John Witt

John Witt's picture
Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor, Law School; Professor of History
SLB 443
Fields of interest: 

American legal history

John Fabian Witt is Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He is the author of a number of books, including American Contagions: Epidemics and the Law from Smallpox to COVID-19 and Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History, which was awarded the Bancroft Prize, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, was selected for the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, and was a New York Times Notable Book. Professor Witt is currently writing the story of the men and women behind the Garland Fund: the 1920s foundation that quietly financed the efforts that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education.
Other writings include To Save the Country: A Lost Manuscript of the Civil War Constitution (Yale University Press, 2019) (with Will Smiley), Patriots and Cosmopolitans: Hidden Histories of American Law (Harvard University Press, 2007), and The Accidental Republic: Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law (Harvard University Press, 2004), as well as articles in the American Historical Review, the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, and other scholarly journals. He has written for The New Republic, The New York Times, Slate, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. He has been a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Witt holds a J.D. and a Ph.D. in history from Yale. He served as a law clerk to Judge Pierre N. Leval on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He taught for a decade at Columbia Law School and has visited at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Texas at Austin. Professor Witt’s casebooks, Torts and Regulation: Cases, Principles, and Institutions (2019) and Torts: Cases, Principles, and Institutions (4th ed. 2019), are available for free on a Creative Commons license at


  • Ph.D., Yale, 2000
  • J.D., Yale, 1999
  • B.A., Yale, 1994
Courses Taught
  • History of American Law
  • The Law of War
  • Torts