Derwyn Bunton ’98 was working as a juvenile public defender in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. 随之而来的混乱, he says, revealed to the nation how broken Louisiana’s criminal justice system was. “有那么多人在关注路易斯安那州, 人们看到了系统资源的匮乏, 它的结构有多糟糕, 以及没有代表的穷人是多么脆弱和不受保护, 尤其是新奥尔良贫穷的黑人和棕色人种,” he says.
他决心为改变而斗争. 在暴风雨过后, Bunton became the executive director of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights where he joined forces with former colleagues, 当地的非营利组织, and community leaders to discuss and reimagine the future of public defense. Part of their vision was a defender’s office that was focused on clients and that did not rely on the court system for funding and for appointing lawyers. In 2007, 他们帮助通过了路易斯安那州公设辩护律师法案, 它创建了一个全州范围内的基础设施来统一地方办事处. After serving first on a local board that oversaw New Orleans’ public defenders office, 奥尔良公共辩护律师(OPD), 2009年，邦顿被任命为首席公设辩护律师.
在邦顿领导办公室的13年里, 他把OPD从完全由兼职人员经营的模式转变了, 由法院聘任私人律师专职, 有专门的公设辩护律师, advocates, 和管理员. Through grants and government advocacy, he increased the office’s budget from $1.2009年的800万美元到今天的1300万美元, including helping to pass a 2020 city ordinance that requires the New Orleans city council to provide funds to the office matching at least 85 percent of the budget that is allotted to the district attorney’s office.
2022年9月, Bunton left OPD to become the chief legal officer of the Southern Poverty Law Center, 他在哪里指导非营利组织的法律战略, 包括保护民主的努力, 结束大规模监禁, 直面白人至上主义.
In this Q&A, NYU Law spoke with Bunton about how the Juvenile Defender Clinic helped ignite his interest in public defense, 他在OPD最引以为豪的成就, and why he sees his work at the Southern Poverty Law Center as a return on investment.
我第一次对法律感兴趣是在高中. GD真人厅手机版APP下载在南加州长大，没有很多钱. My mom would move my brother and I and my sisters to different places as long as she could pay the rent, 当房租紧的时候, 她会搬到另一个地方, and that was sort of a pattern: always staying a step ahead of eviction. And I remember in high school there was one moment when my mom was really distressed on the phone, 她一直说她需要更多时间.
那是GD真人厅手机版APP下载无法赶在被驱逐之前的时刻. I came home from school one day and all our belongings were in the driveway. 我记得我在想, 在我的生活中，我见过律师在不同的地方工作, with family involved in the criminal legal system and other legal settings: folks listened to lawyers.
I thought that I could be one of those lawyers that made people listen, 好像他们没听我妈的话, and decided I would pursue the law to try and give voice to folks who needed someone to give them voice, and to make decisionmakers and people in power pay attention to the people they perceive as not having any power and any voice.
Were there any experiences during your time at NYU Law that you found formative for your career?
当我来到法学院的时候, 我知道我对公共利益法感兴趣, 但我不知道是哪个方向. GD真人厅的美妙之处在于你可以尝试各种各样的事情.
我做过的最好的一件事是和兰迪·赫兹一起去青少年辩护诊所, [Fiorello LaGuardia Professor of Clinical Law]; Kim Taylor-Thompson, [现为临床法学名誉教授], 杰奎琳·迪恩[1985年], 然后是兼职教授. That’s where public defense—especially for the juvenile population—just sort of caught fire for me.
我和兰迪·赫兹还有定期联系, 在我做任何重大决定之前，我都会和谁交谈. 我记得有一次, 那时我还是个年轻的后卫, 我在处理一个案子，给兰迪发了封邮件问了些问题, 大概在凌晨一点左右, 他马上回复了我. 我问他:“你为什么这个时候还醒着?” and he said, “可能和你的原因一样,那就是有重要的工作需要完成.
说说你开始做公设辩护律师的事. How did you begin thinking about changing the larger structure of defender’s offices?
My first job out of law school was with 路易斯安那州青少年司法项目 doing civil rights work, 监禁工作条件, 代表路易斯安那州的孩子们. 在我加入的时候, 路易斯安那州拥有超过2个,在全州的少年监狱里，有000个孩子在恶劣的条件下. 所以GD真人厅手机版APP下载在1998年起诉他们，2005年5月结案. 当GD真人厅手机版APP下载达成和解协议的时候, there were under 350 kids in juvenile prisons across the state of Louisiana.
那份工作和我做过的任何工作一样有意义. 这真的迫使我离开, get around, learn a lot more about my clients and think deeply about our clients’ communities, 特别是新奥尔良的有色人种社区和年轻人. 这让我大开眼界，而且非常丰富. 系统性的种族主义，经济上的不平等得到了充分的展示. 路易斯安那州的刑事法律体系是糟糕的经济政策之所在, 糟糕的公共安全政策, 糟糕的教育政策, come to rest.
卡特里娜飓风来袭. Until that time, defenders and advocates were seeing the poor representation people received and trying to figure out the best strategy for reform. It turns out the best strategy for reform is an environmental and economic catastrophe, because what Katrina did was rip the top off of our criminal legal system—literally and figuratively—and it was on full display both locally and nationally. 在一些当地合作伙伴和倡导者的帮助下, we were able to make local changes and pass state legislation to make restructuring more possible, moving away from court-centered and towards client-centered representation.
In 2009, 我得到了新奥尔良首席公设辩护律师的职位, GD真人厅手机版APP下载开始在卡特里娜飓风的废墟上重建GD真人厅手机版APP下载的办公室.
What were some major victories you would point to during your time as chief public defender?
一种胜利是生存. There were a number of times folks were very clearly trying to get me out of my position as chief defender. 在社区的帮助和GD真人厅手机版APP下载组织的力量下, 我挺过来了. 有很多预算里程碑, 就像有史以来第一次进入市议会预算. When we did it, we were the only public defender office receiving local support in the state—meanwhile, every prosecutor’s office in the state of Louisiana receives local support—and that was huge.
作为职业生涯的里程碑, the respect Orleans Public Defenders earned as an organization is probably my proudest achievement. We went from this organization folks could forget and neglect to one that was pushing criminal legal system policy, 为保释改革而战, 争取小一点的监狱, 在法庭上对不公正和非法的行为进行诉讼和攻击. 以前的公设辩护律师事务所永远做不到的事. The strengths and efforts of a lot of people pushed this public defender’s office to that level of prominence.
I am really excited to be a part of the Southern Poverty Law Center in this particular moment. 就像我刚进公设辩护律师办公室时一样, the Southern Poverty Law Center is instituting a new strategic vision and model for the center. 我想，这是我的下一场演出. 在全国和地区范围内都有影响力, I want to take the lessons I’ve learned to help the Southern Poverty Law Center leverage all of the magnificent talent and resources that it has to transform unjust spaces in the South, which are the same spaces that I’ve occupied now for more than 20 years as a lawyer.
In an odd twist, 路易斯安那州青少年司法项目, 我年轻时就是从那里开始当律师的, 从南方贫困法律中心的拨款开始. 现在是首席法律官, 他们对那个小组织的承诺, 最终是我, 我觉得有义务去实现的投资回报.