WATCH: Elizabeth Warren Railed Against ‘Fancy Corporate Defense Lawyers’ in Toxic Waste and ‘Shoddy Product’ Cases
Massachusetts Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is currently defending her work on behalf of corporate clients in toxic waste and product liability cases, but in a 2016 speech, railed against that exact sort of “fancy corporate defense lawyer.”
Warren is facing renewed scrutiny this week for her part in a 1996 toxic waste case, just one of several cases for corporate clients that have come under criticism over the past several months. But during a June 10, 2016 speech, Warren railed against corporate lawyers who took the exact same sorts of cases that she participated in during her years of legal work for corporations.
At the 2016 American Constitution Society National Convention, Warren was criticizing then-Senator Jeff Sessions over his questioning of Paula Xinis, President Barack Obama’s nominee for a district court judgeship.
“During her confirmation hearing to be a District Court judge this year, Senator Sessions insulted Paula Xinis, a former federal public defender and civil rights lawyer who worked on cases of police abuse. He asked if she could ‘assure the police officers … that might be brought before your court that they’ll get a fair day in court, and that your history would not impact your decision-making’”, Warren said.
“I’ll let you guess how many times Senator Sessions has questioned a fancy corporate defense lawyer, asking if they would assure victims of fraud, or people poisoned by toxic wastes, or people injured by shoddy products, or employees fired illegally because they tried to form a union — if they would get a fair day in court,” Warren added.
Just how on-the-nose is that clip?
Well, the latest corporate case to give Warren headaches is one in which she defended a company that was trying to get out of paying to clean up a toxic waste site. Her campaign argues that the dispute wasn’t over whether the site would be cleaned up, but over who would pay, and that she was making a principled defense of the bankruptcy system. But a favorable ruling could have paved the way for other companies to use bankruptcy as a way to avoid paying to clean up toxic waste sites.
Warren has also attracted the wrong kind of attention for her work with a subsidiary of Dow Corning in a case involving payouts to women injured by faulty breast implants. Her campaign says she was trying to ensure “equitable” payment of the claims, but an activist for the women involved says “She was on the wrong side of the table,” as part of a team that worked to limit the company’s liability.
And while she didn’t represent any company for firing union organizers, Warren did represent a company that tried to use bankruptcy to avoid paying health benefits to retired union workers — after she had denounced that company by name in a speech.
Warren’s campaign again defended the work as a principled defense of the bankruptcy system, but again, the victims were not on her side. And as with the toxic waste case, neither was the Supreme Court.
Elsewhere in the speech, Warren also criticized President Obama by noting that “”Eighty-six percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees have either worked as a corporate attorney, a prosecutor, or both.”
Watch the clip above, via Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts.
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