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Former Alabama federal prosecutor co-hosting popular politics podcast

Birmingham’s Joyce Vance lends her decades of experience as a top federal prosecutor to a popular new weekly conversation.

From left: Joyce Vance, Kimberly Atkins, Barb McQuade and Jill Wine-Banks.

When the new podcast #SistersInLaw debuted three weeks after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, it reached the top spot on Apple Podcasts’ politics chart and was 13th overall. Joyce Vance and her co-hosts were gobsmacked, she said.

“There’s a huge hunger for civic education in this country right now,” Vance said. 

People want to understand how government works, or at least how it’s supposed to work.

The weekly podcast grew out of a green room friendship between the four women, who were all legal analysts for MSNBC. Vance hosts the show with Boston Globe opinion columnist and attorney Kimberly Atkins and former federal prosecutors Barb McQuade and Jill Wine-Banks.

The podcast is produced by the company that organizes the annual nonpartisan event Politicon, an irreverent political conference that debuted in Los Angeles in 2015.

Vance, of Birmingham, was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama by President Barack Obama in 2009, his first appointment of a woman. She remained in that role until 2017. She established the office’s first civil rights enforcement unit and launched an investigation into inhumane conditions in Alabama’s prisons in coordination with Vanita Gupta, then head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Gupta’s nomination for President Biden’s associate attorney general stalled in a tie vote last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans Senators have hammered her for tweeting things about lawmakers they said were disrespectful. Supporters call her the best pick to take on the myriad voting rights battles unfolding in statehouses around the country.

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Vance said she and her co-hosts discuss pertinent topics each week through the lens of their legal expertise, not partisan point-scoring. 

“We’re more interested in discussing the law and the systems and how things work from sort of outside of that political yin-yang. That’s what I think people are hungry for,” she said.

Several of Alabama’s legislative measures have been discussed on the show, like the bill that would ban medical treatment for transgender minors, and issues around voting rights, in which she takes particular interest.

“It’s unfortunate that we live in an era where people use this now fully debunked excuse of preventing fraud as a way to make it more difficult for people to vote,” she said.

Vance noted that in 2017, President Trump launched the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to investigate voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election. Jefferson County Probate Court Judge Alan King was appointed to a seat on it. The commission disbanded after eight months, finding no evidence of widespread fraud.

Vance’s experience and knowledge lend local and regional insights to a podcast about pressing national subjects.

“We discuss the kind of issues that I think are interesting and important to people in Alabama, as well as backyard chickens and Alabama football,” she said.

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Micah Danney is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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