Meet the Law Professor Who Picks Banking Cases for Supreme Court to Hear

By Seiberg, Jaret | American Banker, October 19, 1995 | Go to article overview

Meet the Law Professor Who Picks Banking Cases for Supreme Court to Hear


Seiberg, Jaret, American Banker


Most bankers have probably never heard of Paul Bender. Yet this Justice Department official is instrumental in deciding which banking cases go before the Supreme Court.

It was Mr. Bender, a deputy solicitor general, who decided the government should intervene in the now-famous Valic case, which opened the door last winter to bank annuity sales.

He also brought the administration into the now-pending Barnett case, which will resolve whether states can ban national bank insurance sales.

And it is Mr. Bender who must decide whether to appeal a federal appeals court's ruling that the government broke the law when it forced thrifts to remove goodwill from their books.

So just who is this lawyer with so much influence over legal matters affecting the banking industry?

He's an Arizona State University law professor, on leave since 1993 to serve as Solicitor General Drew Days' top political appointee. He is responsible for all banking and civil rights cases. He also handles government contracts, commercial litigation, and employment cases.

Essentially his office recommends cases the Supreme Court should take and then tells the justices how the government believes they should rule. The justices apparently listen: Last year, the court took 70% of the cases recommended by the Solicitor General's office, and ruled in favor of the government 65% of the time.

The 1957 Harvard Law graduate brings a mixture of academic and government experience to the post. He clerked during the 1960s for Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter and served as an assistant to Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall. He taught constitutional law at the University of Pennsylvania for more than two decades, leaving in 1984 to become dean at Arizona's law school.

In a meticulously neat office covered with prints from the National Gallery of Art, Mr. …

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