Croley grew up hunting deer with his father in DeWitt, outside Lansing, Mich., and went on to attend Yale Law School. He founded a boxing club, and was known to hand out black eyes and swollen lips. “He’d take down guys 40, 50 pounds heavier than him,” said Robert Riley, a friend at Yale and the son of former Alabama governor Bob Riley. A newsletter at Berkeley Law School, where Croley taught in 2000, advised new students to add the jazz pianist’s “Steven Croley Trio” to their CD collection and to “relax and enjoy drinks at Yoshi’s with this consummate pianist and tort therapist.” This fall, he will preview a documentary about Dutch farmers and gay residents in Saugatuck, Mich., that he made with his wife, Bridget M. McCormack. (She has a D.C.-Hollywood insider in her family: Her sister is actress Mary Catherine McCormack, who played deputy national security adviser Kate Harper in “The West Wing” and Mary Matalin’s blond associate in HBO’s “K Street.”)
Croley himself has movie-star good looks. In 2006, the irreverent legal blog Above the Law named him a finalist in its “Law School Dean Hotties” contest. (“Steven Croley is THE Tom Cruise look-alike.”)
(Martin Vloet/UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN) - A 2005 photo of Steve Croley.
More relevant to his current brief, Croley’s theoretical perspective of law has steadily shifted to the “the nuts and bolts of how things work,” according to his friend and University of Michigan colleague Kyle D. Logue. Croley has moonlighted as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and is now widely cited on regulation and tort law. That reputation for pragmatism hit a snag in 2002 when his fingers were mangled in a snowblower accident. He had disregarded the warning label, and he became an on-campus case study: If one of the country’s leading tort scholars fails to heed an advisory label, professors posited, do such warnings carry any weight?
It’s just that sort of question about the role of regulation on dangerous products that has informed Croley’s approach to the gun issue.
“If you think of guns as the intersection of regulatory policy and torts, then nothing makes more sense than a professor specializing in regulation policy and torts” to work on gun policy, said Roderick Hills, a law professor at New York University and an old friend of Croley’s. He suggested that if the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment shaped a keyhole for regulation, Croley’s job is to make a skeleton key that fits that keyhole. “He’s the right guy,” Hills said.
The National Rifle Association, the powerful opponent to any gun restrictions, has yet to make Croley’s acquaintance. “He has had zero interaction with us,” said Andrew Arulanandam, the NRA’s director of public affairs. One reason for that lack of interaction: The NRA turned down an invitation to the March 15 session that Croley attended.
In recent meetings, Croley has been less revealing about his views of regulation than he was in his 2008 book “Regulation and Public Interests: The Possibility of Good Regulatory Government.” In this tome, Croley writes, “The evolution of the regulatory state has not been gradual, but rather reflects accelerated growth in response to periods of crisis and national trauma. In this light, regulation seems not only ubiquitous but inevitable.”