Katie Porter and her whiteboard are just getting started

The way Liz Porter, Katie’s mother, says they only managed to save their farm because Katie’s father, Dan, who has a degree in Iowa State economics, has a Work taken at the local bank, where he found himself in a different kind of hell, have to deny credit lines and loans to his friends and neighbors. “It was a hard time,” says Dan, an audible crack in his voice.

Meanwhile, the quilting club that started Liz and a neighborhood is booming and what would become a hugely successful business. Dan and Liz believed that their opportunities were possible through hard work, but education was critical. So this is how they raised their three children, starting with their eldest. Her parents knew that Katie had intellectual gifts, and largely because of Liz’s pleas, they enrolled in a talented program. For her junior and senior high school years, Katie attended the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.

“I remember lying in bed the first night,” Porter said. “Andover has a rating scheme of zero to six. Six is ​​an A-plus, a fifth is like an A. I remember thinking: Let me get three, let me get three, because I did not want to fail. I just wanted to stay. ”Culturally, it was a different world. “The first break when I was there, I went home with a friend. It was around Christmas. I went to this huge house; inside they played classical music. And the thing I really remember is that they were fresh creamy. Served asparagus at dinner. I was like, Who lives like that? “

Porter did not fail. She graduated with honors and was accepted to Yale, then Harvard Law School. Her intention was to be a teacher, to communicate that there is more to learning than what is in the textbooks. “I wanted my students to learn that sometimes things happen when someone is in control, not because of something they did or did not do. And sometimes people just need help,” she says. “I wanted to learn because teaching staff changed my life.”

When the porter says The teachers changed her life, it is given that she includes Elizabeth Warren. The two met in the fall of 2000, when Warren was studying Harvard Law and Porter was taking her bankruptcy class. Warren’s class was early. Many of their students would come down in their heads, ginormous coffee cups in hand, sit and try to avoid being called up. “Not Katie,” Warren says. “Katie had bright eyes and was ready to go. Head up, look at everything that is going on and ready to jump in.

Warren says she called Porter on the first day of class. In her words, Porter’s response was “Okay, but not great.” Later, the porter came to see Warren during office hours. Warren was used to making students cry: I was terrible, I get nervous, please do not call; I promise I will do my job. Professor Warren had prepared a speech on how class is anchored in the Socratic method, much of a student’s degree based on class participation, yada, yada. But Porter defended the norm. “I know I was horrible today, but do not give up,” Warren recalled. “Please call me further. I will learn to do this.”

Photo by Devin Oktar Yalkin.

Warren was impressed. “It was her recognizing that she had fallen down and screwed her knees,” she says, “and wanted to make sure I did not just walk on her. She wanted me to be hard because she wanted to learn how to be hard.

At Harvard, Porter spent hours in bankruptcy court learning the machines, but also observing how the courts and banks treated Americans in the system. Simmons, her childhood friend, visited her and once tasted her notebook. “I said, ‘Katie, this has to be emotionally stressful. Why dig into what’s only hurting you about the pain of your past?'” She laughed.

True to her plan, after graduating from Harvard Law magna cum laude, Porter learned – for a time at the UNLV, then at the University of Iowa, until the University of California, Irvine, offered her a position as a bidder. Not long after she arrived in Orange County, Porter received a call from her mentor, Warren, then another from California Attorney General Kamala Harris. In 2012, Harris won a big victory. It has extracted a settlement of about $ 18 billion from the nation’s top banks for its predatory lending practices, which caused the 2008 mortgage crisis that devastated the economy. By the end of 2011, there were approximately 700,000 California homes in or after completion.

As difficult as the fight was for the banks to get the pony – their original bid for California was $ 2 billion – it was guaranteed that recipients who were eligible for relief were in fact a massive business. The California settlement was part of a national framework that would have specified an “independent monitor” to ensure that banks respected it. Harris decided she would also appoint her own monitor. But who? She visited Warren at her home in Cambridge.

Warren told her she had to meet Porter. “Kamala asked me, ‘Did she have experience? Has she done that before?'” Warren says. “No, but no one does. No one has done such a thing since the Great Depression. I said, ‘Kamala, you need someone who comes into a room with highly-motivated bank attorneys who charge thousands of dollars an hour and are quite sure they are able to run circles around the person representing the families who have disappeared. “

Harris called Porter, and shortly thereafter she offered the monitor role. Porter assumed what was crazy on his face. Porter had never run anything near a classroom. She did not confront a single powerful lawyer, let alone have an army of them. Oh, and she had zero political experience.


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