NIU Law Professor Amy Widman Testifies
Before U.S. Congressional Committee
February 10, 2012
DeKalb, Ill. -- Assistant Professor Amy Widman testified before the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee - Subcommittee on the Constitution on February 2, 2012 in Washington, D.C. Professor Widman was asked to testify in support of her recently published article, “State Attorneys General’s Use of Concurrent Public Enforcement Authority in Federal Consumer Protection Laws,” which she co-authored with University of Minnesota Law School Professor Prentiss Cox in the October 2011 issue of the Cardozo Law Review.
“Our article examined how and when state attorneys general enforce federal consumer protection laws,” according to Professor Widman, “a particularly relevant issue in Congress right now because this type of concurrent grant of authority, while not exactly a new policy, is in the recent Dodd-Frank consumer financial protection legislation.”
For the past three decades, Congress has passed consumer protection statutes that allow for state attorneys general to enforce the federal law alongside the federal agency. While critics of state enforcement of federal law claim that such concurrent authority will result in over-enforcement or even enforcement contrary to the federal law, Widman’s study was the first to examine what in fact has happened historically.
She concludes that states have used their authority responsibly, and federal agencies have worked cooperatively with the states. The cooperation between the federal agencies and states in the use of concurrent enforcement power was the most striking finding in that it greatly minimizes the fear that the laws will be enforced inconsistently.
“It was an honor to be invited to Congress and testify before the Subcommittee about my research. And, as a professor of Legislation and Administrative Law, the experience was also a nice complement to my teaching,” Widman said.
While uncovering the narratives behind state enforcement of federal law, Widman also noted a clear pattern of the benefits states can provide to consumer protection, including, for instance, the way states have led reform in areas of subprime lending and consumer financial privacy. An understanding of how these grants are actually used can inform legislative debates as to whether they should be included in future consumer protection laws.
“Professor Widman's Congressional testimony is a fine example of the myriad ways that our faculty use their scholarship and service to impact public policy,” commented NIU Law Dean Jennifer Rosato. “Remarkably, Professor Widman has been able to make such an impact in her first year at NIU Law.”
Professor Widman possesses a background in areas of consumer protection and legislation. She joined the NIU Law faculty in 2011 and teaches Torts, Administrative Law, and Legislation. Previously, she served as Legal Director at the Center for Justice & Democracy, a non-partisan consumer advocacy group. There she organized legislative campaigns to support the civil justice system. Prior to that, Professor Widman clerked for Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She holds a B.A. from Northwestern University in Comparative Literary Studies and was a cum laude graduate of the New York University Law School.
Read Professor Widman's written testimony (PDF)
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