Three award-winning filmmakers, Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kreigman, and Eli Despres bring together their expertise as film directors to showcase the process attorneys go through when they choose to work on cases for the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) in The Fight.
The ACLU was founded on January 19, 1920 as a non-profit organization to advocate civil liberties that would specifically serve to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Their motto-is Because Freedom Can't Protect Itself.
Currently, the ACLU has a staff of about three-hundred and several hundred attorneys who volunteer their time to the organization. Since President Trump took office in 2016, the ACLU have litigated 147 cases. Four of the cases and their attorneys are presented in this documentary in collaboration with co-producers Maya Seidler, Peggy Drexler and Kerry Washington.
One of the directors attended a protest on the steps of a courthouse in Brooklyn, New York just seven days into Trump's presidency. That day inside the state building, ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt was arguing for an emergency order to free those detained at airports. The crowd was chanting "A-C-L-U", when Gelernt came out showing signs of exhilaration, exhaustion, and shock but his fist was raised high! At this moment, the filmmakers wanted to follow his story.
One of the directors recalls, "I felt a personal connection to Gelernt. My mother was a litigator who fought for immigrant rights, and she was inspired to that work by her own mother's story of escaping Nazi Germany." Adding, "I grew up witnessing how the law protects our most fundamental freedoms, so the struggles of civil liberties lawyers felt very familiar."
Elyse recalls the day they (Josh, Eli and herself) met with the five lawyers their film would follow: Lee Gelernt, Joshua Block, Brigitte Amiri, Dale Ho and Chase Strangio. She knew they had found real-life super heroes. Elyse is reminiscent, "For three years we watched dynamic, talented people at the height of their abilities, pushing themselves to the limit." Adding, "The ride has been tense, hilarious, devastating, surprising but most of all inspiring." She continues, "Their work is messy and exhausting. But, knowing these heroes who are scrappy, brilliant, human and tough as nails are fighting on the front lines defending our democracy, today we can rest easier."
We will see in action the ACLU specialists in pursuit of their mission with these cases below in The Fight:
Lee Gelernt is the deputy director of the ACLU's national Immigrants' Rights Project and director of the project's Access to the Court's Program. He has argued many of the high profile challenges of the Trump Administration's immigration policies, including its family separation practice.
Joshua Block is a senior staff attorney with the National ACLU's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and HIV Projects. Together with deputy director for Transgender justice with the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project and a nationally recognized expert on Tran’s rights, Chase Strangio, he is lead counsel in Stone v.Trump, the ACLU's challenge to President Trump's attempt to ban transgender people from serving in the military.
Brigitte Amiri is a deputy director at the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project. She is currently litigation numerous cases, including leading the Jane Doe case, challenging the Trump administration's ban on abortion for unaccompanied immigrant minors.
Dale Ho is the director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project and supervises the ACLU's voting rights litigation. His cases have included: Department of Commerce v. New York (challenging the inclusion of a citizenship question on the Census, which he argued in the U.S. Supreme Court); Fish v. Kobach (challenging document ions requirements for voter registration in Kansas); and League of Women Voters of NC v. North Carolina (challenging cutbacks to early voting and the elimination of same-day registration in North Carolina).