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Robert Pascal, R.I.P.

Another great legal scholar, and friend of mine, LSU Law Professor Robert Pascal, has passed away. I previously commented on the death of my friend, LSU Law Professor Saúl Litvinoff, a giant of civil law scholarship who died in 2010. I never even knew Saúl while I was at LSU law school, but I became close friends with him shortly after my graduation in 1991, and maintained correspondence with him until his death in  2010 (he was one of the three professors who wrote recommendation letters for me to apply to the University of London’s PhD in Laws programme, the others being Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Randy Barnett).1

And another Louisiana legal titan, A.N. ‘Thanassi’ Yiannopoulos, died last year at age 88. I never met Yiannopouls at all, but we corresponded in the years before his death in 2017 about some civil law matters. He was friends with my friend Gregory Rome, a young Louisiana lawyer who co-authored Louisiana Civil Law Dictionary with me in 2011.

Professor Robert Pascal retired from LSU Law in 1980. I didn’t even start law school until 1988. But somehow I met him after I had graduated in 1991. I believe it was when I was at LSU in 1993 or so attending the LSU Mineral Law Institute, when I was a young associate practicing oil & gas law in Houston.2 Pascal and I had a good conversation and started corresponding, and then became friends. Over the 1990s, we exchanged letters and talked on the phone many times about a variety of legal and political topics. I visited him at his house in Baton Rouge to have coffee with him several times when I was there. I sent him cards, letters, articles I’d written, and would call him from time to time on the phone. He would recommend reading material to me, and sometimes, I to him—I remember he one time wrote Professor James Gordley after he read an article I had commended to him, and sent me a copy of the letter.

Professor Pascal was somewhat formal with me, but always gracious and very kind. He insisted on calling me Mr. Kinsella when he wrote me—and usually he wrote me in elegant cursive—and would make me a nice cup of coffee when I visited his home—in a small demitasse cup, “never a mug, Oh, never a mug!” I remember him saying one time. We disagreed strongly on many things—he was leftish in his politics; indeed, he called himself one time a “catholic communist” (he insisted the “small c” had some relevance). He read my libertarian-legal writings that I sent him in bemusement and puzzlement, I think. He recommended Voegelin to me, and spoke highly of his work and that of his friend, and Voegelin’s amanuensis, LSU political science professor Ellis Sandoz. I ended up purchasing and reading Sandoz’s work on Voegelin and some of Voegelin’s book, such as The Nature of Law. I was always fascinated by Pascal’s extremely opinionated views on the “source of law” in Louisiana—he thought it was Spanish, not French—and that this had some significant policy implications (somewhat aligned with his “catholic communism,” as I recall, such as his strange emphasis on the importance of the negotiorum gestio—he thought this doctrine having to do with the management of others’ affairs could somehow be used to implement some of his more socialistic-welfare policy ideas, but I can’t remember the details). His views on this topic were detailed in the (to me) fascinating 1971 series of law review debates called “Tournament of Scholars.”3 Pascal was passionate about this and related topics —see the various reviews and letters he wrote in this regard, which he sent these to me as I had indicated to him interest in this issue.4

I remember one time he expressed the view that it was wrong for a defense attorney to represent a client-defendant whom he knew to be guilty. I loved getting letters from him, but what I’ll treasure is the memory of our in-person conversations, his making coffee for me, his gentle and kind inquiries into my family, and so on. Some of our correspondence, which stretched from 1993 to 2011, is here, with some of my embarrassingly long-winded letters expurgated.

I spoke to him about a year ago, when he was 100 or 101, and had been meaning to call him in recent weeks. But I saw with sadness today in an LSU law email that he passed away Jan. 19, 2018. From the LSU Law Center press release:

The LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center mourns the passing of Professor Emeritus Robert A. Pascal, who died Jan. 19, at the age of 102.

Pascal graduated from the LSU Law Center in 1940 as the school’s first student to receive the Master of Civil Law degree. He later earned his LL.M. from the University of Michigan in 1942. After completing his military service with the U.S. Coast Guard, Pascal joined the LSU Law faculty as a full-time assistant professor in 1945.

While on leaves of absence from LSU, Pascal taught at the University of Chicago (spring 1951) and the University of Rome (1951 – 1952 and 1963 – 1964). Pascal retired on June 2, 1980 and was named an LSU Law Professor Emeritus.

Throughout his career, Pascal taught a wide range of subjects, but his favorites have been interstate and international legislative jurisdiction, philosophy of law, introduction to civil and common law, and private (or family) trusts.

His teaching philosophies can be found in almost any piece of his scholarship.  Pascal once noted, “We are a community of people under God, and because we are a community, each of us must cooperate with everyone else in life.”  His earlier Tucker Lecture of 1998, “Of the Civil Code and Us,” and his more recent “A Summary Reflection on Legal Education,” perfectly reflected his philosophies of life, the law and teaching.

As a professor, he specialized in civil law courses, jurisprudence, and conflict of laws. Pascal’s practice of calling on students seated in the front row on the first day of class is still remembered by LSU Law alumni. Stories of this routine became so widespread and feared that Pascal was forced to alter his interrogation habits when students sat in the back of the classroom, leaving the front row vacant.

Pascal, left, in 2010.

As a researcher, he assisted with the publication of the compiled civil codes of Louisiana prepared by the Law Institute. Pascal was a corresponding member of the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law and a consultant on trust law reform for the Louisiana State Law Institute.

His expertise extended into the fields of Institutions of the Law, Family Law, Matrimonial Regimes, Anglo-American Real Property, Conflicts of Law, and Philosophy of Law. His positions as defender of the civil law of Louisiana, as teacher and scholar, are legendary. His scholarship and contributions to the law were recognized when in 1995, Loyola University New Orleans conferred Pascal with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

In 2011, Pascal was honored with the Distinguished Professor award by the Louisiana Bar Foundation.

Services will be held Thursday, Jan. 25 with visitation at St. Aloysius Church in Baton Rouge beginning at 10 a.m., and a Funeral Mass beginning at 11 a.m. Burial will follow at 2 p.m. in St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 in New Orleans.

I’ll miss my friend. He was a gentle and intelligent soul, who made many contributions to the law he loved. R.I.P.


  1.  Litvinoff’s recommendation letter. []
  2. I spoke at the Institute the next year: “Recent Developments in Jurisprudence and Legislation,” 41 LSU Mineral Law Institute Ch. 6 (1994) (with Robert O. Thomas) . []
  3. See Pascal, Robert A. and Rodolfo Batiza, Tournament of Scholars: articles debating the actual sources of the Louisiana Civil Code of 1808–Spanish or French Law. []
  4. See: Book Review of Shael Herman, The Louisiana Civil Code: A European Legacy fo the United States, 1993, reviewed by Robert A. Pascal (plus related correspondence, draft reviews and related draft manuscripts by Pascal). See also, by Pascal: Review of F.H. Lawson, Introduction to the Law of Property; Review of Merryman, Introduction to the Italian Legal System; Louisiana’s Mixed Legal SystemThe Sources of Civil Order According to the Louisiana Civil Code. []
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