The Prosser Letters: Scholar As Dean

56 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2017 Last revised: 9 Jan 2018

See all articles by Christopher J. Robinette

Christopher J. Robinette

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School

Kyle Graham

California Supreme Court

Date Written: July 19, 2017


Examining a previously unexplored trove of letters, this article sheds new light on the thinking and work of William L. Prosser, the past century’s leading torts scholar. In these letters to family written while dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, Prosser candidly describes his approach to scholarship; the development of his casebook, the second edition of Prosser on Torts, and some of his most well-known and influential articles. Moreover, Prosser provides his often-cynical impressions of the legal process; his views of his peers at Berkeley and at other institutions; and his work as dean. The letters also demonstrate some of Prosser’s limitations, including his craving for attention, a sometimes petty personality, and racial and ethnic biases. In all, the letters capture a scholar at the zenith of professional accomplishment in his field, who nevertheless showed signs of the insecurity that would later trigger his resignation from the Berkeley deanship and retreat from the forefront of torts scholarship.

Keywords: torts, legal history, products liability, William Prosser, Prosser

JEL Classification: K00, K13, K39

Suggested Citation

Robinette, Christopher J. and Graham, Kyle, The Prosser Letters: Scholar As Dean (July 19, 2017). 10 J. Tort Law 99 (2017), Widener Law Commonwealth Research Paper No. 17-06, Available at SSRN:

Christopher J. Robinette (Contact Author)

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School ( email )

3800 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9380
United States
717.541.3993 (Phone)

Kyle Graham

California Supreme Court ( email )

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