November 16th, 2023ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform ProjectMultiple States

Brandon Buskey

Participant NameParticipant InitialsDescription (Role/Job)
Brandon BuskeyBBACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project
Anna NorkettANVolunteer Interviewer

AN 00:04

I want to start by explaining how we plan to use the conversation we're about to have. Our conversation is not legally privileged, and we will not keep what you say confidential. We plan to make transcripts and recordings of our interviews available for use by future researchers and the general public. And portions may be posted online or discussed in posts on our website or other published writing. I want our conversation to flow freely, and I realize that you may discuss a sensitive topic or mention a piece of information that you later realize you would like withheld. If you request it now, at the end of the interview, or later on after further reflection, we're happy for you to review the transcript of our conversation before it is made public and to redact any portions you deem necessary from the transcript and recording. Does that sound good?

BB 00:50

That sounds good.

AN 00:53

Okay. Perfect. This interview will be focused on your own experience, not necessarily the experience of your clients, and how the pandemic has impacted your own work, your approach to the work, your philosophy, etc.

BB 01:09


AN 01:11

So can you start by introducing yourself, your name, your organization, and the types of cases you work on?

BB 01:19

Sure. I'm Brandon Buskey. He/him pronouns. I am the Director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. And we bring litigation at the front end of the criminal legal system challenging things like police practices, bail, public defender systems, and so the COVID work that we did during the pandemic was really a little bit of a detour from ordinary practice. But that's kind of our main, our main stick.

AN 01:50

Awesome. So, you just mentioned your work before the pandemic and then after may have changed. Can you tell me what that transition was like when the pandemic hit and how you guys kind of shifted gears?

BB 02:11

Sure, you know, I think like everyone else, it was just sort of watching this impending disaster and just trying to figure out, you know, what was happening, how it would affect our work, where can we make an impact and really do something to try to protect many of the folks that we often work on behalf of in other contexts. And so, I feel like, that's probably around February, January, February, we began talking about what the pandemic might do in terms of court, in terms of people in jails and prisons, and thinking through what a response might look like. And you know, very luckily, we also have very, very experienced colleagues on National Prison Project. And they were thinking about a very similar question. Also working with our Immigration Rights Project on it, because you know, immigration detention was kind of one of our main focuses as well, as well as jails and prisons.

BB 03:24

And our perspective was very much about, you know, can we do something to press the conversation around pretrial release, which was an area that we have a lot of familiarity with. We a sued a lot of jurisdictions around cash bail practices, or conditions of release, and so thought, you know, surely, if a pretrial decision is made, in this context, you have to consider that the person could be going to a jail, that it is more of a risk to them than they are to, you know, anyone else in the public, right? That's the thing that we think is often true for folks who are in jail, but it's simply, you know, more true and really brought home by the pandemic. And I think that kind of launched us into this area, and very quickly found out that because of just how quickly things were developing, because of how difficult it was to make connections in the courtroom, and the jail, that trying to figure out exactly how courtroom proceedings were operating, was going to be too difficult, in addition to figuring out what the conditions were, kind of in the jails and prisons, so we so we decided to, you know, still keep up a pretrial lens, but shifted to more of the conditions and saying that people who are held pretrial should be subject to a different standard in terms of what is, you know, unacceptable conditions under the Constitution. And so, once we decided to jump in, you know, it kind of just shifted everything. I mean, as you might imagine, you know, most of our normal casework basically shut down, because, you know, courts weren't open. And so that allowed us to really focus on this exclusively and then to really bring in a lot of different attorneys from across the organization. You know, we're a very big organization at the ACLU, we often work in silos; this really was on all hands on deck situation. And so, you know, we worked very heavily on just drafting kind of background documents and templates for complaints and thinking through what the preliminary injunction request might look like, and how to define the classes and trying to read all the science, you can’t keep up with all the reports and the developments.

BB 05:54

And so, you know, it took a relatively predictable practice of, you know, here are my court dates, here are the things I'm investigating, into this kind of 24/7 just trying to keep up and, you know, identify our targets, and what jails and prisons are we going to prioritize going after, and why? What are our partners doing and, you know, where are the next major outbreaks happening? So I think in terms of just workflow, you know, it was just kind of an unimaginably difficult challenge. But you know, I think for the first several months, I think everybody was just like laser-focused on just, you know, showing up and being able to do to do something that we just were able to tap into this amazing kind of energy just across the org, with our affiliates, with our, you know, with law firms, with experts with other partners. I think that really helped sustain us. And, you know, I think that really sort of lasted until we began getting decisions back and courts began sort of turning their back on so many of the claims that that we had raised. I think that's sort of where we realized, “Okay, here's the long game. I think the long game has officially started.” And I think the work from there has been, you know, really just, you know, how do you sort of protect yourself against burnout, keep the case going, you know, keep up with the issues, you know, all while understanding that federal courts are going to be really hesitant to, you know, ultimately step in and stop what you think is a gross abuse.

AN 07:47

Yeah, that makes sense. I feel like, you know, something we've talked about on our project [UCLA COVID Behind Bars Project] is, you know, the changing narratives over time of when people really care about COVID. And, you know, now, it's still affecting us as a people, but yet people have kind of moved on, in a sense. And I just think, you know, when you started talking and everyone had energy, and you're excited, you know, thought like, “Hey, maybe we can actually push things forward.” But you know, then that narrative maybe didn't help as much as you hoped. So, I mean, that's one question I was going to ask was, because you're talking about how the conditions pre-release have always been poor, and, but really using COVID as kind of a mechanism to maybe highlight this area and make courts care about it a little more. Do you feel like, I mean, I think you implied it wasn't as great of a change as you had hoped. But did COVID push that forward any amount?

BB 09:08

You know, it's a tough one to untangle. I think that there actually was some movement, you know, because in all fairness, a big part of why we were having, and I think there were some cases where the judges just didn't want to do anything. I think in other cases, right, that part of why we were not getting at least the request for emergency relief granted was the sense that jails were responding was the sense that you know, even if it wasn't what we wanted to see, you know, many jails were releasing a lot more people. You know, we did see DAs [district attorneys] working more to try to not file charges in certain cases. We saw certain sheriff's offices not arresting people as aggressively for certain kinds offenses, right? There, was, I think, a broader acknowledgement that this was a different circumstance, and we really had to do more to keep people out of out of jails and prisons. And obviously, you know, at the federal level with BoP [Bureau of Prisons], and even, you know, Bill Barr [Attorney General] signing off that there were material circumstances warranting greater release from the federal prisons, right? So there was some acknowledgement around that. And, you know, we did have some hope that, you know, the increased releases would be a turning point in some way, that it could be kind of a permanent shift and saying, “Oh, you know, we let these folks out. And, you know…”

AN 10:46

And everything was okay!

BB 10:48

Right, right. And then, you know, I think that became, well, I think that this is really clear now that a lot of those gains have been erased, right, especially in the jail context, right? Most of the jails, I think, are basically back to pre-COVID levels. You know, I think we have seen some sustained reduction in in prison populations because of that and some other things, which is encouraging, but not enough to be satisfied that we have a kind of a permanent mindset change in society around the propriety of incarceration for dealing with societal ills. And I think part of that is, you know, this whole rising crime narrative that has since come up. I think it's very much connected to the pandemic, right, it wasn't connected to people being released from jails and prisons. But that isn't a nuance that people necessarily picked up on. I think it's really kind of clouded the extent to which we're able to still make the point that we had this major decarceral natural experiment, and it turns out, it helps prove that we've been detaining too many people from the beginning, right? And so I think we've been trying to figure out how to really drive that point home ever since we've kind of come back to more of a stasis in terms of people's appreciation of the pandemic as an emergency.

AN 12:21

So how is your work now, in October 2022? Has it returned to more of what you're doing before the pandemic? Or is it forever altered because of what you're doing during the pandemic?

BB 12:41

I mean, our work more closely resembles what it looked like before the pandemic; we still have a few of the COVID cases on our on our docket. The National Prison Project has kind of taken the lead on many of those cases, because they have more expertise on kind of the long run of those cases. And we were able to get extra capacity to put in that project to really kind of own those cases. You know, I think like most parts of society, I mean, the work itself is probably never going to go back to quote unquote normal. But certainly, you know, we're kind of back to focusing on our sort of core issues before and trying to figure out, you know, what does policing mean, and the post uprising, which was a product of the pandemic, right? When people are having a bit more time to think about those injustices, and come out in a way that was unprecedented… but, you know, if anything, you know, I think now, we've kind of shifted more to, I think that policing work shows what to do in kind of—not the aftermath, because we're still in it—but in terms of fallout, right? And so, you know, like, we're still doing bail, but we're thinking more about all of the case backlogs that that we're dealing with now from when, you know, court was shut down. And you know, now you have people who didn't get out before who've been in [custody] awaiting trial for extraordinarily long time periods of time. And you have, you know, public defenders who have not been able to kind of deal with cases and now they have caseloads, that are two or three or four, even sometimes more of the sort of recommended and ethical boundaries for workloads. And so I think all those things are going to have real impacts on the system for years to come. I think that's going to enhance helping to define the next generation of our work.

AN 14:53

Yeah, that makes sense. How do you feel like, you know, because obviously, you were in criminal reform work for a long time so it's not a surprise to you how this system works and the injustice in it, but is there something that really surprised you more than you thought or something new that you saw it in a different way because of the pandemic?

BB 15:24

Interesting. You know, I guess I kind of always struggle with that notion of surprise, right? Because you can still be appalled.

AN 15:42

Right. And it could be distressed, you know, whatever strong emotion you felt.

BB 15:49

Yeah, and just so you know what I did before I came today. I did death penalty work in Alabama.

AN 15:49

Yeah, I saw Equal Justice Initiative. Bryan Stevenson is my hero.

BB 16:05

Well, you are not alone, for sure. You know, and so I think, from doing that work, and working with juveniles, with death in prison sentences, you know, coming to work for the ACLU right, you know, we'd seen the extremes and the system, and we've seen, you know, courts and legislators and, you know, law enforcement officials all, you know, really bought into this tough-on-crime narrative, and really just dismissive of humanity of people in the system. And I think it was really, you know, we conducted a number of these hearings, right, where we would have people who were detained in these facilities, you know, taking great risks to, you know, come forward and say, “This is what happened to me, these are the…” you know, having to take showers next to people without masks, and, you know, all sorts of things that we talked about back then that were just, you see the thing, the pictures are sometimes leaked out into the narrative, and it's just so abhorrent, and then just to see, you know, judge after judge after judge just basically find a way to discredit that evidence or minimize it in some way. And really, you know, we did a hearing on a facility in Texas, and, you know, the judge was doing the whole judge thing of trying to express some concern for the serious allegations, but then saying, but, you know, I don't want to be in a Mother, May I? situation where the court is now having to, you know, dictate, you know, what is, you know, prison policy, and really kind of getting stuck on this notion that if I do grant relief, then it's on me to make sure that things are stable. And, you know, I think seeing, and I think, look, I've been, I've been involved in a number of cases where it is clear that the kind of the court’s fear of the remedy drives their perception of the merits. But here, it just got driven home in such a, you know, direct way of, you know, I might be more, you know, and I'll be fair, right. We have tough legal standards to meet in these cases. But really, it came down to a judge saying, I don't want to be in charge of fixing this mess you brought to me, you know, give it to the legislature, you know, write a demand letter. Wait, give them six months, maybe they'll figure it out in that period of time. But it's not going to be on my plate to make sure this is going as it should be.

AN 19:13

Yeah, that's just a classic court move, right? It's just like you said of, “Oh, that's not my job.” Also, it’s so heartbreaking when these judges are really the only immediate relief that people incarcerated have. But yeah, in the summer, I worked with in the judiciary and a question we kept seeing coming up was, well, how does a vaccine refusal affect a compassionate release motion? There's no real standard. So I was just reading through a lot of cases and many judges basically say, “Well, if they're not getting it [the vaccine], it must be because they're trying to get out of prison,” or you know, they just create all these conspiracies of why people act the way they do. And then, you know, when people said the reason is because they didn't have information about the vaccine, and you know, if that would harm them or trigger allergies or all this stuff, and then the judges would just say, “Oh, well, that's just an excuse.” You know, how is a lack of information about medical care just an excuse?

BB 20:26

Right, you know, it's not limited to people who are in jails and prisons, right, this is not a unique challenge. But yet when it's coming from something like that, it's somehow flipped, right? So I think it’s kind of just case in point as to how, you know, people just found a way to see complaints from this population in a different light than it would if you thought of this person, as you know, a fully whole human being. It’s so much easier to say, well, you know, “You're complaining about the masks, but, you know, that's not my problem. That's just you. And you figured out a way to get out of jail.” And it's like, well, alright. Yeah.

AN 21:08

And how many people complain about it outside of jail?

BB 21:13

Indeed, indeed.

AN 21:15

Gosh, yeah. Did your experience of working on these cases change your thoughts about prison law or prison law doctrine at all? Or did it more just highlight what you already knew?

BB 21:36

Yeah, you know, I kind of came into this, you know, sort of newer to prison law, right, and, you know, the PLRA, and I had to kind of learn more about that. I've worked with the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act a ton at EJI, so I’m very familiar with federal laws designed to keep people out of courts for really Draconian reasons. But yeah, it just really kind of is seeing that all play out and just kind of the absurdity of the rules that we put in place to keep people from or to kind of redefine the right, and then, you know, put up barriers to even expressing it. If you think you've had a right violated, and just the discussion that you have to have, you know. We would have these strategy discussions of, you know, okay, there's an outbreak at the jail. There's no PPE. We're getting these kind of, you know, reports from people, you know, that we want to represent, you know, kind of confirming some of this stuff. But the safest thing to do is to figure out a way to communicate to them, how to file a grievance about the fact that they don't have PPE and as an outbreak at the jail, so that we can at least not worry about the PLRA exhaustion requirement before we go to a court and say there's no PPE. And look, I get it, right. Like, it's nothing that I hadn't seen before elsewhere in the law, but in this context, it just was like, really? ((participants laugh)) Yeah, we had a couple of courts that were willing to say, in this context, the exhaustion requirements and those procedural barriers should be should be lessened. Right, that you just can’t sort of grieve the pandemic, in effect, but, you know, too many courts where, you know, that that was not the mode, right. And then even, you know, just kind of even thinking through, you know, how the law views deliberate indifference, and, you know, we had known that coming in. That’s why we were trying to, you know, argue for a different standard for people in pretrial confinement, but, you know, it really does kind of make you wonder, right, like, if a jail isn't doing enough to kind of save lives under its lock and key, then, you know, why is it that we accept this standard, as the appropriate way of kind of mediating that relationship? And, I think, if anything else has been, you know, we talked about people's views toward confinement and being a bit more permissive in terms of using jails and prisons, but it also would have been more heartening to see us rethinking the law around this and how we think about recourse and redress when you know, when we know that our jails and prisons are just so dangerous to the folks who are who are inside on any given day whether or not there’s as a pandemic.

AN 25:04

Yes, definitely. So that's how you view bigger picture prison doctrine maybe differently. What do you feel about your role as an advocate? Do you view that differently at all?

BB 25:27

I do, I think the pandemic played a role, I think other factors also, you know, just getting more experience as somebody kind of in the field for a while, but yeah, I think the pandemic did highlight just how limited of a tool litigation can be in these contexts, and the need to just be more holistic about how you're solving problems, right? You know, we did a lot of work across the organization that was, in part litigation, but it was also partly petitioning governors and DAs and legislators and working with local officials, and you know, all those sorts of things that just try to move the needle a little bit. And even if the ultimate outcome I think wasn't where we wanted, I think, certainly some of the non-litigation things moved a lot more than the lawsuits themselves. And, you know, I think we kind of combined that with the reality of the judiciary, especially in the federal system and in the Supreme Court, I think it all just points to the fact that we have to think differently about what it means to be a movement and connect with people who are directly impacted. And, you know, just how we're our sort of showing up in that context, because clearly, it was never the case that the courts were kind of the best solution. But I think now it's only driven home more forcefully.

AN 27:10

Now it's just obvious.

BB 27:11

Yeah. ((participants laugh)) Because they're like, Yeah, you know, even if I don't think that we have ever had the sort of affliction of thinking litigation should always be the primary vehicle. But I feel like now, there's even more skepticism about, you know, that tool and where it's on us, and really attempt to, you know, connect more with impacted communities and say, you know, how can we be more of service and kind of not just winning those legal battles in contexts where the rules are unfair, potentially, but you know, how do we begin to kind of think about, you know, building power differently so that there's just, you know, even different stakeholders in power the next go around, or however you want to kind of broaden the mission?

AN 28:03

Yeah. Could you give an example of somewhere new that you see power can be built to move the needle a little bit more than litigation?

BB 28:16

Sure. And, you know, look, I think this does fit. So this actually arose out of COVID litigation. You know, we had one of the lawyers who was helping to lead this charge, you may have actually talked with already as well, Andrea Woods. You know, they were working with a bunch of local activists and attorneys in Shelby County, which is where Memphis is located in Tennessee. You know, so we filed a COVID litigation there. You know, it was had some success with the judge, you know, we got a primary injunction in that case, one of the one of the rare ones, and the judge was really much more active in trying to bring the defendants to heal. But then growing out of that, you know, we sort of learned about, you know, really gross abuses in the pretrial system, and just people you know, being held and actually one of our experts who was doing the jail inspection said, you know, a lot of folks are here because there’s no process in the courts to keep them out. Right, they're all being held because they can't afford their liberty, right? And that, then kind of morphed into this other discussion. Again, kind of in more recent history around, you know, well, you know, how can we now shift discussion around bail and, you know, there's a Black Lives Matter chapter down there that was very active in this question, but other nonprofits and really kind of saying, like, look, you know, not only do we have this evidence from the COVID case, but there's now an election coming up in Memphis, where every seat is basically up: the judges, the sheriff, the DA, they're all up, right? This could be, this could be a moment. And so we then been engaged local officials from the from the notion of, you know, prevented investigation, we found these problems, we want to come to the table with you and resolve… you know, litigation might be a resort, but we're hoping that's not the first resort here. And then let's really kind of talk through what that might look like and ended up actually, you know, getting buy-in from them, getting the kind of talk through meaningful change in the system and kind of agree to change their rules in that regard. And then have some impact on the local race, right? Where you know, a person who was actually on our legal team in the COVID case, wound up becoming the DA in the county, right? And so you can't always draw it up like that. But it's a situation where we sort of said, you know, we'll be rather be at the negotiating table for, you know, six to eight months, maybe a year, you know, hammering out a meaningful agreement, or stuck at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for two years after filing, and then get back down to the trial court and litigate those things and not have resolution for five to six years. Right. And so, you know, kind of shifting, how we think about that cost benefit analysis, I think has been a real, I think, outgrowth of our experience with the pandemic.

AN 31:51

Yeah, I feel like, that seems to be among my public interest colleagues at school, a common experience, right, we come into law school feeling like, “Oh, we can fix, you know, be a part of the solution as lawyers.” And yes, we can be a part. But that's a very small part in a much bigger web of, you know, organizers and these different organizations. And so I just think that's an amazing and timely example of that in action.

BB 32:33

Right? I mean, it's heartening. You know, it's not the kind of victory that we are used to, but you're right, right. It is, like a little, you know, a corner of the world where we're able to make some progress. And now look at that and say, hey, look, maybe you can do the same thing that this jurisdiction did. And so it really is that that sort of willingness to kind of build on those things, rather than saying, you know, let's go file the big major case, it goes to the Supreme Court and change the rule for everyone. Let's hold off on that for a few days. ((participants laugh))

AN 33:14

Hey, yeah, that might take a longer work. And meanwhile, people are suffering right now and need a smaller one than that.

BB 33:17

Exactly, exactly.

AN 33:19

Yeah. Well, what lessons do will you take away from the pandemic, both personally and professionally?

BB 33:30

Oh, I think I’ll start with personally. It’s that, you know, it's still piecing through those lessons, as well. But there's something about, like, maintaining perspective, on the work that kind of goes along with this notion that we talk a lot about, and had to discuss a lot in terms of self-care, and what does that mean? And how do you sort of live it in an effective way? Right, and kind of to this last this last point, you know, perspective in the sense that, yes, you know, we put in, you know, along with so many others, a ton of time, you know, with the hopes that we would get better results. And then how do you sort of pick yourself up and say, like, look, there's, you know, we didn't, you know, we moved the ball a little bit now, but not as much as we wanted to, but we have to figure out how to keep going. Right? And so, I think part of that is humility, right? And saying, you know, we were only ever going to be able to do as a certain piece anyway, and we were there because we're helping them to bear witness. And so if nothing else, you know, we have clients who really appreciated the fact that we were willing to show up and fight and who are often consoling us, when we report the news and they're like, “Yo, like, you guys tried really hard,” like, that's so, you know, just kind of realizing, you know, your work has impact, even if it's not going to be, in all cases, the transformative impact that we all dream about, and it's still valuable. And it's really kind of a lesson I kind of had to resurface from my days as a capital defense lawyer, right, where you lose clients, you know, to the state, you they're executed, or you lose appeals all the time, and you have to sort of ground yourself in some notion that, you know, the fight is still worth it, because the hope is still there, and it's the thing that we still have to cultivate through all of this. And then, you know, really, if that's the case, then it really is making sure that you're clear headed about the risk that you're taking, and why you're taking it and are willing to kind of accept that, in the end, it is a risk. And so you want to be smart about it. But you also have to, you know, accept that, you know, the world may still need some, some work after you’re done.

AN 36:29

A lot of work, yes.

BB 36:31

Indeed, indeed. And then I think professionally, you know, as I became director, sort of, a year ago, so kind of,

AN 36:43

Aw, congrats!

BB 36:45

Thank you, thank you. A little bit more than a year now, I think just, you know, just really being more attuned to kind of the wellbeing of the folks that are on the team. Right? And, you know, being more intentional about taking a beat at the top of a meeting to say, “How's everybody feeling?” Or in a one-on-one check-in to say, “Hey you know, how are you doing?” Right? Just, you know, finding ways to, you know, meet in person when you can, even if it's just socially, you know, I kind of came up in a very sort of work heavy death penalty background, and then it wasn't always the focus for people, you know, You’d have community. And that was great. But kind of learning that, you know, if you're going to ask people to sustain through work this hard, you really got to make sure people are okay, and you have to protect against, you know, all the trauma that you experience, and, you know, reckon with the burden, like the burnout, that that is very real throughout I think our whole profession to some extent. And how do you sort of heal at the same time you're trying to keep moving.

AN 38:14

How do you feel like for yourself, because that's a lot of burden then for you doing this work individually, but then also, managing a team of people with emotions, who are also dealing with really heavy suffering every day. So how have you found to take care of yourself through that?

BB 38:36

Um, you know, I think at a personal level, it's, I have two kids, and so, you know, five and seven. And so that was a whole other thing, the pandemic, right, because they were obviously much younger.

AN 38:55

Aw man, and did they have to stay home from school or daycare and all that Zoom school and that?

BB 39:01

Yeah, they did Zoom school. That was another layer on this. But, you know, and again, I think with the whole, keeping things in perspective, you know, it really is, you know, it has been my practice to say like, look, you know, at some point, I have to go pick them up. And at that point, I just want to be a parent. I want to be present and I'm not going to be, you know, emailing or things like that. And, you know, realizing, again, like the world's not going to end if I'm not, you know, answering emails from 6 until 10pm at night, right. And you might just hear from me the next morning and that's okay, too. So, I think that's been a big part of it. And then also you know, I think being, as a leader of this of a team, having kind of the approach of I want to be in it with you. Right. And so, you know, rather than kind of seeing it, as you know, I’m the person who has to kind of supply all the support and vision to say, you know, we as a team can, you know, I might be in sort of like a more of a coaching role, but really the energy and the ideas and, and the support coming from everyone on the team that we all share in that. And so we can define, you know, we can define roles, but really the accountability is throughout the board, right. And I think that's been a way of, I think, not only kind of empowering people to, you know, shout out ideas, and to really kind of engage the work on their own terms, but then also liberating in the sense that you also feel like it's not all coming down on you, because you recognize there's a lot of really talented people, and maybe a lot of them are actually better positioned to make some of these call than I might be. And it's I think that kind of pluralism is really in many ways supportive.

AN 41:01

Yeah, I love that. I think that's such a good picture of leadership: you don't have the answers, all the answers, but you just want to walk alongside people and support them in their work. So, one last question I wanted to ask was, is there any question you wanted me to ask that I didn't ask? And, if so, what would that be? And what would be your answer?

BB 41:34

Interesting. Um I think maybe we kind of got a little bit in other forms. But one thing I was thinking about was, like, you know, what we call limitations, litigation and disappointments in like, what was kind of the biggest success thing is something I've been thinking about a lot.

AN 42:04

Yes, this is good.

BB 42:06

Yeah, not that I have a great answer. ((participants laughs)) But you know when I think about litigation, I think that's relatively easy. We had a team in Orange County, California, who brought a lawsuit, you're probably familiar with, where Judge Bernal in the federal district court entered a PI [preliminary injunction] and then we went in a separate state court case, where, you know, we were also able to get a really good outcome and the Orange County jail was really kind of forced to decarcerate dramatically as a result of those efforts. And so, you know, it's that sort of one, you know, we had with a few other victories, but like, in terms of like, the, you know, true, like, let's, let's get people out, right, like this was this was the big one for us. And it came with a nice attorney’s fees award, which is always a good thing. And so, you know, I feel like in terms of litigation, you know, that's, that's kind of the, some of the fuel right is that, you know, you kind of put out, you know, we filed, 14 of these things, and you kind of come back with one major victory and a couple of minor victories, but it’s like enough reinforcement to know that, you know, if we do pick our spots, if we are strategic, and we are really rigorous in our approach, even against those long odds, we can, we can come through, and really kind of shift things on a permanent basis. And so it's a little bit of encouragement, even if the broader sweep is that, you know, but the world is still a really harsh one, if you're trying to litigate these things. I think I would hold that one up.

AN 43:59

Well I think that goes also back to something you said before and also reminded me of something that my dad told me when I was applying to law school. I had a career before this, and kind of made a switch. And he was asked, “Well, what if you can't change outcomes for people? How are you going to grapple with that?” And, you know, I said, “Hey, is if I can give dignity to the person through the process and validate what they're going through and fight for them, like, it'll be worth it.” And I think that's exactly what you touched on was just people who are incarcerated, knowing that people like you are out there fighting for them, makes a whole difference. And then when you get a positive outcome, and you do get people out, like that's just extra icing on top.

BB 45:02

Yeah, for sure for sure. Like you need a little bit of dopamine to keep this work going.

AN 45:10

Yes, you need some victories. And so yeah, I'm so glad you brought that up because it's easy to just focus on, you know, all the things that we want to be better. But also, you're doing amazing work. You're working with people who are doing amazing work. And so yeah, there are victory stories out of that as well.

BB 45:39

Absolutely. Absolutely.

AN 45:41

Well, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me. I feel very honored to have gotten to hear just a tiny glimpse into it. What happens now is I take this and I’ll transcribe it. And so I can send the transcription over to you just if there's anything that you want to change or edit. And then we'll be wrapping this thing up and putting it in an archive on our website. So yeah, I'm excited for people to get to hear your story.

BB 46:20

Well, I am grateful that you all are doing this, you know, I just feel like, it feels weird to say it, but this was a historical moment. And I think in a context where history is so hard to agree on, like having a document that really does sort of speak to what happened and better preserve it, I think is just incredible.

AN 46:45

Yes. I know the student who started this project before me and she's just incredible and so I’m thankful to be just a small part of that legacy of documenting this.

BB 47:01


AN 47:03

Well, thank you so much. Have a great rest of your day and we'll be in touch via email soon.

BB 47:09

All right, best of luck finishing this up. Bye. Take care.