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 21 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.
June 04, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 651.645.4097 x121; email@example.com
New Report Features Original Data Analysis on Marijuana Arrest Rates by Race and Details High Costs of Enforcement
ST. PAUL, Minn. – According to a new report by the ACLU, Blacks were arrested for marijuana possession at 7.81 times the rate of whites in 2010, despite comparable marijuana usage rates. The report,Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests, released today, is the first ever to examine state and county marijuana arrest rates nationally by race. The findings show that while there were pronounced racial disparities in marijuana arrests 10 years ago, they have grown significantly worse.
“The War on Marijuana has disproportionately been a war on people of color,” says Ezekiel Edwards, Director of the Criminal Law Reform Project at the ACLU and one of the primary authors of the report. “State and local governments have aggressively enforced marijuana laws selectively against Black people and communities, needlessly ensnaring hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system at tremendous human and financial cost.”
In Minnesota, the counties with the largest racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests were Hennepin, Ramsey, and Dakota. Statewide, police officers made 7,494 arrests for marijuana possession in 2010, and marijuana possession rates accounted for 42.8 percent of all drug arrests in 2010. From 2001-2010, overall marijuana possession arrest rates fell -0.5% and the racial disparities among such arrests increased 231%.
Despite the fact that a majority of Americans now support marijuana legalization, Minnesota spent as much as 69 million dollars enforcing marijuana laws in 2010. Nationally, states spent a combined $3.61 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws in 2010 alone.
“The aggressive policing of marijuana is time-consuming, costly, racially biased, and doesn’t work,” says Mr. Edwards. “These arrests have a significant detrimental impact on people’s lives, as well as on the communities in which they live. When people are arrested for possessing even tiny amounts of marijuana, they can be disqualified from public housing and student financial aid, lose or find it more difficult to obtain employment, lose custody of their child, and be deported. In addition, the targeted enforcement of marijuana possession laws against people of color creates a community of mistrust and reduced cooperation with the police, which damages public safety. Furthermore, despite being a priority for many police departments across the states for the past decade, the aggressive enforcement of marijuana laws has not even accomplished one of law enforcement’s purported goals: to eradicate or even diminish the use of marijuana.”
Key national findings from the report include:
- Nationwide, between 2001 and 2010, there were 8.2 million marijuana arrests. Over 7 million, or 88 percent, of these arrests were for possession (versus for sale or distribution). In 2010, there were over 889,000 marijuana arrests – 300,000 more than arrests for all violent crimes combined that year. This means one marijuana arrest every 37 seconds in 2010. Over 780,000 of those arrests were for possession only.
- Nationwide, Blacks were over 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite comparable usage rates.
- In Minnesota, Blacks were on average nearly 8 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites. In Ramsey County alone, Blacks were 9.1 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.
- The racial disparities exist in all regions of the U.S., as well as in both large and small counties, cities and rural areas, and in both high- and low-income communities. Disparities are also consistently high whether Blacks make up a small or a large percentage of a county’s overall population.
The ACLU of Minnesota supports Senate File 1641 and House File 1818 introduced in the Minnesota Legislature this past session. The ACLU vows to work hard to ensure that the bills continue to receive widespread support in the next legislative session in 2014. The ACLU is also calling for all states to decriminalize marijuana by licensing and regulating marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons 21 or older, taxing marijuana sales, and removing state law criminal and civil penalties for such activities.
Decriminalization would eliminate the unfair racially- and community-targeted selective enforcement of marijuana laws. At a time when states are facing budget shortfalls, taxing and regulating marijuana would save state and local governments millions of dollars currently spent on enforcement and help raise millions more in revenue. This is money that can be invested in public schools and community and public health programs, including drug treatment.
In the report, the organization also urges lawmakers and law enforcement to reform policing practices, including ending racial profiling as well as unconstitutional stops, frisks, and searches, and also to reform state and federal funding streams that incentivize police to make low-level drug arrests. The full report can be accessed at www.aclu.org/marijuana.
May 21, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2012
Jana Kooren, 651.645.4097 x123; firstname.lastname@example.org
ACLU asks court to protect the First Amendment, and dismiss charges for lawful behavior
St. Paul, Minn. – American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is asking the Court 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.
"It is well-established that the First Amendment protects an individual's right to film police and public officials carrying out their public duty," stated Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU-MN. "It is unfortunate that the Sheriff's office does not believe in protecting this right, and instead are preventing law abiding citizens from exercising their rights."
A hearing on the motion to dismiss will be held on: Wednesday May 22, at 2:00 p.m. in the Honorable Edward Wilson's Courtroom at the Ramsey County District Court located at 15 W. Kellogg Blvd. St. Paul, MN 55102.
ACLU-MN cooperating attorneys are: John Lundquist and Kevin Riach of Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.
The ACLU has created a helpful guide for people who wish to photograph or film police activity. To learn about what is permissible you can visit the ACLU's website.
May 21, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 20, 2013
Contact: Jana Kooren, ACLU-MN,
651-645-4097 x123, email@example.com
Minnesota Lawmakers Inch Forward on Voting Rights But More Work Needs to be Done, say Voting Rights Groups
(ST. PAUL, Minn) –The Minnesota House passed modest reforms to Minnesota’s election systems, but the ACLU-MN and many members of the Voting Rights Coalition—a nonpartisan partnership of civil and voting rights advocates—caution that more work is necessary to make Minnesota’s election systems more convenient and accessible. The groups call on all Minnesota legislators to support true election reform in the next session. The Minnesota Senate is expected to pass the same reforms before the close of the session today.
This year, the legislature approved no-excuse absentee voting; a move that promises to alleviate some long voting lines and allows more citizens to participate. “No excuse absentee voting is a step forward, but it needs to be accompanied by early voting to give working Minnesotans more voting options and to reduce costs,” said Laura Fredrick Wang of the League of Women Voters Minnesota.
The Voting Rights Coalition warns that implementing no-excuse absentee balloting, without the option to vote early in-person, has the potential to increase the cost of Minnesota’s elections, since absentee ballots are much more expensive to process than standard in-person ballots.
Legislators also failed to address the systemic confusion and unfairness regarding the eligibility of citizens on parole or probation to vote. “Current law is confusing because some people convicted of a crime can vote again, while others can’t if they are still completing probation or parole,” said Chuck Samuelson of the ACLU-MN. “If someone has already served their time, it is only fair to restore their voting rights upon release so they have the opportunity to make a positive contribution and participate in our democracy.”
Next session, the Voting Rights Coalition will focus on passing two important measures that would ensure greater access to voting for Minnesotans:
“These simple, commonsense reforms can help ensure that the voices of all Minnesotans can be heard on Election Day,” said Vina Kay of the Organizing Apprenticeship Project. “Our democracy works best when everyone participates.”
Voting Rights Coalition members include, among others: ACLU-MN, League of Women Voters Minnesota, Organizing Apprenticeship Project, Project Vote, Common Cause Minnesota, People for the American Way, Open Access Connections, Jewish Community Action and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.
The Voting Rights Coalition is comprised of a broad spectrum of organizations that have come together with a common goal of protecting voting rights and fighting to ensure that every U.S. citizen can access the ballot box without facing unnecessary restrictions. The United States is one of the leading democracies in the world, and Minnesota leads the United States in voter participation. One of the main goals of the coalition is to make voting easier and more accessible to more Minnesota citizens.
May 14, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 14, 2013
Jana Kooren, ACLU of Minnesota, (651) 485-5925; firstname.lastname@example.org
Robyn Shepherd, ACLU national, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; email@example.com
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota governor Mark Dayton signed a law legalizing marriage for same-sex couples today. Dayton signed the bill shortly after its passage by the state legislature.
Minnesota is now the twelfth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to recognize marriage for same-sex couples. It joins Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Washington, New York, Iowa, Rhode Island, and as of last week, Delaware.
"It has been 40 years since the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed Baker v Nelson, the first marriage equality case in the country," said Charles Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota. "We are pleased that after 40 years of fighting for the freedom to marry, equality has finally been realized for all Minnesotans. We are glad to join the 11 other states and the District of Columbia in recognizing marriage for all loving committed couples."
"We congratulate the people of Minnesota and all those who worked so hard to allow loving and committed couples the freedom to marry," said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "It is thrilling to see Minnesota become the third state in just two weeks to grant same-sex couples the recognition and protection that only marriage can provide."
April 22, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 20, 2013
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union reacted to the apprehension of the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing and statements from federal officials that he would be questioned without being read his Miranda rights.
"The ACLU shares the public's relief that the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has been apprehended," said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. "Every criminal defendant is entitled to be read Miranda rights. The public safety exception should be read narrowly. It applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is not an open-ended exception to the Miranda rule. Additionally, every criminal defendant has a right to be brought before a judge and to have access to counsel. We must not waver from our tried-and-true justice system, even in the most difficult of times. Denial of rights is un-American and will only make it harder to obtain fair convictions."
February 20, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The following is a statement from Chuck Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU-MN, on today’s hearing regarding proposed photo-cop legislation.
“This proposed legislation brings with it so much baggage, the members of the Minnesota Legislature would be wise to abandon it with great haste. The ACLU opposes photo-cop legislation on the very simple premise that the constitution guarantees anyone accused of a criminal offense the right to face their accuser in open court. Replacing police officers with cameras also removes this very basic constitutional right. And despite the selective reporting put forth by the proponents, there is no actual compelling data to suggest that accidents are reduced with the use of these cameras. And then there is the question of the trustworthiness of the company pushing the legislation. A simple Google search of the manufacturers of these devices will show that they bring a great deal of controversy and even corruption nearly everywhere they go. In the past, the legislature would ask if we should make a change like this before asking if we can make the change. The current legislature would be wise to ask if they should do this, as the answer is quite clear.”
For More Information or to set up an interview with Chuck Samuelson, please contact Nate Dybvig at 651.230.3018 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 19, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Teresa Nelson, Legal Director for the ACLU-MN, 651.645.4097 x122
St. Paul, Minn. – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota announced that it has filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against police and the City of Gaylord, the Sibley County Sheriff’s office and others for violating the constitutional rights of Jesus Mendoza Sierra. Ms. Mendoza Sierra’s Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when the defendant officers and deputies arrested, detained and interrogated her in March of 2012, after the driver of the car she was in was arrested.
Police had no reason to suspect Ms. Mendoza Sierra had committed any criminal activity. Rather, the officers assumed that, because she was Hispanic, she was illegally in the United States. Despite being informed that she had valid Minnesota identification and had no warrants, these officers brought her to the police department where they detained and interrogated her. She was only released after officers took her to her home and entered her bedroom to look at her private immigration documents. Audio from the day of the incident includes a segment in which defendant Gaylord Police Officer Jeff Milette can be heard saying “look at the monkeys, look at the monkeys” in reference to some Latinos in the jail lockup.
The lawsuit seeks damages, declaratory and injunctive relief for the violations of Ms. Mendoza Sierra’s rights.
“In over twenty years of handling §1983 civil rights cases, this is the most blatant disregard of an individual based on ethnicity and national origin by police that I have seen,” stated cooperating attorney Albert Goins.
“The ACLU is greatly concerned about the attitude of law enforcement toward minorities in Gaylord and throughout the state,” stated Charles Samuelson, Executive Director for the ACLU-MN. “Ms. Mendoza Sierra should not have suffered the indignities that she did at the hands of licensed peace officers whose mission is to ‘Protect and Serve.’”
Attorneys working on the case are: cooperating attorney Albert Goins, Goins Law Offices, Ltd. in Minneapolis, Ian Bratlie, Staff Attorney for the Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project of the ACLU-MN in Mankato, and Teresa Nelson, ACLU-MN Legal Director.
December 05, 2012
The Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project North, of the American Civil Liberties Union-Minnesota is now accepting applications for the fourth annual "Art from Within" exhibit, slated for April 2013. The Art from Within show features artwork that gives a personal and compelling view into the lives of real people whose civil liberties, protected under the Bill of Rights, have been challenged. Artists relate to the art show both literally (art produced within the prison) or metaphorically. Past exhibits highlighted the works by Ojibwe artists as well as individuals impacted by incarceration.
Now in its fourth year, Art from Within provides an important venue for American Indians as well as non-Natives who have been impacted by the criminal justice system, to express their lived experiences through the medium of art. This year's theme focuses on artists' feelings and understandings about what the Bill of Rights means to them. First Amendment freedom of expression is guaranteed for all who reside in the United States, regardless of their civil status. Art is another way that those whose voices are often suppressed can find an audience.
The call for entries is open to emerging or established artists. American Indians from Minnesotan tribes are strongly encouraged to submit entries, as well as youth from northern Minnesota. Applications are due by March 5th, 2013. The opening reception will take place on April 5th, 2013 at the Headwaters School of Music, Bemidji. The exhibit will run from April 5th through April 27th. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Region 2 Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending and expanding individual rights and personal freedom. The ACLU is the nation's foremost guardian of liberty. The ACLU-MN fights to protect civil liberties of Minnesotans through litigation, public education, and lobbying. The Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project North provides public education regarding racial justice issues through community outreach, court-monitoring, and intake services.
Fill out an application to be a part of the show today! Applications are due March 5.