Professor Butler's scholarship examines how the law, particularly the U.S. Constitution, protects or hinders the survival and resistance strategies of marginalized groups. Her early pieces utilize critical theories to identify areas where greater inquiry is necessary. For example, in Demonizing Our Sisters Through Epistemic Oppression, she uses Critical Race Feminist Theory and allied methods to label the exclusion of sex worker voices in prostitution policy making as one of Epistemic Oppression. Such naming provides a foundation to explore how legislators and the judiciary advance particular narratives in Constitutional Law. As highlighted in Demonizing Our Sisters, courts have used a prostitution abolitionist narrative (as opposed to a sex work as work narrative) to resist grounding a right to engage in commercial sex within the constitution. Future articles will explore these rejections in depth.
Similarly, her work in progress, Survival Labor, strengthens this foundation by grounding criminalized survival strategies, like sex work, in the landscape of the constitutional “right to earn a living.” Survival Labor interrogates what is considered “legitimate labor,” so that future works can investigate whether laws criminalizing survival strategies could receive heightened review and the consequences of such a development.
She has engaged in state and federal civil litigation related to police misconduct, family law, criminal record expungement, and more. In 2014, she worked as an attorney with the Law Office of Victor Glasberg & Associates, an Alexandria, Virginia based federal civil rights firm. In 2015, she clerked for a Federal Magistrate Judge in her home state of South Dakota. In 2016, Professor Butler returned to the Washington, DC area to represent and advocate for policy change alongside sex workers and survivors of trafficking at the Amara Legal Center as an Attorney and Director of Policy. In 2019, Professor Butler served as Director of Capacity Building and Systems Change with the Center for Survivor Agency and Justice, a national non-profit working at the intersection of domestic/sexual violence and economic security.