Richard Brooks

Formerly the Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, Richard R.W. Brooks focuses his scholarship on contracts and agency, among other forms of business and social organization. Brooks has published numerous books and articles that analyze behavior through the lens of economics, custom, and law. His most recent book, Saving the Neighborhood: Racially Restrictive Covenants, Law, and Social Norms, (coauthored with Carol Rose) examines the history and enduring legacy of racially restrictive property agreements (or racial covenants), which the Supreme Court ruled unenforceable in 1948. Yet despite this repudiation, racial covenants lived on in real estate records, influencing the behaviors of lenders, insurers and realtors, as well as the beliefs and expectations of homebuyers and sellers. Over time the impact of racial covenants would fade, but their legal and social significance lingered well beyond 1948. Racial covenants, even without formal enforcement, were effective signals, creating “common knowledge” that guided the actions of real estate professionals and ordinary buyers and sellers in the housing market.

Brooks’ work also includes articles about contract law and theory, experimental economics, the economics of environmental law, fairness, and perceptions of the legal system.

Brooks holds a BA from Cornell University, an MA from the University of California at Berkeley, a JD from The University of Chicago Law School, and a PhD in economics from the University of California at Berkeley. He was a visiting professor at the Law School in 2006 and was most recently the Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He also taught previously at Northwestern University School of Law and at Cornell University in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management. Brooks has served as a visiting researcher at the Center in Law, Economics and Organization at the University of Southern California Law School; on an advisory committee to the Social, Behavioral and Economics Sciences Division of the National Science Foundation; and as a research specialist in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice.

Featuring this expert

The Legacy of Systemic Racism

Video | Dec 1, 2021

How systemic racism of the past continues to haunt the present.