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Rafael I. Pardo

Walter D. Coles Professor of Law

Rafael I. Pardo researches and teaches in the areas of bankruptcy, commercial law, contracts, and legal history. His scholarship explores a wide array of bankruptcy topics and has been published in numerous law journals, including  the Alabama Law Review, the Arizona Law Review, the Florida Law Review, the Iowa Law Review, the Tulane Law Review, the UCLA Law Review, the Vanderbilt Law Review, the Washington Law Review, the Washington and Lee Law Review, and the William and Mary Law Review. Federal courts of appeals, district courts, bankruptcy appellate panels, and bankruptcy courts have cited his work.

Professor Pardo’s recent research has focused on the intersection of the 1841 Bankruptcy Act, slavery, and race in the antebellum United States. His published work in this area has analyzed how the federal government through the Act became the owner and seller of enslaved Black Americans, provided direct economic support to financially distressed slave traders, and restructured financially distressed assets involved in the domestic slave trade. He has also analyzed how free Black Americans facing financial distress used the Act to reintegrate into their commercial communities and protect their claims to citizenship. This research serves as the foundation for Pardo’s current book project, The Color of Bankruptcy: Financial Failure and Freedom in the Age of American Slavery, which Columbia University Press will publish as part of its Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism series.

Professor Pardo received his B.A. in history from Yale College and his J.D. from New York University School of Law, where he served as an executive editor of the New York University Law Review and was a recipient of the Judge John J. Galgay Fellowship in Bankruptcy and Reorganization Law. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute and an elected fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He has testified as a bankruptcy expert before both houses of Congress and has served as a commentator on bankruptcy matters for various media outlets, including Bloomberg, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Seattle Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal.

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  • Education
    • J.D., New York University School of Law, 2001
    • B.A., Yale College, 1998
  • Courses
    • Bankruptcy
    • Contracts
    • Secured Transactions
  • Areas of Expertise
    • Bankruptcy
    • Commercial Law
    • Courts and Judges
    • Legal History
  • Publications

    SSRN Author’s Page


    • BANKRUPTCY: DEALING WITH FINANCIAL FAILURE FOR INDIVIDUALS AND BUSINESSES (6th ed.) (with Bruce A. Markell & Lawrence Ponoroff) (under contract with West Academic Publishing)
    • SECURED TRANSACTIONS: PROBLEMS AND MATERIALS (West Academic Publishing 4th ed. 2021) (with Paul Barron & Mark B. Wessman)


    • Self-Representation and the Dismissal of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Cases, in BEYOND ELITE LAW: ACCESS TO CIVIL JUSTICE IN AMERICA 87 (Samuel Estreicher & Joy Radice eds., Cambridge University Press 2016)


    • Racialized Bankruptcy Federalism, 2021 MICH. ST. L. REV. (forthcoming) (invited symposium contribution)
    • On Bankruptcy’s Promethean Gap: Building Enslaving Capacity into the Antebellum Administrative State, 48 FORDHAM URB. L.J. 801 (2021) (invited Cooper-Walsh Colloquium contribution)
    • Financial Freedom Suits: Bankruptcy, Race, and Citizenship in Antebellum America, 62 ARIZ. L. REV. 125 (2020)
    • Federally Funded Slaving, 93 TUL. L. REV. 787 (2019)
    • Bankrupted Slaves, 71 VAND. L. REV. 1071 (2018)
    • Documenting Bankrupted Slaves, 71 VAND. L. REV. EN BANC 73 (2018)
    • Taking Bankruptcy Rights Seriously, 91 WASH. L. REV. 1115 (2016)
    • The Undue Hardship Thicket: On Access to Justice, Procedural Noncompliance, and Pollutive Litigation in Bankruptcy, 66 FLA. L. REV. 2101 (2014)
    • Rethinking the Principal-Agent Theory of Judging, 99 IOWA L. REV. 331 (2013) (with Jonathan R. Nash)
    • The Structural Exceptionalism of Bankruptcy Administration, 60 UCLA L. REV. 384 (2012) (with Kathryn A. Watts)
    • Does Ideology Matter in Bankruptcy? Voting Behavior on the Courts of Appeals, 53 WM. & MARY L. REV. 919 (2012) (with Jonathan R. Nash)
    • Reconceptualizing Present-Value Analysis in Consumer Bankruptcy, 68 WASH. & LEE L. REV. 113 (2011)
    • An Empirical Examination of Access to Chapter 7 Relief by Pro Se Debtors, 26 EMORY BANKR. DEV. J. 5 (2009)
    • Setting the Record Straight: A Sur-Reply to Professors Lawless et al., 33 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 93 (2009)
    • Failing to Answer Whether Bankruptcy Reform Failed: A Critique of the First Report from the 2007 Consumer Bankruptcy Project, 83 AM. BANKR. L.J. 27 (2009) (peer reviewed)
    • The Real Student-Loan Scandal: Undue Hardship Discharge Litigation, 83 AM. BANKR. L.J. 179 (2009) (with Michelle R. Lacey) (peer reviewed)
    • The Utility of Opacity in Judicial Selection, 64 N.Y.U. ANN. SURV. AM. L. 633 (2009) (invited symposium contribution)
    • An Empirical Investigation into Appellate Structure and the Perceived Quality of Appellate Review, 61 VAND. L. REV. 1745 (2008) (with Jonathan R. Nash) (selected for presentation at the 2007 Stanford/Yale Junior Faculty Forum)
    • Illness and Inability to Repay: The Role of Debtor Health in the Discharge of Educational Debt, 35 FLA. ST. U. L. REV. 505 (2008)
    • Eliminating the Judicial Function in Consumer Bankruptcy, 81 AM. BANKR. L.J. 471 (2007) (peer reviewed)
    • Undue Hardship in the Bankruptcy Courts: An Empirical Assessment of the Discharge of Educational Debt, 74 U. CIN. L. REV. 405 (2005) (with Michelle R. Lacey)
    • On Proof of Preferential Effect, 55 ALA. L. REV. 281 (2004), reprinted in 13 J. BANKR. L. & PRAC. 95 (2004)
    • Comment, Bankruptcy Court Jurisdiction and Agency Action: Resolving the NextWave of Conflict, 76 N.Y.U. L. REV. 945 (2001)
    • Note, Beyond the Limits of Equity Jurisprudence: No-Fault Equitable Subordination, 75 N.Y.U. L. REV. 1489 (2000)
  • Activity and Affiliations
    • Elected Member, American Law Institute
    • Elected Fellow, American Bar Foundation
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