Elana Bildner has spent her career advocating and litigating for justice for immigrants, people who are or were incarcerated, and families. Now, she has joined the ACLU of Connecticut as staff attorney.
Most recently, Elana was a senior clinical fellow with the Civil Justice Clinic at Quinnipiac University School of Law, where she worked on cases focused on ending long prison sentences imposed on children and guided law students who were representing young adults in parole hearings and civil rights lawsuits challenging mistreatment of people who were incarcerated. Prior to her time at Quinnipiac, Elana spent six years as a civil litigator in New York and Connecticut. A former executive editor of Columbia Law School’s Jailhouse Lawyers’ Manual, Elana also previously worked with anti-poverty organizations in New York through AmeriCorps.
She sat down recently with Meghan Holden, the ACLU of Connecticut’s communications director, to talk about why working for the ACLU is a dream job for a lawyer, the work she will be doing as staff attorney, and her very on-brand computer monitor.
MH: Welcome, Elana! First question: why did you want to work at the ACLU of Connecticut?
EB: This is just a dream job for any lawyer. I’ve been getting to do this work in pieces, for different jobs over time, but to actually get to sit here and do it all day long as an ACLU employee is really exciting. The dream of most lawyers, I think, is to make an impact through your law degree, and that’s really hard to do in practice – sometimes it feels really hard to do in practice – so I’m really excited about the opportunity to do something useful.
MH: What will you be doing in your job as staff attorney?
EB: Working on the wide spectrum of impact litigation, that is, cases that are designed to make inroads on a particular issue, across a variety of issues. So, we’ve got police surveillance, police brutality, prison work, we’ve got some other legacy cases that are on different issues, and hopefully I’ll be able to extend my portfolio even more. Two lawyers should be able to do twice as much as one lawyer, so hopefully we’ll have lots of cases.
MH: Is there a certain issue area that’s especially near and dear to your heart?
EB: The things that have always spoken to me are immigrants’ rights, women’s rights, and ending mass incarceration. So, those are things that I care deeply about personally and that would be really fun to work on. I’m also excited to learn about other things that I’ve never worked on.
MH: What’s your favorite thing in your office?
EB: What’s a non-lame answer? I’m currently using some of my constitutional law and federal jurisdiction textbooks from law school to hold up my computer monitor. I feel like there’s some significance in that. I get to do work that is related to these really important issues, that are in these books holding up my monitor, every day. So, I’m really excited about that. It’s a metaphor! My computer is standing on constitutional rights.
MH: What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
EB: As an ACLU lawyer, I value everyone’s right to privacy. But I also love learning foreign languages, and I’ve found that a great way to hone my skills is to listen to people on public transportation. I speak Spanish and Hebrew, and I’m still learning those as well as Portuguese, Russian, and Arabic. So if you plan to discuss something juicy, steer clear of me on the train!