New ACLU Ad Faults Lawmakers for Intruding in Missourians’ Private Lives

August 25, 2014

Ad Asks Missourians to Speak Out in Opposition to HB 1307

With the Missouri legislature’s annual veto session only weeks away, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLU of Missouri) today released an ad that faults lawmakers for intruding in Missourians’ private lives. The ad, which can be viewed here, urges Missourians to contact their state lawmaker and oppose any effort to override the veto of House Bill 1307.

HB 1307 would make Missouri one of only three states in the country to mandate a 72-hour forced delay for a woman needing an abortion.

“Preventing further intrusion into private medical decisions should be an issue that both Republicans and Democrats can rally around,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. “In Missouri our elected officials have an opportunity to protect our privacy against this political intrusion by sustaining the veto of HB 1307. We hope these ads will encourage Missourians to speak out against this extreme measure.”

The ACLU of Missouri said the fight to sustain the veto of HB 1307 is a natural extension of their support for other privacy measures. For example, the ACLU was one of the leading supporters of the highly successful Amendment 9 privacy amendment, which passed on the August primary ballot with 75 percent of the vote statewide.

ACLU Receives Ferguson Police Department's Incident Report on Fatal Michael Brown Shooting

August 22, 2014

On Aug. 12, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri asked the Ferguson Police Department to release the incident report for the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown. After the request was denied, the ACLU filed a Missouri Sunshine Law suit on Aug. 15. Late Thursday afternoon, the ACLU received a heavily redacted copy of the incident report.

“It’s been nearly two weeks and Ferguson is still hiding information regarding the fatal shooting of Michael Brown,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “It is long past time for the Ferguson Police Department to begin building public trust and the first step is to release a complete copy of the incident report.”

ACLU Asks Col Replogle to Remove Inappropriate Officer

August 20, 2014

On Wednesday, Aug. 20, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri faxed a letter to Colonel Ron Replogle, superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, asking him to identify and remove a police officer who demonstrated an inability to perform appropriately in Ferguson on Tuesday, Aug. 19. The officer pointed an assault weapon at civilians and threatened to kill them. When asked to identify himself, the officer responded with profanity.

“This officer’s actions heighten the tension surrounding Ferguson,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “I am hopeful that Col. Replogle will respond swiftly because this behavior is contrary to the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s effort to build positive relations with the community.”

A representative of the Missouri State Highway Patrol informed the ACLU Wednesday afternoon that the offending officer has been identified as a St. Ann cop and he has been removed from duty in Ferguson. The ACLU sent Col. Replogle a thank you letter for his swift action.

ACLU and Civil Rights Groups Call for End to Ferguson Curfew

August 17, 2014

Ferguson: On the Ground

By Diane Balogh, ACLU of Missouri

In the wake of the Michael Brown tragedy last week, the ACLU has been working diligently to shed light on what transpired, as well as preserve First Amendment Rights for the community and media.

Here's how we are working on behalf of the community and people of Ferguson:
The ACLU of Missouri filed two Missouri Sunshine Law suits to receive copies of the incident reports from both the St. Louis County and the Ferguson Police Departments. Both have refused to turn over the reports that should contain details regarding the shooting, and police transparency is key to a fair and just investigation.

On Thursday, we also challenged the police policy of ordering members of the media and public to stop recording the police acting in their official duty on public streets and sidewalks. This was resolved late Friday with an agreement between the involved parties that the media and members of the public have the right to record public events unless it obstructs the activities or threatens the safety of others, or physically interferes with the ability of law enforcement officers to perform their duties.

We're working hard to protect First Amendment Rights on the ground as well, assembling volunteers to assist with legal observation at community gatherings and marches in Ferguson. They are also distributing "What to Do If You are Stopped by Police, Immigration or FBI Agents" cards, along with "Know Your Rights at a Protest" flyers at demonstrations. Citizens have been encouraged through social media to file an intake form with the ACLU, if they feel they have been victims of police overreach.

On Saturday, Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and has put a curfew in place from midnight until 5 a.m. Today, along with NAACP-LDF and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, we released a statement about the civil liberties concerns surrounding the curfew, which is set to go into effect for a second night in a row. You can find the statement on the National ACLU website.

ACLU Secures Agreement for Right to Record Police

August 15, 2014

On Aug. 15, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, St. Louis County, the City of Ferguson and the Missouri Highway Patrol reached an agreement in federal court for the right to record police. This action was prompted when videographers were commanded to turn off their video cameras Wednesday evening at a gathering of protesters held to demand justice in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

The signing parties ― attorneys representing the ACLU of Missouri, St. Louis County, the City of Ferguson and the Superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol ― “acknowledge and agree that the media and members of the public have the right to record public events without abridgement unless it obstructs the activities or threatens the safety of others, or physically interferes with the ability of law enforcement officers to perform their duties.”

“The role of both the media and the ACLU is to make sure that the rule of law is being followed,” explains Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “It will be easier to do that in Ferguson, now that all parties agree the media, and the public at large, have the right to record police interactions.”

“The grief of our community should not be compounded by First Amendment violations,” says Jeffrey A. Mittman, ACLU of Missouri executive director. “Rest assured that the ACLU is working hard to make sure mourners can peacefully assemble without the threat of being told to turn off their cameras.”

City of Ferguson Warned of First Amendment Violations

August 13, 2014

On Aug. 13, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri sent a letter to Ferguson Police Department Chief of Police Thomas Jackson regarding concerns with Ferguson's ask that vigils be held during daylight hours.

ACLU Files Sunshine Law Suit to Obtain FBI Audit

July 16, 2014

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLU of Missouri) filed a Sunshine Law suit July 16 against St. Louis County because the County will not release an FBI audit regarding the embezzlement of county funds by Edward Mueth.

The ACLU of Missouri made a Sunshine Law request for the report, along with other related documents on July 2. On July 7, the ACLU received a letter from St. Louis County Counselor Patricia Redington denying the FBI audit report. Media reports later stated that the County asked the U.S. Attorney for permission to comply with the Sunshine Law.

“St. Louis County knows that if there is a question about whether or not records are public under Missouri’s Sunshine Law, the correct procedure is to file a state court proceeding, not ask the U.S. attorney,” explains Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU of Missouri. “Failing to ask the Court for guidance is the County’s attempt to skirt the Sunshine Law.”

“It is unfortunate that it is necessary for the ACLU to ask the Court to take action against St. Louis County for violating the Sunshine Law again, but the need for transparency is too important to ignore,” said ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey A. Mittman. “If it was important enough for the chief of police to request an outside audit by the federal government and for county officials to know the results of that audit, then the public also has a right to know.”

PPP Poll Shows Missourians Oppose 72-Hour Forced Delay Bill

July 08, 2014

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLU of Missouri) released a poll July 8 which shows that 71 percent of Missouri voters want their legislators focusing on jobs and the economy rather than spending more time debating legislation which would force a 72-hour delay on a woman seeking an abortion.

Public Policy Polling (PPP) conducted the poll (summary attached here) of 759 Missouri voters on July 2 and 3, immediately following Gov. Nixon’s veto last week. It found that only 43 percent of Missourians support the legislation, while 50 percent oppose the measure. The data also found that the intensity on this issue is clearly with those opposed to the bill. Fifty-four percent of opponents said how a legislator voted on this bill would impact whether they voted for that lawmaker in November, compared to only 40 percent of bill supporters.

“This poll clearly demonstrates that Missourians oppose this controversial measure,” said ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey A. Mittman. “Hard-working Missouri citizens want their elected officials in Jefferson City focused on bread-and-butter economic priorities like jobs, not pushing for more extreme political intrusion into a private medical decision.”

If supporters continue to push for an override, HB 1307 is expected to be one of the more high-profile measures debated in early September when the Missouri General Assembly reconvenes for its annual veto session.

ACLU Challenges Deceptive Ballot Language on HJR 90—the Sham “Early Voting” Ballot Initiative

July 03, 2014

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLU of Missouri) filed a petition on behalf of Civil Rights Leader Norman Seay, challenging the deceptive summary statement for a sham early voting constitutional amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The summary statement that would appear on the ballot was written by the General Assembly, instead of the Secretary of State, who generally prepares the language that voters see on their ballots. It says:Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to permit voting in person or by mail for a period of six business days prior to and including Wednesday before the election day in all general elections?

“This is an untrue statement because advance voting will only be allowed after a state appropriation and disbursement of millions of dollars,” explains Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Especially troubling is the fact that this proposed constitutional amendment will appear on the ballot along with a separate citizen initiative that would permit early voting without an appropriation contingency.”

“Citizens gathered signatures to allow early voting, but the legislature is trying to trick the voters with a sham constitutional amendment that intentionally misleads,” says ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey A. Mittman. “Instead of throwing up roadblocks, our state representatives need to promote democracy by ensuring everyone can cast a ballot.”

Court documents can be found on the website.

ACLU of Missouri Applauds Nixon Veto of Controversial 72-hour Abortion Bill

July 02, 2014

ST. LOUIS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLU of Missouri) released the following statement in response to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoing HB 1307, which would have blocked care for a woman needing an abortion in Missouri for three days.

“This bill isn’t about helping women,” said ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman. “This legislation is simply further intrusion by politicians into a woman’s private medical decisions. Governor Nixon deserves our thanks for continuing to focus on important issues such as jobs and the economy, unlike legislators who insist on wasting time and money pursuing their own extreme political agendas. Governor Nixon’s veto will help protect the health of women in Missouri.”