Walter Pratt

Walter Pratt

Professor Emeritus of Law

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Walter F. “Jack” Pratt, Jr., a noted legal historian, joined the faculty of the Notre Dame Law School in 1986 as an associate professor of law and became a full professor in 1998. He earned his B.A. magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1968, as a Rhodes Scholar earned his D.Phil. from Oxford University in 1974, and earned his J.D. from Yale in 1977, where he served as the articles and book review editor for the Yale Law Journal. He is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he has served as executive associate dean (1999-2005), co-director of the Notre Dame London Law Centre (1988-89), associate dean for academic affairs (1991-98), and faculty advisor to the moot court program (1990-98). He clerked for the Honorable Charles Clark on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (1977-78), and for United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger (1978-79). He taught at Duke University as an assistant professor (1979-82) and associate professor of law (1982-86), and held a visiting associate professorship of law at Brigham Young University (1984-85). While on a research leave for the 1998-99 academic year, he studied Irish legal history at the law department of the National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.

His areas of academic interest include legal history, contracts and commercial law. He is a life member of the American Society for Legal History, which he served as secretary/treasurer 2000-2005; he served on the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education’s Law School Administration Committee 2001-2006 (chair 2004-2006); he has chaired the AALS Legal History Section (1991-92) and served as a member of the Student Services Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (1996-98).

He has served on a number of University committees including the Faculty Senate (1987-88 and 1989-91) and the Rhodes/Marshall Scholarship Committee (member 1989-98, chair 1990-98 and 1999-2001). He also served as vice-chair of the Law School’s Appointments Committee from 1990 to 1993.

Pratt retired from the law school in 2006.



  • The Supreme Court of Edward Douglass White, 1910-1921 (University of South Carolina Press 1999).
  • Privacy in Britain (Bucknell University Press 1979).

Book Segments

  • A New Vocabulary for a New Constitutional Law: United States v. Carolene Products (1938), in Leading Cases of the Twentieth Century 124 (Dublin, Ireland: Round Hall 2000)
  • North Carolina and the Constitution, 1787-1791, in The South's Role in the Creation of the Bill of Rights 77 (University Press of Mississippi 1991).


  • American Contract Law at the Turn of the Century, 39 South Carolina Law Review 415 (1988).
  • Law and the Experience of Politics in late Eighteenth-Century North Carolina: North Carolina Considers the Constitution, 22 Wake Forest Law Review 577 (1987).
  • The Struggle for Judicial Independence in Antebellum North Carolina: The Story of Two Judges, 4 Law and History Review 129 (1986).
  • Afterword: Contracts and Uncertainty, 46 Law & Contemporary Problems 169 (1983).
  • Rhetorical Styles on the Fuller Court, 24 The American Journal of Legal History 189 (1980).
  • Judicial Disability and the Good Behavior Clause, 85 Yale Law Journal 706 (1976).
  • The Warren and Brandeis Argument for a Right to Privacy, Public Law 161 (Summer 1975).

Areas of Expertise

  • Legal History