The incoming Minnesota Attorney General has tapped two ACLU of Minnesota staff members for his transition team.

Attorney General-Elect Keith Ellison announced Monday evening that he has appointed 36 people to his Transition Advisory Committee, including ACLU-MN staff attorney David McKinney and Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project coordinator Julio Zelaya.

“We are hitting the ground running,” Attorney General-elect Ellison said. “I could not be more thankful that this terrific set of people from all walks of life and regions of Minnesota have agreed to advise, support, and challenge me as I prepare to become the People’s Lawyer. This committee reflects my conviction that the office of the Attorney General is not about one person, it’s about all the people of Minnesota, no exceptions.”

“We are proud to have our staff members chosen to serve as advocates for Minnesotans’ civil liberties, and are encouraged by this indication that the incoming Attorney General will make a priority of respecting those precious rights,” said John Gordon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Minnesota.

The ACLU of Minnesota is nonprofit and nonpartisan, and does not receive government funding. The ACLU-MN staff will serve on the transition team in an advisory role, advocating for civil liberties and civil rights as Ellison determines his priorities for his new administration and hires his staff.

“Mr. Ellison ran on a campaign that promised to defend the equal rights of Minnesotans to have the dignity and respect they deserve, and I look forward to providing him with important perspectives on those crucial issues,” said McKinney, a staff attorney on ACLU-MN’s legal team. McKinney identifies potential civil liberties violations and works to protect those liberties through litigation and legal advocacy.

McKinney has a law degree, a master’s degree in religion and a bachelor’s in business ethics. He was raised in under-resourced and over-policed neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago. After becoming the first in his family to graduate from college, he considered going into the ministry, but realized his calling was fueled by his desire to seek social justice. McKinney worked at two large Twin Cities law firms before joining ACLU-MN to focus on protecting and advancing constitutional rights and civil liberties.

“I feel honored by this opportunity to serve our state and in particular, to be a strong voice for the liberties and rights of our communities outside the metro,” Zelaya said. “We take forth the needs, the challenges, as well as the advantages of rural life — fully committed to the declaration of justice for all.”     

As coordinator of ACLU-MN’s Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project, Zelaya’s work is based within rural communities, where isolated immigrant populations and people of color are among the most vulnerable to constitutional due process and equal-protection violations. 

Zelaya currently sits on the Minnesota Latino Affairs Council, and the Committee for Equality and Justice in the Fifth Judicial District of Minnesota. He is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, where he studied political science and theater.