Bio: Born in Oklahoma; Rutgers Law-Newark; solo practitioner in wills, real estate; professor, University of Pennsylvania, University of Houston schools of law; Harvard Law School professor since 1992. Chair of congressional oversight panel on TARP funds since 2008.
If picked: She would be the only nonjudge on the bench. Deep knowledge of banking, finance, bankruptcy. Described as advocate for middle-class families and consumers.
Like Martha Minow, Elena Kagan and Janet Napolitano, Elizabeth Warren would bring a nonjudge perspective to the Supreme Court. But unlike the other three, Warren has a much narrower field of expertise on which to be scrutinized by senators.
Her colleagues in the world of finance and bankruptcy law are effusive in their praise of her abilities and collegiality.
“She has been a leader in the field for many years, an inspiration to many scholars, including myself, both in terms of her research methods as well as the areas she studied,” said bankruptcy scholar Robert Lawless of the University of Illinois College of Law. “There’s a whole field of empirical studies in consumer finance that wouldn’t exist without her.”
Warren chairs the five-member congressional oversight panel created to oversee implementation of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. That position has thrust her into the public’s eye as she has “interrogated” banking officials and others over their handling of taxpayer bailout funds. She also was the inspiration behind an independent Consumer Finance Protection Agency and has become its most vigorous advocate.
Nothing is known yet about her positions on such hot-button issues as abortion, gun regulation or gay rights, but she is considered a liberal and progressive thinker.
Colleagues describe her as straightforward, helpful and generous to all who seek her assistance, and demanding of herself.
Most of what the Supreme Court does is outside of the headlines, noted Lawless, but it does very consequential things that affect everyday lives. He recalled the Marquette National Bank decision in 1978 holding that the National Bank Act preempted state interest rate rulings.
” Without that decision, we wouldn’t have the consumer credit culture that arises in 1990s,” he said. “ A justice who had some understanding of the consequences of that decision would have perhaps pushed it in a different direction.”
Warren would be a justice with important experience in those issues.
“We’ve had this in the past — Thurgood Marshall represented debtors as a private lawyer; William Douglas knew this area,” said Lawless. “It would be very good to have a justice who had some experience with day-to-day workings of the consumer finance system and now, through her work with TARP, the commercial finance system.”
And, noted others, Warren might not win favor with the business-banking community, a huge influence within the Senate.