Media Contact

Contact: Lynette Kalsnes,, 612-274-7785

December 11, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (Dec. 12, 2018) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is proud to announce the award of "Minnesota Lawyer Attorneys of the Year 2018” to ACLU-MN Executive Director John Gordon; and to the team of Teresa Nelson and Ian Bratlie from ACLU-MN and attorneys Jen Cornell and Allyson Petersen from Nilan Johnson Lewis.

The award to Gordon is for his work ensuring a smooth leadership transition at ACLU-MN following the retirement of its longtime executive director and the increasing litigation docket the ACLU-MN has built in the past two years to protect our constitutional rights.

“I am happy that the hard work the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota does defending our precious civil liberties, and the essential nature of this work, are being recognized by this award,” Gordon said.

The award to Nelson, Bratlie, Cornell and Petersen is for their work representing Anthony Promvongsa in his excessive-force lawsuit against the Worthington Police Department, the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force and the City of Worthington, which Nilan Johnson Lewis took on as a pro bono project.

In October 2018, the team secured a settlement from the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force and the City of Worthington resulting from Promvongsa’s mistreatment during a 2016 traffic stop.

While on his way to a GED class, Promvongsa was pulled over for allegedly tailgating off-duty officers. The lawsuit contended that during the traffic stop, an officer rushed Promvongsa’s vehicle with his gun drawn and then physically assaulted him while he was still in his vehicle. The attack was captured on squad video.

“We are pleased to have earned this award but are even happier to have helped Anthony Promvongsa receive his rightful settlement and recognition for the physical and emotional pain that he was forced to endure,” said ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson.

In addition to a $60,000 payment to Promvongsa, the settlement included a number of changes to the police department’s use-of-force policy designed to ensure accountability for officers’ conduct. Under the policy changes, all police officers will annually receive certified training on use of force, felony stops and de-escalation. The settlement also includes changes to the civilian complaint process, which will make it easier for citizens to report police misconduct in the future.

“We are very proud of Jen and Allyson for their handling of this difficult case as well as their ability to work as a team with Ian and Teresa from ACLU-MN to achieve significant results that will not only help Anthony but also improve the community,” stated Stephen Warch, president of Nilan Johnson Lewis. 

The attorneys will be honored with other award recipients at a banquet hosted by Minnesota Lawyer on Feb. 13, 2019.

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CONTACT: Lynette Kalsnes, ACLU-MN