This morning three different law professors sent me this video of U.S. Senate Candidate and Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren claiming to be the first nursing mother to ever take the bar exam. One of the professors, who is a liberal academic, noted that she knows that claim to be untrue from personal experience. However, as noted by Winnie Comfort of the New Jersey Judiciary (which administers state’s bar exam), the bar does not track nursing habits and women have been taking the New Jersey bar exam since 1895. This was not a claim to be a nursing Cherokee mother, but the question remains why Warren is making such controversial boasts when she has a great financial expertise record to run on. Worse still, Warren today admitted that she did in fact claim minority status at Penn and Harvard — after insisting that she was unaware of the claims.
Obviously, the running of a law professor has made the Warren race a focus of law professors around the country. With these issues becoming part of the campaign, that fascination has grown to unprecedented levels. Warren has enjoyed overwhelming support in the academy from what I have seen. That support remains strong, though law professors are still chattering about these controversies.
These distractions however cannot be simply blamed on conservative publications, which are running the stories. Warren does not need such claims to distinguish herself. It could not come at a worse time when she has been unable to support her claim to be Cherokee In one of the most bizarre twists on the story, there are now accounts that great-great-great grandfather may have been a member of the Tennessee Militia who rounded up Cherokees and pushed them into the horrific Trail of Tears. Of course, even if true, that would not alter the fact that his wife was a Cherokee. However, the Boston Globe has confirmed that there is no documentation to support the claim.
With today’s admission that she did in fact repeatedly claim minority status at both law schools, I am again left perplexed why she would take so long to admit her claim. As I noted earlier, I could not imagine any way that such a claim, let alone repeated claims, unless it was made by the law professor.
On the merits, there is significant doubt about the claim. Warren’s bio lists her as becoming pregnant in 1976 before graduating from law school. By that point, the chances that she was the first woman to be a nursing mother during the bar seems doubtful, but more importantly it is not clear how she would know.
Once again, this is not an issue of importance, but it is one that Warren raised. While the claim of being a minority does have significant aspects for law schools and academics, nursing is not a matter that seems particularly relevant. However, what is fascinating is that I would have been impressed with Warren noting that she nursed during the bar exam – reflecting the challenges of female lawyers. No need to be first. I was trying not to hyperventilate at the time. I would be impressed even if she was the latest in a long line of nursing mothers during bar exams.
Nevertheless, she still looks good in comparison to 13 Senatorial candidates who are now accused of having backgrounds that include criminal convictions or tax violations.
I wonder if any of our attorneys have accounts to share of challenges that they faced during the bar examination. I know of one professor who was caught in a broken elevator in a hotel during his break from the bar. I know of another lawyer who was under cancer treatment and had to leave to throw up from the medication (he passed).