Important: All legal claims have time deadlines.  Please be careful when requesting assistance for an issue with an upcoming deadline.  If you are concerned about whether the time for bringing a complaint or an upcoming deadline (such as a hearing or trial date,) is about to pass, you SHOULD NOT rely on filing an ACLU complaint to protect you; instead, it is highly recommended that you continue to seek legal assistance elsewhere.  The ACLU is NOT an attorney referral service.  For a list of attorneys, and/or for information about organizations that assist low-income Minnesotans with legal matters, we recommend you consult:

What Does the Legal Department Do?

The organization is not a provider of general legal services; it only litigates cases where there has been a violation of a person’s civil rights, primarily by the government. We do not practice criminal law or generally take cases where rights have been violated by a private entity. Accordingly, the ACLU of Minnesota does not provide legal advice pertaining to specific cases, or legal representation, on demand.  Instead, the main focus of the ACLU Legal Department is to bring high-impact cases that affect the civil liberties of large numbers of people.

What cases does the ACLU of Minnesota NOT handle?

The ACLU of Minnesota does not handle matters that arise outside of Minnesota.  Because of the nature of civil liberties claims, only rarely does the ACLU of Minnesota takes a case that does not involve the government.

Additionally, the ACLU of Minnesota does NOT generally accept the following types of cases:

  • An individual being fired from a job without a good reason or just cause.
  • An individual being denied benefits, such as worker’s compensation or unemployment benefits.
  • Criminal defense or post-conviction appeal.  (The ACLU of Minnesota considers criminal cases ONLY in limited circumstances.  For example, when a person is being prosecuted for engaging in activity protected by the Constitution.) 
  • Domestic Matters: This includes family law, divorce, child custody, child support, parenting time, visitation, or other similar cases.
  • Complaints about Lawyers or Judges: For complaints regarding lawyers or judges, please file a complaint with the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility (available here or by calling 1-800-657-3601.)
  • Private Civil Disputes: This includes contractual matters between private parties.
  • Complaints against tribal government entities such as tribal police, tribal courts, and tribal child welfare agencies.

How does the ACLU of Minnesota decide to offer assistance to those requesting it?

The ACLU of Minnesota generally accepts cases that affect the civil liberties of large numbers of people, rather than those involving a dispute between two parties.  Before accepting a case, the ACLU of Minnesota considers:

1) Does the case raise a civil liberties or civil rights issue? 

The Civil Liberties and Civil Rights we seek to protect include but are not limited to:

  • Freedom of Speech and Press
  • Freedom of Religion
  • Privacy
  • Equal Protection/Discrimination
  • Due Process

2) What impact will the case have on people other than the parties involved?  Lawsuits can affect a large number of people in two ways.  First, we sometimes challenge a policy or practice which directly impacts many people.  Second, a lawsuit brought on behalf of one person can have a larger impact on others in the long run when it establishes or expands legal protections.

3) How likely is it that a court will reach the civil liberties issue?  Generally, the ACLU of Minnesota will not accept a case that involves complicated disputes of facts.  Facts are considered to be in dispute whenever you have one version of what happened and the other party or parties have a different view.  An example of a factual dispute is an employment discrimination case where the employer claims he fired the employee because of poor job performance and has credible evidence to support that claim, but the employee disputes this claim and has credible evidence of her own.

We often will not accept cases involving factual disputes because: (1) If a court resolves the facts against the client, it may never reach the civil liberties or civil rights issues; (2) if the decision rests upon the particular facts of a case, it is unlikely to have an impact on a large number of people; and (3) we have very limited resources and it is often very expensive and time-consuming to prove particular facts in a case.

4) Does the ACLU of Minnesota have the necessary resources to take the case?

Why does the ACLU of Minnesota turn down cases that fall within the above guidelines for acceptance?

There are many cases and problems of unfairness and injustice which the ACLU of Minnesota is simply unable to handle.  We receive many requests for assistance each month and have limited staff and resources, due to the fact that the ACLU of Minnesota is funded solely through donations and does not receive any government funding.  Therefore, we cannot accept all of the complaints that fall within the guidelines discussed above.  We must select those which we believe will have the greatest impact on protecting civil liberties.

How does the ACLU intake process work?

Each complaint is reviewed by legal department staff to determine (1) whether it constitutes civil liberties or civil rights violation; and (2) meets the above-listed guidelines for acceptance.  If the ACLU of Minnesota is able to offer you assistance, we will contact you to gather more information.

As each complaint is reviewed by staff, and due to the overwhelming number of requests for assistance and limited staff size, we will only contact you if we are able to provide you with assistance or we need additional information from you.  

Can the ACLU of Minnesota give me advice about my case?

The ACLU of Minnesota is NOT a legal aid service organization.  Accordingly, we are unable to provide advice or other types of assistance (including legal research, reviewing documents, or providing referrals) if we do not accept your case.  This policy allows us to direct the necessary resources to those cases that we do accept.

Has the ACLU of Minnesota agreed to represent me once I submit my complaint?

No.  Submitting a complaint is not a guarantee of legal representation, advice, or assistance by the ACLU of Minnesota.  Please be cautious of any approaching legal deadlines.  If you are concerned about an approaching deadline or have a question about legal deadlines for your case, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you continue to seek legal assistance elsewhere.

How can I submit a complaint to the ACLU of Minnesota?


If your complaint meets the guidelines listed above it can be submitted to the ACLU of Minnesota via the following methods:

1) Submit a complaint electronically (recommended).

Complaints can be submitted using our online intake form here.

2) Submit a complaint by mail

Send a short letter (no more than 1-page) briefly outlining your complaint to:

ACLU of Minnesota

Attn: Legal Department

PO Box 14720 Minneapolis, MN 55414

If you choose to submit a complaint by mail, instead of utilizing the recommended electronic intake form, please DO NOT send original documents pertaining to your case or excessive copies of documents as we cannot guarantee their return due to our limited resources.  If we wish to follow up with you for more information, sending additional documents would be appropriate at that time. 


Click here to fill out a Legal Intake form