This post is based on an older interview. We first interviewed Jenni Katzman in 2018. The issues may seem quaint – but actually, they are fresh again. From reproductive rights to voting machines, it is time to make voting rights front and center of our attention as we vote IN TWO WEEKS, Tuesday, November 8.
At Resistant Vision, we stand for fully respecting all people and supporting everyone, particularly targeted and marginalized populations, to live robust lives.
That’s why we’re so concerned with voting rights, the climate emergency, reproductive justice, and many other issues.
So, enjoy this interview once again!
I’m delighted to present to you the first lawyer on the Resistant Vision thread! Jenni Katzman is the Director of Policy and Program with the American Constitution Society (ACS). The ACS is the nation’s leading progressive legal organization, with over 200 student and lawyer chapters in almost every state and on most law school campuses.
Originally formed as the progressive response after the Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore decision, ACS was founded on the principle that the law should be a force to improve the lives of all people.
Jenni Katzman earned her JD cum laude from Cornell University. She started her career working with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom, and then worked for the DC law firm Steptoe & Johnson.
Unsatisfied by BIG LAW, she worked as the national voter protection counsel for Obama for America (remember the halcyon days in 2008 when he was first running? Sigh.). From there, she served in various positions in the Obama administration including senior policy advisor for the White House Domestic Policy Council, senior policy advisor to the deputy secretary at the US Department of Education, and senior counsel in the Office for Access to Justice in the US Department of Justice.
Katzman is engaged on the federal level.
What is the world you want to create?
Access is central to what drives Katzman’s resistant vision. One area where she would improve access is ensuring defendants have public defenders. Public Defenders are seriously underpaid and so they do not provide good representation. If one looks at this problem from a comparative perspective, it becomes clear how and why we are so lacking. Funding public defenders is paramount.
Access to voting is another part of Katzman’s resistant vision. In many urban areas of the country, the voting machines are too old and other entities and people can easily hack them. Clearly, this puts the votes of a swath of the country in substantial jeopardy.
Katzman is also concerned with reproductive rights as legislatures are seriously curtailing a woman’s right to have an abortion. Free abortions would be where she would put her resources in an ideal world. An ideal world would also have free contraception. It would provide the resources for women to take care of their children. It would have ample paid maternity/paternity leave.
Currently, with voting rights, money = power. Congress is providing no assistance for any of these priorities at the moment. At this point, she’s more concerned about the rights themselves then how they get done. Quoting Joe Biden, “Show me your budget and I’ll show you your priorities.” Money in politics corrupts our ability to create this vision because the budget doesn’t reflect these priorities.
What is needed to create your resistant vision?
VOTE. Please VOTE. Many people are disenfranchised for many reasons. This becomes a chicken and egg issue. However, since 2016, we have a very energized electorate. Politicians are being held accountable more and more. We are seeing a change in the Democratic Party because they will see primary challenges if they don’t move agendas that the communities demand.
Organizations such as the ACS provides the knowledge people need to have about the legal issues surrounding elections. As an organization, the ACS shapes the debate through programs, white papers, and Supreme Court reviews about cases. I’m currently writing a paper about comparative reproductive rights.
How do we help?
We engage with the issues we care about and ignore the noise. This is not about Omarosa [wow, that seems so long ago . . .], but it is about Kavanaugh. We must insist that our Senators demand not just 10% of Kavanaugh’s records, but a full 100%. The Republicans claim that there is a Ginsburg (Justice Ginsburg) rule that they’re applying to Kavanaugh that allows him to be less than forthright, but Ginsburg spoke candidly about what she believed. Review her confirmation hearings.
ACS has been helping people publish op-eds in newspapers in the areas where they live. We know people who work on the editorial boards, and they can help you place an editorial.
What are the tools you use to create your resistant vision?
Lawyers tend to burn themselves out [ok, that’s why I do what I do. If you need to stop and regroup, I can help! Enough of the sponsor’s message]. And this work does feel never ending. Katzman feels guilty when she’s not doing this work.
This is definitely not a short race, but a long battle. We have to be in top shape. Give yourself rest. We’ll need it because this is the time to go all in.
Everyone should buy a dog. We cook lots so we can eat healthfully and exercise a few times per week. I am a member of a book club, so that the women I know who are engaged in similar fights can let our hair down in that context. We compare what we read to what we do in the rest of the world.
Again, I ended my interview of Katzman feeling really energized and optimistic. I hope you did too.
Do you have thoughts of women I should highlight, in law and/or academia, with a resistant vision? Send their contact information on to me.
We can’t just resist or else we will run in place. We must implement our vision for what we want in our society.
Your work depends on a different political system, especially if you don’t want to be working 70 – 90 hours per week. Act now. VOTE!