Elizabeth Warren has built her progressive rock star image and her campaign by attacking the wealthy factory owners and others who supposedly do not pay their “fair share” and take advantage of loopholes to live off of infrastructure paid for by others.

Yet Warren appears to be one of those people who takes advantage.

Warren falsely and without any legitimate legal basis claimed to be Cherokee for employment purposes.  Warren also chintzed by failing to register for the Massachusetts Bar despite an active practice of law in Cambridge since the mid-1990s, thereby evading Bar registration dues.  Howie Carr has a great column today about Warren’s class warfare phoniness.

Add another example to the long list:  Warren obtained fee waivers from at least 50 federal bankruptcy courts so she would not have to pay for access to the federal PACER system, even in years when she had a high 6-figure income and an 8-figure net worth.

Warren’s High Income and Net Worth

In 2008, the earliest year for which Warren has released income tax returns, Warren and her husband had a combined income of $831,208, which increased in 2009 to $981,670.  Warren’s net worth as of the end of 2011 was as high as $14.5 million.

In 2010-2011, Warren earned approximately $140,000 from Aspen Publishers for her books about bankruptcy.  Warren also has published a variety of commercial books over the years, for which no income data is available, such as the 2004 publication of The Two Income Trap (see Megan McArdle and Todd Zawycki reviews), which incorporated her bankruptcy research and many of her non-commercial articles.

Warren also worked as a private consultant for which she earned $90,000 on bank antitrust litigation, although it’s not known if she incorporated her banktruptcy docket work because she will not release her report.

These commercial endeavors are separate from her non-commercial, highly politicized research, such as the review of bankruptcy case dockets which led to a devastating critique of Warren’s work by Rutgers Law Professor Philip Schuchman.  These bankruptcy file reviews also contributed to Warren’s non-commercial studies such as the misleading claim that medical expenses account for one-third  of all bankruptcies.

Warren’s bankruptcy docket research has contributed at least indirectly to the vast money-making empire which euphemistically could be called “Elizabeth Warren, Inc.” (not an actual name, but fitting).

PACER  Waivers In At Least 50 Districts

I say good for Warren, she built that $14.5 million net worth through hard work and persistence.

But Warren, who berates factory owners, obtained fee waivers for access to the bankruptcy docket maintained by the federal PACER system, for which others have to pay.

Warren took advantage of a policy at PACER which provides for fee waivers for academic research based on her standing as a law professor.

Copies of letters submitted by Warren in 2006 and 2008 in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, along with corresponding Orders (plus a third Order in Maryland for which no letter was found) were located through the PACER system.

In her November 22, 2006, letter to the Court, Warren attached a list of 49 federal district courts which previously had granted her waivers from the normal PACER fees:

 

How much did Warren save in fees?

It would depend on her use, and how far back in time the waivers went.  We know  Warren wrote (see fn. 42) that prior to 2002 she obtained a grant from a private foundation to cover some PACER fees, and that as of 2006 there were 50 districts from which she had waivers.

Warren’s history in the Western District of Pennsylvania is available through Google searches, and goes back at least to 2005, and continues with a waiver application submitted in January 2012.

Here is the current PACER fee schedule:

Access to court documents costs $0.10 per page.  The cost to access a single document is capped at $3.00, the equivalent of 30 pages.  The cap does not apply to name searches, reports that are not case-specific and transcripts of federal court proceedings.

By Judicial Conference policy, if your usage does not exceed $15 in a quarter, fees for that quarter are waived,  effectively making the service free for most users.

It is easy to surmise that Warren saved thousands of dollars, maybe even more, over the course of her research, by not having to pay the PACER fees that all other users have to pay.

The savings were a result of her representations that the research was being done for academic purposes.  Here is what Warren represented in her November 22, 2006, letter (emphasis mine):

All of our research is made public and is shared with the courts, the Office of the United States Trustee and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. We do not use PACER for any purpose other than academic research. We do not use PACER for the practice of law for clients or use PACER for any other fee-generating purposes.

Our collective and individual research has been published in several law review articles, including the Cornell Law Review, California (Berkeley) Law Review, Harvard Law Review, Northwestern Law Review, and Stanford Law Review, as well as professional journals in medicine and sociology. We have also integrated the research into several books. Without access to these data, this work might never have been completed. Everyone associated with the project is very grateful to the judges who have made it possible….

I would like to request a waiver, on precisely the same terms as that granted in other courts.

PACER access will be used only for academic research; it will not be used in connection with the representation of clients or for other fee-generating purposes.  I would also like to request that the fee waiver be applicable for all data collection through 2007 and, if possible, beyond.

Not Paying Her Fair Share

The issue is not whether academics should get waivers, or whether Warren complied with her representations.  Let’s assume she was entitled and did comply.

The issue is a political candidate who has built her candidacy on the claim that others who can afford to do so do not pay their “fair share” and have built their fortunes based on infrastructure the rest of us paid for.

That same argument could be made as to the federal PACER system, which has contributed to Warren’s academic and commercial success, but for which Warren did not want to pay a penny.

When given the chance to pay the same share everyone else pays, Warren chose not to do so even though it would have represented a tiny fraction of her annual income and an even tinier fraction of her net worth.

 
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