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Tributes to Jean

posted by Bob Lawless

BraucherOur friend and co-blogger, Jean Braucher, passed away a week ago today. Our first post here on Credit Slips had only a few paragraphs about her contributions to our professional community. There was a lot more to say about Jean.

Since that time, a number of comments have made their way into my inbox or were posted on to that original post. The comments have come from practicing attorneys, academics, judges, and journalists and from all over the United States as well as Europe, Australia, and South America. If you sent me a longer comment, I hope I have done justice to it below in excerpting it, and my apologies if I mistakenly omitted some. Here is what people wrote about Jean.

From Jean's colleague, Professor Bill Whitford of the University of Wisconsin (and as reported on ContractProfs Blog):

Jean was a close friend, a fellow co-editor of the Macaulay et al. casebook (Contracts: Law in Action), my co-author on several other publications, and an intellectual collaborator and colleague for many years. I sometimes felt that we shared a brain, since we so often viewed issues similarly, but that was obviously not the case since over the years I learned a great deal from her work. And she also made many suggestions that helped me improve my own work. No words can adequately express my sense of personal loss at this untimely death.

From Senator Elizabeth Warren:

I had great respect for Jean Braucher. She was strong, willing to take on hard conceptual problems that others had papered over and determined to counter conventional wisdom with carefully collected data. Jean fought hard for policies that would help people who were often overlooked in the legal system, and her voice will be sorely missed.

From Professor John Pottow at the University of Michigan:

Perhaps the best summation of Jean's character was that she was unfailingly grounded. In both her scholarship and her outlook on life, she was the absolute antithesis of an effete academic. She could never completely mask her penetrating intelligence, of course, but she had a warmth -- an avuncular, engaging and thoroughly unpretentious charm -- that disarmed friends and strangers alike. I will treasure my times working with her professionally as a colleague, especially the insightful comments she provided on my work, cherish the moments of friendship we enjoyed, but also wistfully regret that she left us too soon.

From Judge Paulette Delk of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Tennessee:

I had read her articles long before meeting her, and continued to look for her scholarly work during my career as a law professor, and later as a bankruptcy judge.  Her scholarly work was extremely helpful in teaching and in practice.  Her voice and perspective will be missed.  I didn't know Jean well on a personal level, but she always greeted me so warmly, and I suspect that she was a wonderfully caring person.  

From Professor Stephanie Ben-Ishai at York University in Toronto:

Aside from her welcoming and calming personality I was always impressed by how interested Jean was in other jurisdictions. She often wrote to find out what was going on in Canada and in search of comparative data. Also, she encouraged and asked challenging questions of junior faculty--taking them seriously as colleagues.

From Professor Pamela Foohey at Indiana University-Bloomington:

I discovered Jean's article on local legal culture as I was graduating from law school. It was one of a small handful of articles that convinced me that I wanted to be an academic. And once I started teaching consumer bankruptcy, it became my favorite work to teach. Students loved discussing it, and every time I read it or teach it, I notice something else that informs how I think about qualitative research and my future research. When I met Jean for the first time this summer at Law & Society, she went out of her way to talk with me about my research and teaching. . . .  I know that I will continue to draw from her work for the rest of my career and will strive to live up to, even just a bit, the extraordinary precedent that she set and path that she forged for young scholars. 

From Katy Stech at the Wall Street Journal:

Jean was so patient with me when I barely understood bankruptcy issues, and she guided my reporting on some of the most important stories I’ve written here. This just breaks my heart. Reporters needed people like her.

From Professor Jonathan Lipson at Temple University:

She had this unusual balance of the theoretical and the practical; gentle and tough; generous but careful. She was a great mentor, friend, and inspiration to many people. Her loss will be deeply felt.

From Professor Nancy Rapoport at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas:

I remember Jean not only as a strong scholar but also as a mensch. She reached out to me early on and was always willing to talk about my work--such a kind, kind person.

From Professor Sally McDonald Henry at Texas Tech University:

Because I am new to academia, I never had the chance to meet Professor Braucher, but her work on the disparity of selection of Chapter 13 rather than Chapter 7 for African-American debtors was extremely important and interesting.  I recently gave a CLE to legal aid lawyers, discussed her research,  and the audience was intrigued by her findings.  I wish I had written her a brief email letting her know how important everyone at the CLE thought her work was.  I regret that we have lost such an important scholar at such a young age, and am so sorry for her friends and family.

From Professor Melissa Jacoby at the University of North Carolina:

Jean could disagree without being disagreeable or disrespectful, and I have tried to model that but I just can't do it like Jean. The fact that she long was so (rightly) concerned about chapter 13 and yet is so well regarded by professionals who work in that system is a testament to this. The same is true with financial education. She was strong and fearless and trying to get to the truth and yet did so with such a calm demeanor.

She was inspirational for junior scholars. I remember my first trip to to Law and Society in Budapest after my first year of teaching. Before sending in my paper, I scoured her work to make sure I gave her proper credit for everything I learned from her (which was so much). She was incredibly gracious in carefully reading and commenting on everyone's work, as always. . . . 

She also was very inspirational when talking about teaching and how to bring out the best in students. Her views were incredibly helpful - teaching methods is one of the things we last talked about in Philadelphia just a few weeks ago . . . .

Again, there were a number of comments on the original post, and I encourage you to read them as well. If you have a favorite memory or tribute to Jean, please feel welcome to leave a comment below.


Jean was a true professional and though I am not a lawyer, I can recall the numerous communications we shared and her insights/thoughts were very valuable to me. She truly made me a better person.

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