Roscoe Pound, Melvin Belli, and the Personal-Injury Bar: The Tale of an Odd Coupling

44 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2010

See all articles by Joseph Page

Joseph Page

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: July 14, 2010


In the fourth chapter of Patriots and Cosmopolitans: Hidden Histories of American Law, legal historian John Fabian Witt tells the story of a collaboration between storied scholar Roscoe Pound and trial virtuoso Melvin M. Belli, which he calls "among the most startling and yet unremarked-upon relationships in the annals of American law." Witt argues that it both shaped and energized the efforts of personal-injury lawyers to oppose proposals that would shift to the administrative branch of government responsibility for compensating auto-accident victims. Entitled "The King and the Dean," in reference to the media's coronation of Belli as the "King of Torts", and Pound's lengthy term (1916-1936) at the helm of the Harvard Law School, the chapter advances the claim that the two men came together synergistically in the early 1950s and mobilized a campaign by personal-injury lawyers to resist the enactment of automobile no-fault plans and other proposals that would have replaced common-law tort suits with alternative compensation mechanisms. This Article will first take issue with Witt's story of the Pound-Belli relationship and then offer a different version of the interaction between the Dean and the plaintiffs' trial bar.

Keywords: history, jurisprudence, torts

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K13, K23

Suggested Citation

Page, Joseph, Roscoe Pound, Melvin Belli, and the Personal-Injury Bar: The Tale of an Odd Coupling (July 14, 2010). Thomas M. Cooley Law Review, Vol. 26, 2009, Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 10-41, Available at SSRN:

Joseph Page (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics