Join ACLU of Missouri at the Women's March

January 16, 2017

The ACLU of Missouri is proud to support and participate in the Women's Marches happening across our state. We invite you to join us in a day of solidarity, action, and organizing on Saturday, January 21. 

Missouri's sister marches can be found on the National Women's March website.

For information on the local marches in Missouri, RSVP on the Facebook event pages:  

Additionally, there will be an Action Fair following the St. Louis Women's March. 
 
If you are in the St. Louis area and would like to spend a couple hours creating your own sign to carry during Saturday's events, please check out our poster-making event on Thursday.
 
To volunteer with ACLU for these events, please contact outreach@aclu-mo.org or call 314.669.3419.
 
If you are not in Missouri and wish to find Women's March and ACLU events in your area, please visit the ACLU's guide to state-by-state events in your area

Accountable Policing: It's Time to Do the Work

January 12, 2017

With pomp and circumstance, Missouri inaugurated its 56th governor, Eric Greitens, in Jefferson City on Monday. Now with all officials sworn in after one of the most tumultuous elections ever, this week the Missouri Legislature began its efforts to dismantle the rights of Missourians.

In his speech, Greitens recognized our state's history of racial inequality and our current state of political divisiveness. He called on Missourians to work together:

"This state in the heart of America has proven that the worst in our history can be overcome by the best in our people.It was here that a slave named Dred Scott was told by the United States Supreme Court that a black man had no rights that a white man need respect—and it was a son of Missouri, a poet named Langston Hughes, who delivered the best answer to Dred Scott's unjust judges, when he said: “I, too, am America.”In that same spirit, we are all Missouri."

We, too, are America. That's why at the ACLU of Missouri, we work to protect the rights of ALL in our state.

That's also why we support the Fourth Amendment Affirmation Act, filed in the Missouri Senate this week by Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, to reduce racial disparities in policing in Missouri.

African-American drivers in Missouri are 69 percent more likely to be stopped than whites, according to a 2015 report from the Missouri attorney general's office. This unequal treatment of racial minorities while driving has been documented for more than 15 years.

The bill:

  • Formally prohibits bias in policing.
  • Creates accountability by requiring law enforcement to track pedestrian stops and other demographic information.
  • Encourages dialogue between law enforcement and those they serve through community partnerships.
  • Is an opportunity for Missouri to set the standard of equal treatment in policing.

We'll be fighting for the rights of ALL Missourians this legislative session. Just like we do every day.

Join us. Sign up for our Voices of Liberty Lobby Day happening on Tuesday, February 28, at the state Capitol.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey A. Mittman
Executive Director
ACLU of Missouri

ACLU of Missouri Supports Fourth Amendment Affirmation Act

January 11, 2017

Bill Provides Solutions to Reduce Racial Disparities in Policing Across Missouri

The ACLU of Missouri supports the Fourth Amendment Affirmation Act, recently filed in the Missouri Senate, to reduce racial disparities in policing in Missouri.

African-American drivers in Missouri are 69 percent more likely to be stopped than whites, according to a 2015 report from the Missouri attorney general’s office.  This unequal treatment of racial minorities while driving has been documented for more than 15 years.

The Fourth Amendment Affirmation Act, filed by Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, would begin to minimize racial disparities in policing and develop trust between law enforcement agencies and communities.

“To ensure no Missourian is stopped by police because of their race, we need to understand and fix the causes of racial disparities in policing,” said Jeffrey Mittman, ACLU of Missouri Executive Director. “This bill provides training for law enforcement.  It provides data to communities and police departments that believe they are policing appropriately and ensures that pedestrians will no longer be stopped simply because of their racial or ethnic group, age, or gender.”

 Communities shouldn’t have to worry about not being treated equally,” said Nasheed. “The Fourth Amendment Affirmation Act provides the information needed to recognize those departments that police minority communities unfairly, and those departments that protect and serve all.”

The bill includes flexibility and time for departments to address challenges the data reveals and carries penalties for law enforcement agencies that fail to comply year after year.

Read the bill: http://on.mo.gov/2jkJzx6

Resolve To Get Involved in 2017

January 05, 2017

This New Year, we ask you to add one more resolution for 2017: Get involved.

Stand with the ACLU of Missouri to help us defend the rights of all Missourians. The time is now. It is more important than ever that we unite and for equality. For justice. For each other.

Here are a few ways:

  • Stand up and speak out at our Lobby Day on Tuesday, February 28 in Jefferson City. We’ll teach you how to best advocate for the issues you believe in and engage with state representatives and senators.
  • Connect with your local officials. Know who represents you and how to reach them They may be in office but you still have a voice. Get involved. Hold elected officials accountable.
  • Know your rights. Learn what your rights are with law enforcement, at protests, and in schools. Dissent is patriotic.
  • Learn the issues. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn more about the issues affecting your community, including weekly updates on the 2017 Missouri Legislative Session.
  • Volunteer. Use your talents to help us with outreach, events and special projects.
  • Donate. Become a card-carrying member of the ACLU of Missouri. Every dollar helps our fight for justice through our legislation, litigation and education efforts.

In 2017, we resolve to keep on fighting for you.

Jeffrey A. Mittman
Executive Director
ACLU of Missouri 

Statement from the ACLU of Missouri on Missouri's Criminal Law Changes and Student Rights

December 30, 2016

Many of you have come to us expressing concern after a media flurry about upcoming changes to Missouri’s criminal laws.

Recently, these changes have been reported out of context as requiring students as young as five to be charged with felonies for ordinary discipline issues that should be handled by the schools.

These upcoming changes will likely not affect the result of the existing laws.

It has been the law that children can be charged as adults, but these cases are extremely rare (less than a quarter of a percent). Those children must go through the juvenile justice system and be certified as adults before they can be tried for a felony.

Missouri schools increasingly attempt to address student behavior problems by outsourcing discipline management strategies to law enforcement. This is where we have the deepest concerns.

The school-to-prison pipeline is a very real problem in Missouri -- the state has the highest rate of school discipline disparity in the nation. Black students are three times as likely to be suspended or expelled for comparable disturbances as white students. This unequal treatment makes it harder for these young people to succeed as adults.

ACLU Files Motion to Stop Illegal Voting System in Ferguson-Florissant School District

December 22, 2016

 

ST. LOUIS -- The ACLU of Missouri and the ACLU Voting Rights Project have filed an emergency motion today to stop the Ferguson-Florissant School District from conducting its school board election under a system that a federal court found violates the Voting Rights Act.

“The court found that the Ferguson-Florissant School Board’s election system violates the federal Voting Rights Act, so allowing an election to go forward in April without a remedy would be illegal,” said ACLU of Missouri Legal Director Tony Rothert. “Entering this stay is incorrect and we are seeking a review of this decision.”

Today, the ACLU filed an emergency motion after the district court judge issued a stay of the order moving the district to a cumulative voting system.

ACLU lawyers filed a lawsuit in 2014 on behalf of the Ferguson-Florissant community and the Missouri NAACP that the district’s school district’s electoral system discriminates against African-American residents.

In November, a federal judge ruled in favor of a cumulative voting system to remedy the Voting Rights Act violation in the Ferguson-Florissant School District’s process for electing school board members.  The Ferguson-Florissant School District did not offer any proposed remedies.

Read the motion: http://bit.ly/2il45wh

About the ACLU of Missouri: The ACLU of Missouri preserves and expands the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Missourians as guaranteed in the Missouri and U.S. Constitutions, with a focus on the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments.

About the ACLU Voting Rights Project: Established in 1965, the ACLU Voting Rights Project has worked to protect the gains in political participation won by racial and language minorities since passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). And since its inception, the Voting Rights Project has litigated over 300 voting rights cases, and has aggressively and successfully challenged efforts that dilute minority voting strength or obstruct the ability of minority communities to elect candidates of their choice.

 

 

Category: Voting Rights

Mandatory Drug Testing of College Students Unconstitutional

December 22, 2016

State Technical College of Missouri no longer allowed to require testing of incoming students.

 

A federal appeals court today found that requiring college students to take a drug test as a condition of enrollment violates the U.S. Constitution.

The ACLU of Missouri and the national ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project filed a class-action lawsuit against Linn State Technical College (now known as State Technical College of Missouri) on behalf of several students who were required to take a drug test in order to remain enrolled, even though the College had no reason to believe that the students were abusing drugs and no documented problems with drugs in the college’s 50-year history.

 “We shouldn’t treat students seeking to better their lives through education with immediate suspicion,” said ACLU of Missouri Legal Director Tony Rothert. “Under the Fourth Amendment, every person has the right to be free from an unreasonable search and seizure—including college students.”

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction issued by the trial court prohibiting the College from implementing this unconstitutional policy.

 "Students should not be required to sacrifice their constitutional rights in order to further their education, and we're thrilled that the court has permanently struck down the policy,” said Jason Williamson, senior staff attorney at the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, and co-counsel on the case. “Our victory should serve as a warning to colleges and universities across the country: mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of the entire student body is inefficient, ineffective, and grossly unconstitutional.”

Read the full decision here. 

About the ACLU of Missouri: The ACLU of Missouri preserves and expands the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Missourians as guaranteed in the Missouri and U.S. Constitutions, with a focus on the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments.

About the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project: The Criminal Law Reform Project is a division of the national ACLU that aims  to put an end to excessively harsh crime policies that result in mass incarceration and stand in the way of a just and equal society.

ACLU of Missouri Statement on Overturning of Michael Johnson Conviction

December 19, 2016

The ACLU of Missouri firmly agrees with the Missouri Court of Appeals decision overturning Michael Johnson’s unconstitutional conviction and 30-year sentence.

“While the Court of Appeals correctly recognized that Johnson’s conviction was based on violation of his right to a fair trial, that is just the beginning of the trouble with this entire case,” said ACLU of Missouri Legal Director Tony Rothert. “The law under which he is charged is based on outdated science from a time when HIV policy was based on panic.  The prosecution used that fear, along with racism and homophobia, to get a conviction.”

In 2015, a St. Charles jury sentenced 23-year-old Johnson, a young, black gay man living with HIV, to over three decades in prison for allegedly exposing consensual sexual partners to HIV.

The ACLU of Missouri, together with other organizations including the Center for HIV Law and Policy, filed an amicus curiae brief in Johnson’s defense in April. Lawrence S. Lustberg and Avam Frey of Gibbons P.C., Newark, were lead counsel.

Lawsuit Challenges Missouri Department of Corrections’ Lack of Hepatitis C Treatment

December 15, 2016

Inmates denied right to life-saving care, says Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and ACLU

The Missouri Department of Corrections and its healthcare provider are intentionally defying medical standards in refusing to adequately treat the thousands of inmates with hepatitis C.

The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center (MJC) at St. Louis and the ACLU of Missouri jointly filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of Missourians who are asking for their constitutional and statutory rights to life-saving treatment while in prison.

“We are pleased and proud to be taking on this important life and death legal issue with our partners at ACLU,” said MJC Director Mae Quinn.

MJC Staff Attorney Amy Breihan notes,“The Missouri Department of Corrections is taking a short-sighted view of a public health crisis. Despite the fact that there are several effective drugs on the market, the Department of Corrections denies medical care to the thousands in its custody.” In January 2015, the Missouri Department of Corrections reported that it was treating 0.11 percent of hepatitis C-positive inmates under its supervision, or 5 out of 4,736 inmates.

“Prison officials are torturing hundreds of inmates—sometimes to death—by withholding a cure to an often fatal disease,” said ACLU of Missouri Legal Director Tony Rothert. “This failure to respect human life and dignity not only violates the Constitution, but also sharply increases the cost of treatment the state must pay when their condition worsens, as well as for the other inmates who will contract hepatitis C because officials have chosen to needlessly expose them to an untreated, highly infectious disease.”

At least 10 to 15 percent of the population under the supervision, care, and custody of the Missouri Department of Corrections is infected with hepatitis C. The exact number of hepatitis C-positive inmates is unknown because of lack of routine testing.

The current guidance for treatment of hepatitis C, jointly set by the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease and the Infectious Disease Society of America, definitively establishes a 12-week treatment regimen with direct-acting, anti-viral drugs as the medically accepted standard of care. This treatment results in curing the disease in at least 90 percent of cases.

At a time when the medical treatments have become more effective in treating hepatitis C, the Missouri Department of Corrections has become even more willfully indifferent by changing its procedures to focus on the cost of the care, instead of current medical standards. 

Each day without treatment increases a person’s likelihood of developing chronic liver disease, fibrosis, cirrhosis, liver cancer, painful complications, death from liver failure, and the risk of transmitting hepatitis C to others.

The hepatitis C virus kills more people in the U.S. than HIV and dozens of other infectious diseases combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The suit was filed in the U.S. Western District of Missouri.

Read the complaint.

ACLU: Ferguson-Florissant School Board Appeal Hurts Students, Keeps Racially Discriminatory System in Place

December 12, 2016

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri is extremely dismayed at the Ferguson-Florissant School Board’s plan to appeal a federal court ruling which found the district’s electoral system to be racially discriminatory.

“At this time, the school board is spending more time enriching its attorneys than ensuring the best education for its students,” said ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman. 

Earlier this year, a federal judge found the school district’s electoral system discriminates against African-American residents in violation of the Voting Rights Act after a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU.

“Even after a multi-day trial with expert testimony, the school district continues to pretend the complex, well-documented set of factors contributing to lessening the power of African-American voters doesn’t exist,” Mittman said.

In November, the judge ruled in favor of a cumulative voting system to remedy the Voting Rights Act violation in the Ferguson-Florissant School District’s process for electing school board members.  The Ferguson-Florissant School District did not offer any proposed remedies.

“The time and resources the school board continues to devote to defending its racially discriminatory election system, instead of educating its children, is shameful," said Julie Ebenstein, staff attorney with the ACLU's Voting Rights Project.

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