Keir Bradford-Grey Wants to Bring Her Public Defender Experience to the Attorney General’s Office

Photo provided by Keir Bradford-Grey's campaign

By Sean Kitchen

July 11, 2023

Keir Bradford-Grey wants to bring her experiences as a public defender to the Attorney General’s office, where she hopes to combat wage theft, improve public safety, and protect reproductive rights. She is aiming to be the first woman of color to ever win a statewide office in Pennsylvania. 

When she was a child, Keir Bradford-Grey watched her mother nearly lose her job to racial discrimination.

Her mother, a parole officer, was let go along with several other coworkers when their employer administered a test that was designed to negatively impact Black workers. 

Her mother eventually got her job back after filing a racial discrimination lawsuit, but that experience threw Bradford-Grey’s family into economic turmoil in the short-term and profoundly impacted how Bradford-Grey viewed the world in the long-term.

“I’ve always come from a household where they’re pretty hard workers, but [it] always felt like the moment someone who is more powerful and sophisticated changes their process… that would impact us,” Bradford-Grey told The Keystone in an interview. “There was no protection from that.”

As she came of age, Bradford-Grey decided to become a lawyer—and not just any kind of lawyer, but a public defender, an often thankless job that typically pays far less than many attorneys earn. But for Bradford-Grey, the role was about more than money. 

“I’ve always been a lawyer who has looked at the ability to use the law as a catalyst for social change,” Bradford-Grey said. “And I’ve always been fascinated by those who’ve used the law to influence our culture and society to be more inclusive of the opportunities for all communities.” 

After decades as a public defender, Bradford-Grey now wants to use her skills and experience to influence society from a higher perch: the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office.

Bradford-Grey launched her campaign for the position of the state’s “top cop” in June, championing herself as someone who could help improve the lives of everyday Pennsylvanians and ensure they not only feel safe, but also have opportunities to succeed.

“I want to use this opportunity to look at this role to advance public safety from a holistic perspective,” Bradford-Grey said. “It’s not just about law enforcement, but it’s about improving people’s lives and bringing more people who are already doing the work in areas of advancement for life improvements into the work of the Attorney General’s office.”

Bradford-Grey is the third Democratic candidate to announce they are running for the Attorney General’s office. She’s running against former Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and former prosecutor and Bucks County Solicitor Joe Khan. 

Bradford-Grey served as the Chief Public Defender in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties and wants to be the first woman of color to ever win a statewide executive office in the commonwealth. 

In 2012, she was appointed by then-Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro to be the lead public defender in Montgomery County and then moved onto Philadelphia where she oversaw a staff of 500 employees with a $50 million budget. 

Prosecuting wage theft is one area where Bradford-Grey can see herself building on Shapiro’s track record as Attorney General. 

“Wage theft is a huge area of financial instability that people experience, and they don’t even know what they can do about it,” she said.

Wage theft is the most prevalent form of theft in the country. According to a 2014 report by the Economic Policy Institute, wage theft costs employees as much as $50 billion a year.

Bradford-Grey explained how she was a victim of wage theft without ever noticing. 

“I’ve been a victim of [wage theft] over many years in terms of being targeted for sophisticated practices that stole money from me that I didn’t even notice or knew that was wrong,” she said.  “Many of these actors are invisible and never held accountable.”

When Shapiro was Attorney General, his office fined Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc., a construction company in Central Pennsylvania, more than $20 million for committing wage theft and violating the state’s prevailing wage act and the Davis-Bacon Act, a law that requires companies to pay prevailing wages on public projects for laborers and mechanics. 

In the wake of recent US Supreme Court rulings undermining rights for marginalized communities, Bradford-Grey also advocated for passing legislation that protects the LGBTQ community. Currently, there’s no state laws protecting them from discrimination in Pennsylvania. Passing the Fairness Act would help alleviate that; the bill would protect members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. 

When it comes to protecting reproductive freedoms for Pennsylvanians and those traveling to Pennsylvania for abortion access, Bradford-Grey wants to make sure that the commonwealth protects doctors and providers offering these services. 

She also sees data protection as an important part of protecting people who come from out of state for abortion access. 

“I’m also going to protect people from having to share or give up data with respect to who they’re providing abortion access to because other state enforcement officers are looking to see what data access they can get to figure out who is getting abortions and where they’re going,” Bradford-Grey said.

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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