December 05, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Jana Kooren, 651.645.4097x123 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Minnesotans who registered to vote online should not have their registrations invalidated
St. Paul, MN – The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a brief, in a lawsuit challenging the online voter registration system, arguing that individuals who properly used the online voter registration system should not have their registrations invalidated. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was sued this fall by four legislators, the Minnesota Voters Alliance and Minnesota Majority after he created and implemented an online voter registration system; they argued that Ritchie did not have the authority to create the new system.
The ACLU-MN did not take a position in its brief whether or not Ritchie did in fact have the authority to implement online voter registration. Instead the brief focuses on the more than 2,000 individuals who registered through the new system. In their lawsuit the petitioners argue that the individuals who registered online should have to re-register. The ACLU-MN counters that argument by saying that because the information collected in the online form met all the statutory requirements necessary to register to vote in the State of Minnesota the registrant has complied with Minnesota election law and should remain on the voter rolls even if Secretary Ritchie did not have the authority to permit online registration.
"The right to vote is fundamental to who we are as a country. These voters registered using a system they believed to be valid. They should not have their right to vote called into question because of a political fight," stated Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU-MN.
Cooperating attorneys in the case were William Pentelovitch and Emma Greenman of Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand, LLP and Teresa Nelson, Legal Director of the ACLU-MN.
October 24, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Jana Kooren, 651.485.5925 or email@example.com
The following can be attributed to Charles Samuelson, Executive Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota
"The ACLU of Minnesota encourages all parties involved in the upcoming Vikings/Washington Redskins game to do the right thing and not call the team by the offensive name Redskins but instead call the team Washington.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the media and the Vikings team should all make a pledge to not use the name Redskins, and instead refer to the team simply as Washington.
The name, logo and mascot are racist imagery that does not honor anyone, but instead perpetuate stereotypes that are particularly hurtful and offensive given the history of forced assimilation and brutality that Native Americans were forced to endure in Minnesota and throughout the country
In the 1980s the ACLU-MN helped draft policy that required all school districts in Minnesota with Native American nicknames to cease using them, we as a state said it was offensive for our high schools to use those names and the same principle should be extended to professional sports teams."
October 08, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Jana Kooren, 651.645.4097 x123 or firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Paul, Minn – The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and its client, Melissa Hill, reached a settlement agreement with the City of Minneapolis and other parties in a case surrounding the right to chalk on public sidewalks. In 2011 Hill was detained and issued a trespass order after she wrote on a public sidewalk outside of the Federal Building, with erasable sidewalk chalk, in Minneapolis.
Terms of the settlement include written agreements that all of the parties involved which includes the City of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Police Department, Federal Protective Services, and DECO Security Services agree that writing on public sidewalk with erasable chalk is not a crime and that they should not treat it as such. The defendants also agreed to pay a portion of the legal fees as part of the settlement agreement.
"We are happy not just for our client, but for all who will benefit from the favorable resolution of this matter. The changes that the City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Police Department and DECO Security Services are making as a result of the parties' settlement agreement will protect speech for many, which was our client's goal throughout," said Nadege Souvenir of Maslon Edelman Borman and Brand.
In 2011 Hill was in the process of re-chalking "Don't Enlist, Resist" when she was handcuffed, detained, searched and questioned by security guards, FPS Agents and a Minneapolis Police Department officer. The MPD issued Hill a trespass notice that prohibited her from entering the property of the Federal Building for a period of one year.
"Protecting the First Amendment is integral to full participation in our society, we are happy that individuals in the future will be allowed to exercise their rights in front of the Federal Building without fear of arrest or intimidation," stated Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU-MN.
Cooperating attorneys in the case are: William Pentelovitch, Nadege Souvenir and Melissa Muro LaMere, all of Maslon Edelman Borman and Brand, LLP.
The settlement is available online:
September 26, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 26, 2013
CONTACT: Jana Kooren, 651.645.4097 x123 or email@example.com
St. Paul, MN – The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota sent a letter to the Anoka-Hennepin School Board urging them to keep Eleanor & Park in the library and to not take any action that would amount to censoring the book. The Anoka-Hennepin School District is considering removing the book from its libraries among other actions because a group of parents filed a complaint regarding the content and language in the book. The book was a part of the School District's summer reading program.
Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell is a critically acclaimed work of fiction for young teens, telling the story of budding romance between two teens who feel like they don't quite fit in. It deals with serious and relevant (to teens) issues such as sexual abuse, poverty, bullying, and romantic relationships.
"We are greatly concerned by removing books like this from the school libraries because they deal frankly and honestly with problems that teens face," stated Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU-MN. "The ACLU believes it is our duty to ensure that our government maintains open access to all kinds of ideas and information. It is particularly ironic that this news surfaced during Banned Books Week when we should be promoting free access to books instead of debating their removal."
In a 13 page complaint submitted to the School Board on behalf of the Parent's Action League the group cited concerns with the book's use of profanity (they cited 227 instances) including 67 uses of the word "God", 26 uses of the word "Jesus" and four uses of the word "Christ".
"The fact of the matter is that teens encounter language and situations like this all the time. Many teens have open access to the internet, and view R rated movies where they would have encountered similar language and situations," stated Charles Samuelson. "It is up to the parent to decide if they should allow their children to read this book, not the school."
Read the letter sent to the School District: Letter_to_Anoka_Hennepin_School_Board_on_Eleanor_and_Park.pdf
August 21, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 21, 2013
CONTACT: Robyn Shepherd, 212.519.7829 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jana Kooren, 651.645.4097 x123 or email@example.com
St. Paul, MN – The Supreme Court of Minnesota today upheld a lower court's ruling that an HIV-positive man cannot be held criminally responsible for engaging in consensual sex after disclosing his HIV-status to his partner. The court's decision affirms that the government must respect the personal and private decisions of consenting adults regarding sexual intimacy and procreation.
Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Minnesota filed a friend of the court brief in the case.
"The court's decision rightly protects Minnesotans from unconstitutional intrusions into their private conduct," said Terri Nelson, legal director of the ACLU of Minnesota. "Our criminal laws should not be used to target the private actions of consenting adults."
In 2009, Daniel James Rick, who is HIV positive, had a sexual relationship with another man, D.B., whose HIV status at the time was unknown. They mutually agreed to not use condoms. After the relationship ended, the state prosecuted Rick under Minnesota's "knowing transfer of a communicable disease" statute. At trial, the jury found that Rick had disclosed his HIV status but convicted him under an interpretation of the law that would make it a crime for individuals with HIV to have sex even after disclosing their status to their partner.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the conviction in 2012. The state Supreme Court upheld that ruling today.
"It is deeply concerning that after decades of HIV/AIDS awareness, prosecutors are targeting even private consensual conduct in cases where parties disclose their HIV status," said Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the ACLU AIDS Project. "Today's decision marks an important step in protecting HIV-positive Minnesotans from misapplication of the criminal law."
The decision can be found here
August 20, 2013
St. Paul, Minn. – Ramsey County District Court Judge Edward Wilson denied the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota's motion to dismiss the charges against Andrew Henderson, who was cited for peaceably filming paramedics and sheriff's deputies in the parking lot of his apartment building. Henderson was charged in fall 2012 with obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct after he passively filmed an interaction between a resident of his apartment building and Ramsey County Sheriff's deputies. This case will now go on to trial.
"We are disappointed with the decision and are committed to defending our client's rights because we believe he did nothing wrong," stated Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU-MN.
ACLU-MN cooperating attorneys are: John Lundquist and Kevin Riach of Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.
July 17, 2013
Documents Show Location Records Being Kept on Tens of Millions of Innocent Americans and Tens of Thousands of Minnesotans
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Charles Samuelson, 651.645.4097 x121, firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Police departments around the country and in Minnesota are rapidly expanding their use of automated license plate readers to track the location of U.S. drivers, but few have meaningful rules in place to protect drivers’ privacy rights, according to documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union, which include documents from the Minnesota State Patrol. The new documents reveal that many police departments are keeping innocent people’s location information stored for years or even indefinitely, regardless of whether there is any suspicion of a crime.
“The spread of these scanners is creating what are, in effect, government location tracking systems recording the movements of many millions of innocent Americans in huge databases,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Catherine Crump, the report’s lead author. “We don’t object to the use of these systems to flag cars that are stolen or belong to fugitives, but these documents show a dire need for rules to make sure that this technology isn’t used for unbridled government surveillance.”
The systems use cameras mounted on patrol cars or on objects like road signs and bridges. The documents show that deployment of automated license plate readers is increasing rapidly with significant funding coming from federal grants. These readers photograph every license plate encountered, use software to read the number and add a time and location stamp, and then record the information in a database. Police are alerted when numbers match lists containing license numbers of interest, such as stolen cars.
Last summer, ACLU affiliates in 38 states and Washington, D.C. filed nearly 600 Freedom of Information Act requests asking federal, state, and local agencies to explain how they use their readers. The 26,000 pages of documents produced by the agencies that responded–about half of all agencies contacted–include training materials, internal memos, and policy statements. The results and analysis are detailed in an ACLU report released today called “You Are Being Tracked,” which includes detailed charts and policy recommendations.
The study found that not only are license plate scanners widely deployed, but few police departments place any substantial restrictions on how they can be used. The approach in Pittsburg, Calif., is typical: a police policy document there says that license plate readers can be used for “any routine patrol operation or criminal investigation,” adding, “Reasonable suspicion or probable cause is not required.” While many police departments do prohibit police officers from using license plate readers for personal uses such as tracking friends, these are often the only restrictions. As New York’s Scarsdale Police Department put it in one document, the use of license plate readers “is only limited by the officer’s imagination.”
A tiny fraction of the license plate scans are flagged as “hits.” For example, in Maryland, for every million plates read, only 47 reads (0.005 percent) were potentially associated with a stolen car or a person wanted for a serious crime. Despite this very small “hit” ratio, the documents show that many police departments are storing huge numbers of records on scanned plates that do not return hits for long periods of time. For example, police in Minnesota recorded 1.7 million plate reads last year. These reads resulted in just 852 citations and 131 arrests, which represents a 0.057 percent "hit" rate for license plate reads.
The documents show that policies on how long police keep this data vary widely. Some departments delete records within days or weeks, some keep them for years, while others have no deletion policy at all, meaning they can retain them forever. For example, Jersey City deletes the records after five years, and Grapevine and Milpitas have no deletion policy. In contrast, the Minnesota State Patrol deletes records after 48 hours, and Brookline, Mass., keeps records for 14 days. Maine and Arkansas have passed laws prohibiting the police from retaining the license plate location records of innocent drivers for extended periods of time.
“The fact that some jurisdictions delete the records quickly shows that it is a completely reasonable and workable policy. We need to see more laws and policies in place that let police protect both public safety and privacy,” said Allie Bohm, ACLU advocacy and policy strategist. “The police should not be storing data about people who are not even suspected of doing anything wrong.”
The ACLU report released today has over a dozen specific recommendations for government use of license plate scanner systems, including: police must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred before examining the data; unless there are legitimate reasons to retain records, they should be deleted within days or weeks at most; and, people should be able to find out if their cars’ location history is in a law enforcement database.
License plate readers are used not only by police but also by private companies, which themselves make their data available to police with little or no oversight or privacy protections. One of these private databases, run by a company called Vigilant Solutions, holds over 800 million license plate location records and is used by over 2,200 law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“Police departments should not use databases that do not have adequate privacy protections in place,” said Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Project at the ACLU of Massachusetts.
In 2012, the ACLU of Minnesota actively lobbied in support of legislation that would have classified and regulated the retention of automated license plate reader data by requiring police departments to delete “non-hit” license plate data. Unfortunately, the House bill failed and the Senate version never came up for debate. There are currently no laws in place in Minnesota to dictate how long the police can keep this data or what they can do with it. The ACLU of Minnesota is planning to lobby for passage of similar legislation regulating automated license plate reader data next session.
The ACLU report, an interactive map with links to the documents, and an interactive slide show are available at: aclu.org/plates
June 26, 2013
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional and that the federal government cannot discriminate against married LGBT couples for the purposes of determining federal benefits and protections. Today's ruling is a historic victory for gay and lesbian Americans and a tremendous step forward for the cause of equality.
The court's ruling said: "The history of DOMA's enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence."
The justices ruled in favor of Edith "Edie" Windsor, who sued the federal government for failing to recognize her marriage to her partner Thea Spyer after Spyer's death. Windsor and Spyer met in the early 1960s. Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977, and Windsor helped her through her long battle with the disease, which eventually left Spyer paralyzed. Windsor and Spyer, a couple for 44 years, were married in 2007. When Spyer died in 2009, she left all of her property to Windsor, including the apartment that they shared. However, because DOMA prevented the federal government from recognizing gay marriage, Windsor was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes that she would not have owed if she had been married to a man. Windsor's attorneys argued that DOMA denied her, and other gay and lesbian married couples, the equal protection of the law guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
"DOMA violated the fundamentally American principles of fairness and equality," said Windsor. "Because of today's Supreme Court ruling, every child born today will be able to grow up in a world without DOMA – a world where the federal government won't discriminate against their marriages no matter who they are. I know Thea would have been so happy and proud to see how far we have come in our fight to ensure that all gay and lesbian couples are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve."
"This is truly a day for the history books, one that will be marked by future generations as a giant step forward along our nation's continuing path towards equality," said Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, who argued Windsor's case at the Supreme Court. "DOMA was the last law on the books that mandated discrimination against gay people by the federal government simply because they are gay. The days of 'skim milk' or second-class marriages for gay people are now over."
“This move extends more than 1,100 benefits of marriage to the thirteen states and the District of Columbia that allow same-sex couples to marry and this removes a huge burden on couples who are in love and want to make a commitment to each other,” said Charles Samuelson, Executive Director at the ACLU of Minnesota. Some of the benefits that these couples in Minnesota will now be able to enjoy beginning August 1, 2013 include family medical leave, social security survivor's benefits, spousal health care benefits, and the ability to file joint tax returns.
The ACLU of Minnesota is proud to be a part of a coalition of rights groups that helped defeat the anti-marriage amendment and legalize same-sex marriage in the state of Minnesota.
Both a federal district court and a federal appeals court ruled in Windsor's favor previously. Windsor is represented by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.
June 14, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Charles Samuelson, Executive Director for the ACLU-MN, 651.645.4097 x121; email@example.com
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is pleased to announce that it will be honoring Justice Paul Anderson with its 17th Annual Earl Larson Award. For the past sixteen years, the ACLU-MN has honored the work of members of the Minnesota legal profession who have excelled in their commitment to preserving civil liberties. The first award winner was Judge Earl Larson, who founded the Minnesota affiliate of the ACLU. Previous recipients include Walter Mondale, the Honorable Rosalie Wahl, and the Honorable Jonathan Lebedoff.
Justice Anderson retired in May 2013 after serving on the Minnesota Supreme Court since 1994. Justice Anderson has spent a large part of his life in public service, beginning with his time spent as a VISTA volunteer attorney straight out of law school, and continuing with his work at the Minnesota Attorney General’s office, and then later on his appointment to the bench. During his tenure at the Supreme Court, the court handled two statewide ballot recounts and a series of constitutional and civil cases that are nationally recognized. He is also known for his international human rights work, including his work in helping Tunisia draft a constitution and in advising Libya on conducting constituent assemblies.
“Honoring Justice Anderson with the Earl Larson Award is a clear choice because it was evident during his tenure on the bench that he strove to protect the civil liberties of Minnesotans,” said Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU – MN.
The event will be held on Thursday, November 12 at the Minneapolis Club. More information about the award ceremony will be released in early fall.
June 05, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Chuck Samuelson, 651.645.4097 x121, firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota expressed grave disappointment when the Minnesota Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a challenge to a Red Wing city ordinance allowing city officials to enter a home to conduct an inspection without a tenant’s or landlord’s consent.
The City of Red Wing ordinance requires landlords and tenants to submit their private property to an inspection before a landlord can receive a rental license, even if there is no evidence of a housing code violation. The ordinance essentially allows the city to conduct searches of renters’ homes without individualized probable cause. Although searches of this nature have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, the lawsuit, filed by Institute for Justice, urged the Court to hold that they violate the Minnesota Constitution’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Under the Red Wing ordinance, city inspectors may enter the home under the guise of searching for housing code violations and may conduct an intrusive search of people’s dwellings and report suspicion of criminal activity relating to several specific crimes enumerated in the ordinance to the police.
In a unanimous decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court determined that a city ordinance capable of being applied constitutionally in some cases may not be struck down on a facial challenge, even if there is a very real danger that it could be applied unconstitutionally in some cases. The Court concluded that the plaintiffs here failed to meet their burden for a facial challenge to the ordinance because a district court may require individualized suspicion before issuing an administrative warrant. The ruling leaves open the possibility for a future “as-applied” challenge to the ordinance by an individual for whom the ordinance was unconstitutionally applied. Although concurring in the decision, retiring Justice Paul Anderson noted that the Minnesota Constitution should be read to require individualized probable cause for the type of rental housing searches at issue in this case.
The petition was filed in the Minnesota Supreme Court on July 11, 2012 on behalf of landlord-appellants Robert and Rebecca McCaughtry, Timothy and Ronda McKim, Ryan R. Peterson, Douglas and Kim Sjostrom, and Bradley and Adriana Sonnentag; and tenant-appellants John W. Monroe and Jesse Stewart.
The ACLU of Minnesota filed amicus curiae briefs at the Minnesota Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. Appellants’ attorneys were Lee U. McGrath, Institute for Justice, Minnesota Chapter, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Dana Berliner, Institute for Justice, Arlington, Virginia. Respondent’s attorneys were John M. Baker, Kathryn M.N. Hibbard from Greene Espel PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota.