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The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg: Joyce Vance


I do solemnly swear I will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign the master that I will bear to faith and allegiance to the scene that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion and that I will well and faithfully is Angeles raised by a single parent mom who taught preschool and was very dedicated to education so I had a very sort of a rich upbringing welcome to the oath I'm Chuck Rosenberg and I am honored to be your host for another thoughtful conversation with a fascinating guest many of you know Joyce Vance from Peter Joyce handled a wide variety of important cases including a difficult and disturbing corruption case involving a small Alabama police department she is here too Amalgam delivered to his home that album also grievously injured judge Vance's wife the cold-blooded murder of Joyce's father-in-law inspired her to become her impressive work as legal analyst on MSNBC before taking on that role Joyce was the United States attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in Birmingham from his second marriage wonderful so I assume you graduated from High School in Los Angeles too I did barely because I spent a lot of time at the beach but I did manage to get they decided to move their Bob is Bob Vance and he's a judge he is as we like to say at the family dinner table not a very good one but he's no he is a really get judge he's a State Court judge in Birmingham and is just tremendously dedicated to what he does you have many fans some of whom no this many of whom I assume do not but your father the prosecutor in her adopted home state of Alabama it also helped to shape her views on criminal justice issues including the death penalty as a federal process was interested in a lot of different things and I benefited from that exposure siblings no siblings with my mom she and my dad were divorced and I've got four half brothers see where I wasn't and ironically go to work at the Justice Department but I had a case in Jackson Mississippi a really interesting case was spending a lot of time in Birmingham and ultimate share her story with you Joyce fans welcome to the earth thanks for having me check Oh it's a pleasure to have you tell us a little bit about Joyce fans I grew up in the suburbs of voice shares a deeply personal and tragic event in her own life on the show in nineteen eighty nine her beloved father-in-law Federal Appellate Court Judge Robert Vance was killed in law. Bob's father was also a judge can you talk about him yeah my father in law was an Eleventh Circuit Judge Federal Court of Appeals Judge and before that he l. a. and it means Lower Alabama but actually grew up in the real la after college after Bates you went to the University of Virginia for law school dead I went to honestly fun and very loyal group if people I'm still very close with most my law school friends will how did you end up in Alabama my husband is from Alabama we met each other you love about it the people you know we had a wonderful class we came from a lot of different backgrounds brought a lot of different beliefs to the table but it was a trick other in law school I was working for a firm in DC. I was working for Fox when we got engaged was he a classmate he was a classmate it's actually worse than that Akil appreciate this we were in the same small section which navy as sort of like Marian a member of your family but nonetheless Bob it intended to move up to DC through high school and then went to college in Maine Bates College in Lewiston Maine we think of you as an Alabama woman but the roots are really on the West Coast we stay in Alabama we say it had been plaintiff's lawyer and was involved in some voting rights litigation was involved in litigation on behalf of consumers before he went on the bent TV a Wa Wa. I should point out the defending national champions in basketball I was there during the Ralph Sampson years it was I loved law school he was murdered in nineteen eighty nine by a mail bomb sent by an individual named Moody who sent mail bombs to win a number of people and was ultimately caught and prosecuted in both the federal and state systems you were married when your father in law was murdered I was we had been married Bob's mom and endowed worst sitting around little white table in the breakfast room when he opened the box that contained the bomb she was sitting right across from him Blah years earlier and got married in Alabama not at home in Los Angeles. I've always been really grateful that we made that decision because my father in law who had two sons and no daughters really enjoyed the fact that we got married there tell me a little bit about the day you learned of his murder and by the way in that bombing. Your mother-in-law was seriously injured so she was wounded very seriously I was in New York taking depositions in case Bob my husband had come up to meet me for the weekend so we were actually had a history of building bombs he had a ex wife who had been hurt when one of his bombs when she discovered it in the home he just seemed like one of these people who was thoroughly amazing woman she since passed away she immediately realized a couple of things simultaneously that he was dead that it was a bomb and that other people that she loved primate y you know I think it's hard to know what people's motives are but he had had a criminal conviction could not get it removed so he could go to law school ah unhappy with his own life and took it out on other people ironically tragically your father in law had nothing to do with Moody they never intersected in there Bob to think twice about opening the box came in the mail was killed instantly he was killed instantly and it was it was loud my mother in law who was a really are at risk so with horrible injuries she got in her car and they lived sort of in a area where the houses weren't close together and she drove to their closest neighbor end told him we need to call Frank Johnson. Bob's just been killed we need to make sure frank doesn't open mail Frank Johnson was the judge on the eleventh circuit who had a tremendous national lives in any way no in no way at all and in fact when he sent the bomb he used return address from one of the other judges on the court so there was no reason for this track record for civil rights and mom was really worried about him amazing with what had just happened to her that she had the presence of mind to do that in New York with friends from Birmingham and with some friends from law school when we learned about it and flew back home right away you mentioned moody had said the Bomb Has Walter Lee Roy he was a remarkable woman moody killed others he did he killed an Alderman in Savannah Georgia named Robbie Robinson who had a Alabama subsequently prosecuted a capital case and by the way the prosecutors in the federal case are quite well known Louis Freeh was that was sent to the main court on the eleventh circuit and Atlanta was intercepted it was intercepted this was close to Christmas it was a week ahead of Christmas so one lead prosecutor in that case assisted by at the time a a young lawyer named Howard Shapiro and they came down from the southern district of New York to work on all of eating dinner with them and spent a lot of time with them always remember that when my mother in law who was in surgery and was intimated when she could finally speak doc record of doing civil rights work also sent a bomb to the N. double ACP in Florida and then one to the eleventh circuit to the main court in Atlanta another one both the state and in the federal systems it's a bit unusual it is there was no death penalty in the federal system at the time that he was prosecuted and so the state of on the hospital she had had extensive surgery still had some nails in her body they stayed in her body for the rest of her life and she she looked up at my husband and the first thing she said was I'm sorry about your daddy you've told me a story about going to visit your mother-in-law in the hospital which is I think charming the mind sharing that so I was unexpectedly pregnant with our first child just a couple of weeks pregnant when Bob's dad was killed and I went to visit my mother in law in good thing that happened was there was slower mail delivery in those last two parcels were intercept for they could go off what happened Moody Meaty was ultimately prosecuted in the cases Louie Freeh later served as the director of the FBI and Howard as his general counsel. It's a small world right your mother-in-law and your father in law obviously victims of the crime but you bob as well you know it was really hard for my husband he loved his daddy so much we were close to his parents we used to spend Sunday nights family who felt very strongly the death penalty needed to be sought against the man who had killed their father brother cousin that was exactly what you would expect she was depressed she was sad she was down and I told her that I was pregnant and she was you know she was happy she wasn't exuberant but she was happy and I came back here again later that afternoon and she there was no one in her hospital room and I was frantically worried because her injuries were serious recover initially Howard Shapiro Louie Freeh Convicted Moody in Federal Court he was also convicted in State Court and received a sentence of death can you talk about that at all before then and she got up and she said I've got to get ready I've got to go home I have a grandbaby becoming and that I think you know by the grace of God was what helped her happened and my mother-in-law were able to watch that trial which I think was very good for them the state case was a little bit slower came a couple years later was your mother-in-law we know the federal conviction came relatively quickly the case was tried in Minnesota because there were concerns about conflicts if it was tried in the south both my call a witness at trial she was a witness in both cases and she was a good witness I have to say I've put a lot of victim witnesses on the stand in in my life long lag between sentencing and execution something that I experienced personally is how you view can change over time and back now in the State Prosecution he was found guilty and in fact was sentenced to death he was sentenced to death and because there's father in law I did have a view on it at the time and I I was strongly in favor of the death penalty in this particular case I loved my father in law cuter about whether the death penalty serves the the deterrence interests that we think it serves it just felt like the wrong way to address so I went flying out to the nurse's station and asked where she was and they sort of laugh a little bit and they said you know after you left she got out of bed she had not gotten out of bed other family members I think people really do change I think there's an instinctive reaction right in that moment where you're searching for some way of making the house was his his sister in a number of other family members. My mother-in-law never was a supporter of the death penalty and her point of view was it win bring so the death penalty is always one of those issues that people can debate do have a view on it at the time do you think it was the appropriate sanction for the man who killed if you know she just was a genuine person and out to she was when she testified we had the two different prosecutions the second one was a capital case there were some members of our how that emotional response that you have in the first year after you you lose somebody that you love in that very violent manner I ultimately came to believe me mother-in-law was was right that there is nothing that would bring Bob back and it really was part of a change in my viewpoint about the death penalty did you notice a similar change in was I mean you know I was mournful it was a terrible loss in our lives but ultimately in addition to having some really pragmatic concerns as a process effort that's being spent on that sort of capital litigation and the issues that are unique to death penalty litigation could those resources be better in this situation of of loss your father in law was murdered in nineteen eighty nine Walter Leroy Moody was finally put to death by the State of Alabama and was emotional about losing him emotional mount him never getting to meet his first grandchild and very much eye for an eye at that point in time sounds some way of restoring order to your life the death penalty may be seems easy for people in that situation I'm not proud of that it's just where I thousand eighteen twenty nine years long gap right I'll talk about in a cold way and say that takes a lot of prosecutorial resources there's a lot of spent in other ways you know that's a judgment call for policy makers I did have capital case in my office that was started by my predecessor she served terrific prosecutor by the way in a good boss great guy it was really watching Louis Freeh and watching Howard and watching this team of FBI ATF street it was their entire approach they were so rigorous they were so ethical there were multiple potential defendants that they had to make decisions about little punishment off of the table simply because it's so difficult in so many ways to get there when moody was executed Were you given the option to attend federal office space with my father-in-law they knew him they interacted with them so it was in so many ways very personal Birmingham's a small community but that Rian covered by secrecy or or for other reasons and they did it so well and I was so impressed and I felt an obligation to try to pay that forward this may be weren't interested I think made our peace with it years ago as a result of your father in law's murder you became a federal prosecutor personally I imagine they did and my office was co located I say my office the US Attorney's Office in Birmingham was co located in the same district of Virginia every time we saw him he talked about how much he loved his job as a prosecutor working in the criminal division so it was maybe in the back of my mind agents who we hadn't previously known in Birmingham it wasn't just their commitment to getting the right guy to protecting the community by taking a bad guy off the for eight years I served for close to eight years by the time I left my office that case was only just close to being resolved and the resolution would be to take they had to think about the evidence they had to deal with the victim's family that really wanted to know a lot of information that they couldn't share with victims in part because it was grandeur preschool I had loans but we made a decision that it was right for us for our family and so with my husband's blessing I am joined the US Attorney's office I was a federal prosecutor we work together one summer when we were both in law school remain very good friends he and Barbara very good friends I knew that he had gone to the eastern court the four of us took it together the following week remember that occasion idea I remember it very well my husband came our oldest child was in a stroller inspired you it really did and it was it's hard to leave private practice when you've got student loans and as the kid of a single parent mom during the Bush administration I was one of the original lawyers in it and then became the chief of the appellate division several years down the road became the acting apparent but for agents and prosecutors the murderer of a federal judge is an assault on the system they take all crime seriously but this they also join the office at the same time as to other people and then another lawyer came on board the following week so I took the oath internally that morning but in I attorney in April of two thousand and nine and then was confirmed in August tell me a little bit about your tenure as an a USA I don't know if they do this in all offices but the practice in our office has always been to go across the street to the Federal Court House and be sworn in by a federal judge in there I became the United States attorney I was in our our criminal division for about ten years was moved over to our appellate division we formed an appellate division God and how important it had been for her to stand up in court and say I represent the people of the United States was at the best job you've ever had there's just no doubt I mean seriously injured but we tried the case and something really interesting happened during the case on cross examination Shen of one of the witnesses it became apparent that the defense lawyer had been able to access some law enforcement material that he is that a fair connection yeah it's an extremely fair connection you know had a good friend who you may know rob chestnut who was in the Eastern District of Virginia Rog was my boss when I'm try- There are two prosecutors on each the first chair would be the lead or perhaps the more senior prosecutor the second chair would be the more junior process I was unusually blessed as a young associate spend time in court including to try some cases in federal court the lawyers the prosecutors in my office were sorry it was nice I think to be able to do that I learned a tremendous amount trying cases with people you know I've been in Washington I had been in Birmingham and she was dead on the money there was nothing like standing up in a courtroom and saying I represent the people at the United States how long were you a a USA I was in a USA until room and the and the federal judge makes comments and this federal judge had been a USA so she talked about how being a USA was the best job she'd ever had turn you know I was the daughter in law the federal judge who had just been killed and that undoubtedly had something to do with my ability to get hired to that highly sought after should not have been able to and Harwell immediately realized that there was an ethical problem and he advised the ahead tried a big drug kingpin case and one of his key witnesses had been firebombed after he testified firebombed and killed extraordinary people and the first case that I tried with one of our senior guys who went on to be a magistrate Judge Harwell Davis Harwood your job and I didn't want anyone in the office my new colleagues to think that I couldn't pull my own weight so my strategy when I went on board wisdom the Monday after Louis Freeh got a conviction of Walter Leroy meeting and when was that July one thousand nine hundred ninety one when you took the oath I took the oath a few days later I volunteered a second share every case that went to trial I just literally walked around the office and said Hey do you need help I'd I'd like to help we should explain that cases are often Ti- cuter and we were in fact a small enough office that many people tried cases on their own so for some of these folks having a second chair especially somebody coming out of it some of the things he worked on some of the things that remain important to you to this very day when I went to the office I had a big we discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter so help me gone so help me God so God vet practice who they knew they could get to do some of the written work and right motions responses that convinced them to take me on and helped me learn how to try cases you're a luxury was not killed those molotov cocktail was thrown into a window in their house where their children were sleeping and by great good fortune everybody got out no one was killed no one was thing was wrong the situation which was sort of complicated was ultimately handled but everything about his bearing the way he conducted himself the integ- edge that we needed to sit down in chambers and deal with the situation he did it very calmly there was no perception on the part of the jury that any charges that he became a fugitive and for the ten years that he was a fugitive on those charges he ran a nationwide drug trafficking organization at the point where we arrest before they're convicted I believe that this cooperation and other evidence eventually led you to a drug kingpin named a Teeny Man Teeny man Roy Mack West this given name was Roy Mack West was from Sand Mountain Alabama he had a fourth grade education ultimately he was indicted on federal drug trafficking and saw and at the point in time where federal agents went in with a search warrant there is half a million dollars worth of lab glass in that facility what do you mean by lab glass is dedicated to networks that traffic in drugs across state lines often across international lines so who was teeny man teeny man who's we convicted a blind man of driving the getaway car from the firebombing strange but true you're GonNa have to explain that it was a crazy case the reason that the guy who drove the getaway car was the guy with site but as it turned out when they finally decided one of them to talk with us it was the legally blind guy who drove the I'm and Drug Enforcement Task Force units that exist in in every office across the country and go after the most serious organized drug trafficking we had the evidence and identified the defendant was that one of the tires was you know sort of down to the metal and so there was a rut literally a Rut in the road went allegation to your community to make sure that you can get convictions in cases you have to protect that integrity rigorously what happened enough for trial Joyce so significant meth lab probably the biggest formal meth lab we'd seen at that point in time in in the mid nineteen ninety s meth labs by the way are extraordinarily or can be the house that was firebombed about two and a half miles back to the house of these guys and they were arrested Tieman we'd figured all along we had a prosecutor in our office who had been state prosecutor named Bob Mcgregor and Bob worked in our hosted F unit this was the unit that looked at organized crime and drugs have lower level drug cases which are predominantly handled by state prosecutors have stand for us to death is the organized crime this is a formulation I've heard from others that takes a lifetime to build a reputation an instant to lose it you know I think that that's true and for prosecutors because you have an awesome that's not unusual particularly in these drug cases where you've got a network of people that are working together it's very common that they cooperate office eighty and I assume how you conduct yourself how I always tried to you know you learn on the job right but the most important thing is your integrity and what we ordinarily dangerous I have never put a meth cook on the witness stand who hadn't had some sort of explosion the head Meth Cook in this case in getaway car with the other guy telling him go left go right go left once they were convicted they ended up cooperating with you in other cases one of them cooperated in other did him he was running a poly drug organization he had three farms in New Mexico where he was growing the marijuana that he sold we took down a meth facility in Arkan- the equipment that was used to manufacture methamphetamine so this was at least for Little Birmingham Alabama a very always said in our office was there is no case that was more important than the integrity of the office used to caution young prosecutors new prosecutors at the traffic and explain what is is is a unit that exists I think in in every US attorney's office across the country and you know you many ways they were equally violent although motivated by that same you know sort of family connectedness that you see another criminal organizations user Code Enforce Their Code of silence you know this isn't Mafia as somebody like Pat Fitzgerald folks in the Southern District of New York thank this is what we call Dixie Mafia and in I've been blinded in an explosion of some of his stuff we organization that teeny man ran Was it violent it was violent day used violence to it why was that his nickname he weighed three hundred plus pounds and so that nickname had been given to him years before I became involved in the case between amen go to trial he did go to trial Bob Mcgregor and I tried that case together in Birmingham for three weeks a lot of witnesses a lot of complex wchs moving pieces in that case including witnesses who had to come from the witness security program to testify about some of the cocaine deals her and convicted on Eric cooperated we didn't need cooperation. We had obtained the cooperation of some of his lieutenants we tried additional cases against some major players after that is absolutely a code you didn't cooperate you didn't tell that's what enabled somebody like teeny man to avoid federal authorities for ten years I have to ask you joy so why teeny men I wanna they had connections with traffickers who were bringing drugs across the southern border so they were positioned to appoint were when they lost the trial Judge Bill Aker try to very tight case it was the outcome that we expected to T- men and up cooperating or were you done at that point on all counts it wasn't really a close call teeny man was represented by three lawyers including now Senator Doug Jones so he was represented very capably when someone goes to jail it's justice it can be important but they have you know they're individuals with families in a life story even when they're bad people who've amount of the drugs that were moving into the northern part of Alabama at that point in time were they coming from they came from all over the place you know I told you that he gruesomely just one aspect of their supply chain they could replace it pretty quickly we've talked on this podcast with other guests about how receiving a we were happy at the point in time where somebody went to jail if you looked at that as a happy moment that you needed to be done as a prosecutor because it's never happy verdict in a federal courtroom is actually a somber moment not a moment for celebration do you find that to be the case I always thought as a prosecutor that if you will tend to be something that you saw in movies and not in real life you know I can think of some cases involving child predators where I was in one hand quite easily the number of evil defendants that I saw most were greer reckless or some combination but e and the importance of doing that of making sure that you go after the key players is interdicting the supply of drugs and this organization was responsible for a significant hurt other people that's brought them to that path I've never felt any sense of happiness at that point and a case I was a prosecutor for a long time and I can probably count on relatively small police department in Boas Alabama you talk about that the entire night shift of the Boaz Alabama Police Department took a bad turn you get your podcast the last case you tried as an assistant us attorney involved a fascinating set of facts out of take on politics the two thousand twenty election more candid conversations with some of my favorite reporters about things we usually discuss off camera listen for free wherever I Hispanics who were working in that area and essentially steal their money so this is how that worked there are a number of poultry plants in that part of the state and the happy to see that particular defendant go to jail but not really the notable exception agreed with a few other cases here in their thrown in but most were not able Ashley police officers who were sworn to protect people taking advantage of whatever your views are on immigration these were people who were there to work this particular Captain Tim Hooks knew that and so he and his men began a practice of arresting these folks on payday holding them overnight unrest the captain had influenced all of the men on his shift and this is a small shift with only five other people but they had realized that they could arrest yeah he was outraged he was angry the FBI agents spoke with him and immediately started to make some connections and so they called me on a Friday afternoon to speak with the district attorney up there and we agreed that the case would be handled federally and so the Gadston agents did all of the investigation put the Asian status working in these plans and they were une banked on payday they would get their check they would cash it they didn't deposit into bank they carried it around as together you know we had a language problem because back at that point in time we had very little access to translation services are witnesses who were all frightened who who own those plants advertise heavily did at this point in time in newspapers in Central America for workers so you would have large numbers of people without legal immigrant made this scheme work they knew that because these folks were undocumented they would never report crime and that was why it was able to continue uninterrupted for so long this was and they took advantage of that but you began to say one of the people who were arrested was actually not an undocumented immigrant day arrested Americans Ingham the following morning they were never charged but keeping their money and this went on for a period of time until they made the mistake of arresting someone who's an American citizen because at this point Doug was the US attorney and we talk with Doug about the Caisson early the next week Doug and I drove up to Marshall County where Boaz is we had an ultimately one by one they began to agree to cooperate until only the captain went to trial because cooperating with you with the FBI was at issue here it was absolutely an issue here none of these defendants wanted to cooperate with us and we had a series they were coming to see you what did they bring they brought a witness and we sat down and and we talked so Doug Jones seems to always play into my stories mint cooperating against fellow officers they did they all had to take the witness stand they all had to testify against him as it turned out the spoke Spanish it took some doing to convince them to trust us many of them did speak English and once we were able to build relationships we were able to go as are quite large stands for resident agency this one was quite small this was a small office at the time they had four agents and a secretary it looks like in any way shape or form was a captain convicted he was convicted was sentenced to prison. He was eight year sentence Joyce after serving in instead don't go home we're coming to visit now the Gadston Office of the FBI is what's known as an Ra right it's a satellite office of the Birmingham Field Office some citizen a young Puerto Rican man who was in Boaz visiting some some family and as soon as he was arrested he went straight to the closest FBI office Gadsden Alabama additioning units going into car dealerships and getting keys and stealing stuff out of cars and it was shocking because that's not what the face of law enforcement in that part of the ahead and put the case together but you have another challenge in a case like that the Code of silence that you find in some police departments when there's an investigation of wrongdoing I think that's right depress chuck todd cast it's an insider incident that had put us onto their wrongdoing was not the full extent of their wrongdoing and they had just been in essence operating like a criminal gang stealing air can and it was a great office I'd done a good bit of work with them at this point in time they had some very senior agents they were very good at what they did so they called you up the told you don't go home on and the the Attorney General's Advisory Committee also has a number of subcommittees that deal with self one of the things you did as you attorney and I had this honor as well was to serve on the Attorney General's Advisory Committee can you explain what that was and what you did rafter you were nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate as the US Attorney Right I was actually the acting after I'd been the criminal practice subcommittee looked at a broad spectrum of issues anything having to do with criminal practice early on for instance we were asked to look at an issue involving the he's of meetings with these defendants and their lawyers and this was the sort of a situation where we had to put the case together and then show them large large medium sized and small offices really a bird's eye view that gives the attorney general advice on issues that he or she believes he needs advice discovery practices discovery is the evidence that federal prosecutors are required to turn over to criminal defendants typically at a fairly early stage in the front substantive and procedural aspects of the work that's done in US attorney's offices and and has focus so early on it and look I have to say all dude the role was so the attorney general has a council of United States attorneys from across the country geographically dispersed from extra case but there wasn't a uniform practice in the ninety four US attorney's offices across the country and we were asked to take a look at that and come up with policy longtime and I was the only woman Attorney General Eric holder asked me to serve on Aga C. which was an incredible privilege and asked me to coach is the era shorttimer right you'll only be in the office during the time that you serve the president who is appointed you so I had to think really hard about whether I was willing to exchange affirmed and while I was waiting for confirmation I imagine that being an a USA was an even better job but being us attorney a great privilege it's an important at a politically appointed one I thought that way the whole time I was us attorney at a hard time remembering that I was no longer courier right because that becomes the way in which you define for eighteen years as an assistant us attorney who became the acting United States attorney for the northern district of Alabama that's right and then sooner double criminal justice reform theory looks at the system a little bit differently and it says we need to think about prevention one set of responsibilities for another very different set I struggled without a bit too because I always thought of myself as a career prosecutor meaty similarly an issue came up involving charging and sentencing policy and we were involved in that Attorney General Eric holder though was committed we need to think about preventing recidivism and it's not always true that putting someone in jail in prison for the longest possible time is the best way Russian and re entry or or work to avoid recidivist crime that prosecution work is the most important work that US attorneys offices do what we tried to work on was building awareness that these other aspects of the problem where things we could do in connection with other criminal justice stakeholders in the commute this effort it's interesting that we had worked with state and local law enforcement like prosecutors always do on prosecution issues they were a lot further along share the criminal practice subcommittee which turned out to be some of the most interesting work that I did as a US attorney what was the remit of the committee what was it looking at choice what did you do it was a big ream it and I have to tell you chuck it was an area that ran a little bit against the grain for a career prosecutor was that the way that I was brought up in my office was to believe that the most important thing that I could do to protect my community was to get serious criminals off the street and to lock them up for as long as possible to reforming the criminal justice system and some of the aspects of it that weren't working as well as they could have been and that was where the meat of our work was so how did you go about it honesty the reason that I ended up on AJC is because early in the Obama Administration the Senate was slow confirming US attorneys so there were only five of us for a really long before we also began to develop some really unusual partners we developed partners in public health and you and I have talked about this over the years for instance in the area with the criminal justice system most of them are going to go back to their communities and a large number of them will commit new crimes fairly short term after entity and by creating a synergy among people who really weren't used to working together and coordinating we could do a lot to help our communities for instance which groups that you bring in every problem that comes along that they can make other partners in the community and so I think where we were particularly successful in this came out of the of addiction where we began to understand that as much as our job is prosecutors was to try to cut off the supply of drugs coming into our communities we could also face it seemed pretty clear that they have a problem getting a job right we knew that we didn't fully understand was how difficult it was to France when your entire toolkit is a hammer every problem looks like a nail and that's true and so it's important for prosecutors to understand that they don't have to deal with since get a driver's license get your social security card these baby steps that you have to take before you can even think about getting a job what do you do if you live in an area with you work with Public Health to think about the demand for those kind of drugs right well I think one of the important changes in recent years is thinking of addiction their release said the question becomes he keep that from happening and we began to look at structural issues what are the problems that people who come out of prison GAC work attorney general holder was big proponent of re entry work a lot of people go to prison in this country something like one in every four people have contact of keeping the community safe fair enough there are still some people who need to go to jail for a long period of time that's absolutely true and and you know the most important work that prosecutors do if if you think about the criminal justice system of a as a three legged stool and you need to keep all three of the legs in balance and that would be prevention prosecute ready he approached the situation with he didn't make any unfair accusations he stuck to the facts and in my mind has always been such a picture of integrity to that point the undocumented immigrants working in the poultry plants were in coming forward to law enforcement to report what had happened to them that was what responsibility and it actually took me a while to be convinced that it was something that that I wanted to do because something that you know is a US attorney uh-huh than we were on the prevention side of things and so we developed relationships where we began to work with people in law enforcement and on issues that we had not worked on as a public health crisis which it is and not as a criminal justice issue that's a hard switch for prosecutors and I've often heard people say Tom at the same time that the subcommittee in Washington was getting an enormous download of data and information so we could study the problem I doubt wonderful no transportation how do you get housing what do you do about medical care and so we began to work with a number of community stakeholders on those issues in Birmingham application pretty early on has a bunch of boxes that you check in one is have you ever been convicted of a crime have you ever been arrested and that's what this program proposes six people about criminal convictions early on in the hiring process and many of our large local employers have become to take on a really advanced sort of point of view in that air employers and we were able to begin to make some inroads in that area ultimately the city of Birmingham adopted policies where it no longer ass ocean initially and mark was incredibly gracious he came down to Birmingham he met with people from across the community including some of our largest the type of reception did you get for these initiatives both in your office and in your community in my office the initial reaction was very cold it's not that employers don't collect that information but that they collect it at a later stage in the game and I had one fascinating conversation with a man who was the CEO of a large business that was heavily regulated so he felt like he couldn't employ people with felony convictions in uh-huh crimes that really impacted our community in a negative way if we could keep crime from being committed then we were really serving our community and so we had title history you do learn about that later stage it might impact the kind of job you give someone but mark holden the foundations general counsel and coke advocate strenuously for what's called banning box that means that you don't remove somebody from your pool of potential employees accusers people like me in the office to bridge that gap the younger prosecutors seemed to really access these ideas much more easily but what we employers in Alabama were they receptive so we had a great partnership I had actually done some work in Washington with people from the Coke Foundation ultimately understood was this we were in office like all offices with limited resources we wanted to use our resources on the most serious crime area is that what banning the box refers to not asking a potential employees to check a particular box on a job application standard job the people who originally were very put off by this notion ultimately invest in some of the community partnerships we we made we didn't anti-gang program is deeply committed to this work he has an interesting background he started in in Worcester Massachusetts and worked his way through college working in jail so we used to say to each other you know we're not social workers we would recognize our boundaries we're prosecutors we were there to put people in jail to solve crimes we weren't there it was a heavy lift to convince Alabama businesses that we should think about banning the box and and hiring people who had convictions right it's sort of hard Alabama a company that operated nationally and I said to him sure you know in in your regulated positions you can't hire people but you've got a cafeteria you've got janitor to handle these other aspects of the problem and that is it turns out is I think very shortsighted and limited version it was more difficult for some of the older did involved bringing in some youth who had committed low level crimes who were susceptible and working with them and I had prosecutors who gave generously of their time on nine rates and on weekends to attend those meetings because we began to understand that we could actually reduce the amount of crime that was being committed with this kind of programming and what about it just because they have a criminal conviction that you get to know people and assess their talents and make a decision about whether to hire them without knowing about their ars and the amazing thing was he opened up and told me the story of his sister who had struggled in her twenties who had been arrested who had gone to prison who had problems with drug addiction threatre life and finally much later in life was able to get our act together and come home and take care of their mother and he had sort of kept that story inside all of those years and he finally told it publicly to help convince other companies that it was important for us to take the step if you're businessman and you think about this pragmatically if one in four people in your employment pool have some sort of previously disqualifying criminal history you've really cut your pool significantly and there's good data on employing people with old convictions that says that they make good employees Johns Hopkins the University has about fifteen years of data now they aggressively hire people with convictions they find that they're loyal employees they don't have problems on the job and they don't re-offend once they have that job so generally speaking it's working it's working well one of the things you also worked on and this was in the civil division of is enough everyone knows what criminal prosecutors do right they they prosecute when people violate the law but civil divisions are incredibly important and I think you're right fifty six say a word about the civil division because they do extraordinary work around the country in US attorney's offices but we sometimes don't sing there chuck people don't know about their work and they should know about their work not only did they defend the United States when it gets sued they collect in some cases significance the US attorney's office in Birmingham was a bill passed by the Alabama Legislature H. B. Fifty six before I ask you about HP HBO Fifty-six Sometimes the Civil Division lawyers became plaintiff's lawyers and in my office that typically in involved protecting the civil rights can't debts owed to the United States couldn't be collected without their hard work every year that I wish US attorney my office made more in in those collections than it cost to run the office we were very good bargain for the tax payer because of the dedicated employs the civil unit and in cases like the one we're about to discuss Asian bill and the goal was to make life so miserable for undocumented people living in Alabama that they would leave and there's only one problem with that and it's not about at immigration policy and where you stand on those issues it's a constitutional issue under the Tenth Amendment the State of Alabama didn't have the Congress has articulated a federal interest and said that the federal government will set policy on issues immigration is one of those issues and it's pretty easy to understand in a football game if you had fifty different quarterbacks throwing passes it would be a mess immigration is the same sort of an issue rights of people in our district so explain it please Joyce Alabama's legislature passed H B fifty six it was a measure that they described as deport yourself Imigran Oughta have one quarterback imagine being a foreign country and having to deal with different rules in fifty different states it would just be impossible so what did you do initially we try right to create legislation that was contrary to federal policy that was the argument you're positing that was the argument that we made you know in in some areas Dingley enough had standing to challenge some aspects of of the bill there were a number of objectionable provisions but just because we thought they were and to convince the Attorney General in Alabama that he shouldn't defend the bill that it was clearly unconstitutional that didn't work and so along with colleagues from religious volunteers who had been in the practice of driving people who are undocumented to doctors appointments and other appointments the bill made that a criminal act filed along with ours one was filed on behalf of the Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church and there were issues because parts of the bill made it illegal for and so the faith based institutions came into challenge that and then there was another lawsuit that was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU challenge elected I think that's true one of the provisions of the bill required state and local law enforcement when they came across someone who is undocumented too challenging about ten of the provisions of the bill essentially gutting the worst provision in the bill and the Supreme Court did not take the case on Cert- so that eleventh circuit aging some other provisions of the bill but the

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