A transcript of the oral history interview with Brooksley Born, conducted by Alan Houseman in June 2015, is now available online. In the interview, Brooksley Born, retired partner at Arnold & Porter, discusses her public service and pro bono work, which she pursued using the firm as a base. Together with Marna Tucker, she started teaching the pioneering “Women and the Law” course at Catholic University in 1972, while also being involved in the formation of the Women’s Legal Defense Fund. In 1973, she helped to launch the Women’s Rights Project at CLASP, which later became the National Women’s Law Center. Other topics include her extensive work with the ABA, where she has chaired the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, and the Consortium on Legal Services and the Public. Born was the first woman to be appointed to the ABA Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary, and, with Marna Tucker, founded the ABA Women’s Caucus. She also discusses her tenure as the chair of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from 1996-1999, where she urged that the over-the-counter derivatives market should be subject to federal oversight and regulation. The government’s failure to regulate that market was later criticized as a major cause of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. “What was important to me,” she said, “was always trying to look clearly at a situation and see the dangers for people who were not represented or spoken for, and I think I was doing the same thing at the CFTC as I was doing on SCLAID or the National Women’s Law Center. It was the American public that was endangered by the over-the-counter derivatives, and I felt I should voice their interests and try to represent them…The lesson that I’ve learned throughout my life is that you can’t be silent about the needs of others that you see.” (Transcript, p. 30) Ms. Born has received many awards recognizing her work in the areas of women’s rights, legal aid, public interest law, and her public service. In 2009, Born was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in recognition of her political courage to sound early warnings about the dangers of the unregulated derivatives market. Born has overseen ABA’s Women Trailblazers in the Law oral history project, capturing the experiences of women pioneers in the legal profession.
The NEJL Oral History Project continues. This week, Alan Houseman conducted a series of eight interviews with long-time staff attorneys at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Stay tuned for more details.
The digitized report can be downloaded from Digital Georgetown: