ACLU of Missouri Hires New Policy and Legislative Director

December 01, 2016

Sara Baker will work with officials and community organizations across the state

The ACLU of Missouri has hired a new legislative and policy director to work with elected officials and community organizations to protect the rights of all Missourians.

Sara Baker is returning to her home state after serving as Special Projects Manager and Stephen M. Rivers Memorial Fellow at the Center for Democracy in the Americas in Washington D.C.

 “We’re excited to have a passionate advocate who understands how policy affects people,” said ACLU of Missouri Executive Director, Jeffrey Mittman. “Sara’s commitment to civil liberties brings another dimension to our work of protecting the rights of all Missourians.”

Baker is based in the ACLU Kansas City office but will work in Jefferson City during the legislative session.

“I’m eager to build on the great legislative work the ACLU of Missouri has done to protect the rights of so many Missourians,” Baker said.  “I am looking forward to collaborating with legislators and community partners on critical issues in our state.”

Prior to moving to D.C., Baker instructed and organized students in the Global Citizenship Program at Washington University in St. Louis. At Washington University, she served as a policy fellow for the American Association of University Women, where she advocated for legislation to curb sexual assault on campus and in favor of equal pay.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in International and Area Studies and Spanish, and a Master of Arts in International Affairs, both from Washington University in St. Louis.

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.

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Category: Uncategorized

Statement on Missouri Supreme Court Judge Richard B. Teitelman

November 29, 2016

Missouri has lost one of its great judicial minds today with the death of Missouri Supreme Court Judge Richard B. Teitelman.

Judge Teitelman saw the courts as a place where everyone should be treated equally and have an equal opportunity for justice.

We are saddened by this loss. Our condolences are with his family, friends and all of those on the bench and bar who loved Judge Teitelman dearly.

How Your Support Helps Missouri

November 23, 2016

It was around 10 p.m. on election night when our ACLU of Missouri team started e-mailing one another.  We knew that  that every issue we work on and every fight we take up was on the line.

The next day was tough – for our team, for our colleagues at our national offices and in our affiliates in every state across the country.  It was tough for millions of Americans everywhere – DREAM’ers, women, Muslim-Americans, immigrants, LGBTQ folks, religious minorities, and communities of color. The fear, the anxiety, the sense of being attacked were palpable. 

 But our team knew we had to refocus on: “What’s next?”

 As if their response weren’t inspiring enough, what happened next truly gives me hope because so many of you reached out with the same question:  “What’s next?”

Since the election, we have been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from across the country -- and from right here in Missouri. Countless numbers of you joined us as members, made generous contributions and signed up to volunteer.  

 Here is exactly where your support is going, and how we will use it to help protect the rights of every Missourian:

  • Continuing our fight for fair and accountable policing and comprehensive criminal justice reform.
  • Standing up for the almost 230,000 immigrants in Missouri, including the DREAMers seeking a college education in our state.
  • Fighting any and all efforts to take back hard-earned victories for LGBTQ equality.
  • Safeguarding the rights of our Muslim citizens to practice their religion freely and openly, without having to register in a national database.
  • Combating efforts to further restrict or criminalize a woman’s right to choose.

Without a doubt, there is work to do.  We’re a small staff in Missouri with a big job.  Your support goes directly to making sure we’re able to be in courtrooms and communities across our state providing advocacy, legal, and public education services to those in need,free of charge.

The arc of the universe may well bend toward justice. But there’s no reason we shouldn’t do everything in our power to help it along.  Please, if you haven’t already, become a member and commit to fighting alongside us.

Sincerely,

 

Jeffrey A. Mittman
Executive Director
ACLU of Missouri 

Court Confirms Missouri Department of Corrections Knowingly Violated Sunshine Law

November 22, 2016

State refused to provide information to ACLU and media related to execution witness selection process

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An appeals court today confirmed the Missouri Department of Corrections knowingly violated the Sunshine Law when it refused to provide information related to the state’s execution witness selection process to the ACLU of Missouri.

“As the state auditor’s recent look at sunshine law compliance found, it is not uncommon for government agencies to ignore the law,” said ACLU of Missouri Legal Director Tony Rothert. “Transparency is essential to the people being able to trust how their government functions.”

The ACLU of Missouri sued to obtain copies of requests by the public or the media to witness executions, the department’s response to those requests, and all records indicating the actual witnesses to executions in the past year. Initially, the department released a handful of heavily censored documents. Following the revelation that potential execution witness candidates are first asked their position on the death penalty, the ACLU sought the requests to determine if the Missouri Department of Corrections was selecting witnesses in an impartial manner.

Today’s decision echoed the initial ruling of the Cole County trial court, which the court of appeals described at noting “its disdain for, and lack of credibility in, the Department’s explanation of its conduct.”

Read the decision.

Category: Uncategorized

Ferguson-Florissant School Board Will Have New Election Process for April

November 21, 2016


Federal judge rules in favor of cumulative voting system for district after ACLU lawsuit

ST. LOUIS– A federal judge ruled today in favor of a new, cumulative voting system for the Ferguson-Florissant School District’s process for electing school board members.  Earlier this year, the judge found the school district was in violation of the Voting Rights Act after a lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri.

“An at-large cumulative voting system will afford African American voters in Ferguson-Florissant School District a genuine opportunity to exercise an electoral power that is commensurate with its population,” wrote U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel in the decision.

Both the election date and the at-large voting election of school board members will remain the same in the new plan.

In a cumulative voting system, voters still receive one vote for each available seat but may distribute their votes as they wish, either dividing their votes between different candidates or concentrating their votes by casting more than one vote for a single candidate.

Seats are awarded to the candidates with the most votes.

Cumulative voting allows voters to concentrate their full voting power behind their preferred candidate or candidates without requiring voters to give up any of the votes they are entitled to cast.

The Ferguson-Florissant School District did not offer any of its own proposed remedies for the Voting Rights Act violation. Instead, it proposed the district maintain the system found in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

"The African-American community in the Ferguson-Florissant School District will now be able to hold its government accountable and ensure that the school board is responsive to its needs,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “This is a win for every student in the district.”

The Ferguson-Florissant School District has a history fraught with discrimination against African-American citizens. The district, which spans several municipalities, was created by a 1975 desegregation order intended to remedy the effects of discrimination against African-American students. Yet, 40 years later, there was just one African-American member on the seven-member board in a district where African-Americans constitute 77 percent of the student body. 

"This remedy will help push back against decades of systemic racism,” said Julie Ebenstein, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. "It is a much-needed step in the right direction."

Ferguson Florissant Remedy Nov. 2016

Category: Voting Rights

A Win for Reproductive Freedom in Missouri

November 15, 2016

A Missouri court upheld the right to reproductive liberty today in a decision supported by the ACLU of Missouri.

Missourians have the right to decide whether and with whom to have children and to avoid forced parenthood, according to an appellate court decision about using frozen zygotes without both parties’ permission.

The ACLU of Missouri filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Justin Gadberry, after his ex-wife, Jalesia McQueen, argued in their divorce case that the court should permit her to implant frozen zygotes in her uterus.  Using in vitro fertilization (IVF), Gadberry and McQueen created and froze the zygotes while married.  Once they divorced, Gadberry did not wish to have more children with McQueen. 

Today’s decision affirms his right not to become a parent against his will.

“Our constitution guarantees the right to liberty and privacy,” said Jeffrey Mittman, ACLU of Missouri Executive Director. “Individuals have the right to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into intimate matters, including the decision to have – or not to have - another child with an ex-spouse.” 

According to legal researchers at the ACLU, no court has held ― absent exceptional circumstances or an enforceable contract, both of which are lacking in the McQueen v. Gadberry case ― that a former spouse who wishes to use frozen zygotes to try to procreate may do so without the consent of his or her former partner.

Read the decision and read the ACLU amicus curiae brief

ACLU National Statement on Donald Trump’s Election

November 09, 2016

NEW YORK — In response to Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States, ACLU National executive director Anthony D. Romero had the following statement:

“For nearly 100 years, the American Civil Liberties Union has been the nation’s premier defender of freedom and justice for all, no matter who is president. Our role is no different today.”

“President-elect Trump, as you assume the nation’s highest office, we urge you to reconsider and change course on certain campaign promises you have made. These include your plan to amass a deportation force to remove 11 million undocumented immigrants; ban the entry of Muslims into our country and aggressively surveil them; punish women for accessing abortion; reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture; and change our nation’s libel laws and restrict freedom of expression.”

“These proposals are not simply un-American and wrong-headed, they are unlawful and unconstitutional. They violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers and millions of card-carrying supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.”

“One thing is certain: we will be eternally vigilant every single day of your presidency and when you leave the Oval Office, we will do the same with your successor.”

Read the ACLU analysis of candidate Trump’s policy proposals.  

 

Category: Uncategorized

Statement from Missouri Voter Protection Coalition on Amendment 6

November 08, 2016

We are extremely disappointed that Missourians no longer have their right to vote protected in our state’s constitution. The passage of Amendment 6 is unprecedented as the first effort in the nation to strip a constitutionally protected right to vote from a state constitution.

“Legislators pushed forward the effort to pass a confusing amendment in order to implement a restrictive photo ID law they knew was unconstitutional,” said Missouri State Conference of the NAACP President Nimrod Chapel.  “We will work with the community to make sure the rights of Missouri voters are restored.”

Missouri now joins the ranks of 17 other states that have put restrictions on voting since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. The 2016 presidential elections were the first in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act in place.

“The tactics of voter suppression laws have changed since the days of literacy tests and poll taxes, but the outcome of making it harder for people to vote remains the same,” said Denise Lieberman, Advancement Project Senior Attorney and coordinator of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition.

For more than a decade, the three dozen organizations of Missouri Voter Protection Coalition that includes civil rights advocates, faith leaders, community groups, the labor movement, and legal experts have been fighting to block restrictive photo ID laws in the state.

We will not stop now.

“It is tragic that the Missouri constitution has been stripped of its voter protections,” said AFL-CIO President Mike Louis. “This marks a step backward for Missouri and our country.”

Missouri’s photo ID requirement could still be subject to legal challenge under other provisions of state and federal law, including the United States Constitution. Legal advocates with the coalition are examining all avenues of redress to protect the rights of Missouri voters from this restrictive and discriminatory Photo ID law.

“As educators, we teach the value of fairness,” said Missouri NEA Executive Director DeeAnn Aull. “Sadly, Amendment 6 is unfair to hundreds of thousands of Missourians who will be kept from the ballot box.”

Many groups -- from advocacy organizations to legal watchdogs – will continue to work to challenge this new, harmful voting restriction.

"The Missouri Sierra Club is disappointed Missouri voters chose to approve Amendment 6, which will make it harder for many Missourians to vote in future elections. We applaud the work of our coalition partners and will be undeterred in continuing our work."

If you are an organization or individual interested in working with us to restore voting rights to the Missouri Constitution, please contact one of our coalition partners.

“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy,” said Jeffrey Mittman, ACLU of Missouri Executive Director.  “We will work together with the community to find the best way to restore voting rights to all Missourians.”

Amendment 6 will go into effect in 30 days after today’s election. The state’s photo ID law -- also known as Missouri House Bill 1631 -- becomes effective June 1, 2017.

 

Missouri Voter Protection Coalition:AARP Missouri, ACLU of Missouri, Advancement Project, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), A. Philip Randolph Institute, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), Communities Creating Opportunity, Communications Workers of America (CWA),  Delta Sigma Theta, Empower Missouri, Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis (JCRC), Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU), Missouri Faith Voices, Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates (MIRA), Missouri Jobs With Justice, Missouri League of Women Voters, Missouri Organizing and Voter Engagement Collaborative (MOVE), Missouri Rural Crisis Center,  Missouri State Conference of the NAACP, NARAL, National Council of Jewish Women – St. Louis (NCJW), National Education Association (NEA), Organization for Black Struggle (OBS), Paraquad, Peace Economy Project, Planned Parenthood, Progress Missouri, PROMO, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Sierra Club, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), Working America, and What U Can Do.

Category: Voting Rights

ACLU of Missouri Statement on Board Bill 151

November 04, 2016

The ACLU of Missouri wants to thank both St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Green for passing Board of Aldermen Bill 151.

While public nuisances ordinances seek to better the community by deterring criminal behavior, studies have found that they often endanger domestic violence victims, who are disproportionately women.

This bill encourages victims of stalking and domestic violence to call police when they are in trouble. 

“This small, yet significant change to our nuisance property ordinance will go a long way toward providing housing stability for victims of domestic violence,” said Alderwoman Megan Green. “In issues of public safety, such as protecting the wellbeing of victims of domestic violence, it is imperative that we put such matters into law.”

Across the nation, nuisance ordinances have also been found to disproportionately impact and be disparately enforced against communities of color, black women in particular,  and persons with mental disabilities.

 “We are pleased to know that St. Louis city is making an effort to protect the rights of domestic violence victims,” Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri. “This bill is a step in the right direction in order to guarantee the rights of all of Missourians.”  

Volunteer Opportunities - GOTV & Election Day

November 03, 2016

Election Day is in 5 days!  Missourians will not only vote for candidates for president, senate, house, and for state offices, but they will also be voting on constitutional amendments, including amendment 6 (the voter photo ID Constitutional Amendment). 

We are seeking some stalwart volunteers to help us with educating the public. Please read the opportunities and descriptions below then, fill out the volunteer form online.

You may also RSVP by e-mailing outreach@aclu-mo.org or calling 314.669.3419. 

Here are the opportunities to support the ACLU of Missouri: 

Pre-election Canvassing

This is the last weekend before the General Election on Tuesday, November 8. Join us for three days of intense GOTV efforts and do your part to educate St. Louis.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

 

  • Time: 11 am - 2 pm
  • Meeting location: Ferguson, location TBD
  • RSVP deadline: noon on Friday

 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

 

  • Time: 2 - 5 pm
  • Meeting location: Parking lot behind Cicero's - 6691 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 63130
  • RSVP deadline: noon on Friday

 

 

Election Day poll volunteers

We need volunteers at the polls talking to people about their voting rights and why Amendment 6 is wrong for Missouri. 

We will be handing out materials at the following polling stations in South St. Louis County:

  • First United Methodist Church of Webster Groves located at 600 Bompart Ave N, 63119
  • Webster Groves Recreational Complex located at 33 Glendale Rd E, 63119 
  • Maplewood City Hall located at 7601 Manchester Rd 63143
  • Queen of All Saints Church located at 6603 Christopher Dr, 63129
  • Rogers Elementary School located at 7700 Fine Rd, 63129
The ACLU is managing polling places are in south St. Louis County. We are partnering with the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) at polling stations in West St. Louis County and with the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) at polling places in north St. Louis City (Ward 22). Please help us share information about voting rights and why Amendment 6 is wrong for Missouri on Election Day. If you want to sign up to be at polling stations with NCJW or OBS, specifically, please let us know. 
Category: Voting Rights
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