wrongs and the Federal District Courts: Understanding the Discretionary Function Exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act,” Stephen L. Nelson, South Texas L. Rev., Vol. 51, pp. 101- 147 (Fall 2010).


“Families in Crisis, Challenges for Policymakers: Examining the Troubled Lives of Drug Endangered Children,” Stephen L. Nelson, K. Prince, & M. Searcy, Ohio Northern L. Rev., Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 81-114 (2009).


“Snapshots of Suspects and Defendants: A Discussion of Arrest and Prosecution Outcomes in Drug Endangered Children Cases,” Stephen L. Nelson, K. Prince & M. Searcy, Quinnipiac L. Rev., Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 837-880 (2009).