Meet our Staff: Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza

Senior Fellow and Aron Senior Justice Counsel

July 15, 2023

Like her beloved cats Tito and Tita, Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza has lived nine lives and then some. Some highlights from her bioYale Law Journal’s inaugural Justine Wise Polier Public Interest Fellow and Director of Making Justice Equal at the Center for American Progress; DNC Deputy National Press Secretary during President’s Obama’s 2008 campaign; legal observer at Guantánamo; and successful plaintiff in a First Amendment lawsuit against President Trump, who blocked her on Twitter for responding to a tweet claiming that he won the White House: “To be fair, Russia won it for you.”

With more than two decades of experience championing progressive causes across five continents, Rebecca joined Alliance for Justice in April 2023 as the Aron Senior Justice Counsel. AFJ is a perfect fit: “It’s pretty hard to find a place where you can find use for politics, journalism, policy, and law all at once,” Rebecca notes. “I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to do so at AFJ.”

As the Aron Senior Justice Counsel—a position named for AFJ Founder Nan Aron to honor her legacy—Rebecca works on federal nominations and confirmations, ethics reform, and legislative and judicial developments. It is a portfolio through which she expands and deepens the public’s knowledge about the federal judiciary, “the least accessible aspect of our government, when it should be the most accessible.”

Rebecca dates her commitment to a career in law to college when mentor Elaine Scarry directed her to The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction by Akhil Reed Amar. (Rebecca calls Amar her “intellectual Mick Jagger.”) Reading the book changed how Rebecca saw the law, and in turn, herself. The law was no longer “something instrumental” but transformative, and through law she, too, could be “a transformative force for our society—someone who engages with the law as this living breathing thing and tries to change it for the better, to make life better for other people.”

For inspiration and strength, Rebecca draws on people “who make themselves vulnerable for the sake of their goals” and principles, including Rebecca’s grandparents, one of whom fled Francisco Franco’s fascist regime in Spain; Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose confirmation hearing she had the privilege to attend; and the late Honorable Juan R. Torruella of the U.S. Court Appeals for the First Circuit, for whom Rebecca clerked.

Torruella, who was first appointed to the federal bench at the district court level in 1975 by President Gerald Ford, became the first Latino to serve on the First Circuit after his elevation in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. Rebecca was drawn to him originally through his scholarship and dedication to realizing the rights of the residents of Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States whose citizens face enormous discrepancies in civil rights.

Party lines were, as elsewhere in her life, secondary. “I took—and I take—a lot of heart in the idea that there is a way to a fair and impartial judiciary that is not so steeped in the scandals and political aspects that we see now.”

Outside of AFJ, Rebecca is an activist focused on the Latino and LBGTQ+ communities, storyteller, and comedian. With comedy, Rebecca says, “your entire purpose is connecting with people and with their experiences”—and after all, it is compassion for people, and conviction in the importance of agency and opportunity, that made Rebecca want to be a lawyer in the first place.

Despite a busy schedule, Rebecca does take time to recharge. Top priorities: knitting, cooking (Rebecca recently bought Rick Martínez’s Mi Cocina), indulging Tito and Tita, who are transplants from Puerto Rico—and a good night’s sleep. “I felt great relief when I learned that Albert Einstein slept 10 hours a night,” Rebecca laughs. “I’m like, okay, if Albert Einstein needed 10 hours of sleep a night? That’s a pretty solid source.”