ACLU of Arizona: 1959 – Present

In 2014, we saw a federal judge appoint an independent monitor to oversee reforms within the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office – a move that came after a historic court victory by the ACLU over Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s discriminatory practices. Our litigators secured significant improvements in mental and physical health care for people in Arizona prisons and Maricopa County jails. We regained bail hearings for immigrants and stopped the heinous SB 1062 from becoming law. We won expanded protections for medical marijuana patients and led the charge to build public support for the state’s first same-sex marriages. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of DREAMers, determining these young people must be allowed to receive driver’s licenses. We also expanded our office in Tucson, adding a second staff member, and brought lawsuits challenging the U.S. Border Patrol’s use of force and lack of accountability. We defended the rights of transgender people to express their gender identities freely and represented a reproductive rights advocate who was being harassed by the state. In an ongoing dispute, we spoke out against a religiously-driven attempt to censor textbooks in Phoenix-area high schools.

After years of litigation, Arizona’s federal district court this year issued a decision in the ACLU’s racial profiling case against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The victory was nothing less than historic. In May, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow ruled that Arpaio’s practice of using minor traffic stops—a cracked windshield or broken tail light—as a legal cover to stop drivers because of their appearance and interrogate them about their immigration status amounts to racial profiling and is unconstitutional. Then, in October, Judge Snow issued an order to prevent continued racial profiling by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. The court’s order adopted nearly all of the ACLU’s requests for relief, including the appointment of a monitor to ensure MCSO’s compliance, increased training for sheriff’s office employees and the implementation of comprehensive record keeping.

Fighting Arbitrary Treatment of DACA Grantees:  On November 29, 2012, the ACLU together with civil rights groups and the local firm, Polsinelli Shughart filed a class action complaint against the state and Governor Brewer challenging the executive order directing state agencies to deny drivers' licenses to young immigrants granted permission to be in this country under the federal government's DACA program. Working with the Arizona DREAM Act coalition (ADAC) and local attorneys, we identified accomplished, young immigrants to act as plaintiffs along with ADAC. The case garnered much local and national media attention including a blog and op-ed authored by our client and ADAC chair, Dulce Matuz.

ACLU of Arizona issues a 36-page report illustrating the real stories of people, including vulnerable women and transgender detainees, who have suffered from abuses related to inhumane conditions and inadequate legal protections while in federal immigration custody. The report was based on 115 face-to-face interviews conducted with people detained in Eloy and Florence, Arizona over a two-year period from March 2009 through March 2011.

ACLU of Arizona joins a coalition of civil rights group in challenging Arizona’s racial profiling law in federal court. The most dangerous provisions of the law were blocked from going into effect and a federal judge finds race a “motivating factor” in the passage of SB 1070.

ACLU of Arizona celebrates 50 years of protecting the Bill of Rights by honoring Tucson resident Henry Oyama, who made history as the ACLU of Arizona's first client in a lawsuit successfully challenging Arizona's discriminatory miscegenation law.

A federal court in Phoenix issues a preliminary order stopping the town of Cave Creek from enforcing an anti-solicitation ordinance that infringes on the free speech rights of day laborers. The ACLU of Arizona filed the case in order to ensure that day laborers will be able to exercise their constitutional rights by expressing their availability to work by standing in public areas without fear of being cited under the ordinance.

In a victory for free speech and the ACLU, a federal judge issues a preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of an Arizona law that makes it a crime to sell anti-war t-shirts in Arizona.

ACLU pushes for Arizona to equip voting machines with an auditable voter-verifiable paper trail. Eleanor Eisenberg retires from her position as Executive Director. The Board of Directors appoints Alessandra Soler Meetze as its new Executive Director.

The affiliate hosts its first-ever press conference on immigration issues, featuring Arizona's prominent immigration attorney Roxanne Bacon. Reporters from Chinese, Bangladeshi, Islamic, Hispanic and Native American news outlets attended and published and/or aired information for their readers.

ACLU of Arizona and MALDEF file a lawsuit challenging Prop 200, which forces all Arizonans to show ID at the polls.

ACLU pushes the Arizona Legislature to amend the state's unconstitutional policy of requiring all employees to sign loyalty oaths as a condition of employment. We are successful in our efforts.

ACLU files a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections for prohibiting inmates from accessing the Internet or even having a presence on the Web.

ACLU is successful in its efforts to eliminate Tolleson High School's graduation prayers ceremony, prompting other local-area schools to cease this same practice.

In a victory for free speech, the court strikes down Arizona's Computer Crimes bill, which criminalized free speech and prohibited adults from receiving material over the Internet that could be considered "harmful to minors."

ACLU of Arizona files a lawsuit challenging "Bible Week Proclamations," issued by Gilbert Mayor Cynthia Dunham and Arizona Governor Jane Hall, arguing the sole purpose in issuing such proclamations was to promote Christianity.

ACLU of Arizona defends the distribution of underground newspapers on university campuses by obtaining a temporary restraining order prohibiting University of Arizona officials from banning the sale of Druid Free Press on campus.

ACLU of Arizona intervenes on behalf of prisoners detained by the Arizona Department of Corrections, arguing they were subjected to "cruel and unusual" punishment during a state-run "behavioral modification" program.

ACLU of Arizona files a lawsuit on behalf of the law firm of Bates & O'Steen, which was censured by the Arizona Bar for advertising in a local paper. The case went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that attorneys have the right to advertise.

ACLU of Arizona stands up for the rights of prisoners in a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections that challenges overcrowded conditions and inadequate medical care.

ACLU of Arizona files a lawsuit challenging the state Bar's loyalty oath requirement. The case is heard before U.S. Supreme Court, which sides with the ACLU position.

ACLU of Arizona files a lawsuit on behalf of a student who was barred from school because of the length of his hair. The ACLU argued students should not be barred from school unless administrators can prove their dress disrupted the educational process. The Arizona Court of Appeals agreed with the ACLU and mandated that the high school to re-admit the student.

ACLU of Arizona files a lawsuit on behalf of a 15-year-old who was committed as a delinquent for making a "lewd phone call." The case goes all the way up to the U.S Supreme Court, which rules that juvenile courts must grant minors many of the same constitutional protections required in adult trials.

In a victory for the ACLU, the U.S. Supreme Court releases its landmark decision in Miranda v. Arizona, ruling that a police officer upon arresting a person must read them their rights to counsel and to remain silent, called a Miranda warning.

ACLU of Arizona agrees to represent Ernesto Arturo Miranda, a laborer from Mesa who was convicted on rape charges based on his own confession under police interrogation. ACLU attorney Robert J. Corcoran asks John J. Flynn and John P. Frank, who worked for one of Phoenix's largest law firms, to represent Miranda. It was one of two cases the firm of Lewis, Roca, Scoville, Beauchamps & Linton accepted pro bono for the ACLU in 1965.

ACLU of Arizona files a lawsuit on behalf of two teachers who refused to sign a mandatory loyalty oath as a condition for state employment. The case goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which strikes down the oath as unconstitutionally vague.

ACLU of Arizona challenges a 1901 Arizona law prohibiting the advertising or publication of birth control information. The group files suit on behalf of several county employees who were prohibited from referring patients to Planned Parenthood.

The ACLU of Arizona challenges a state law, dating back to 1887, that prohibits marriage between any person of "Caucasian extract" and anyone of "Black, Hindu, Malayan or Oriental" ethnicity. The organization files suit on behalf of Henry Oyama, a native Tucson resident of Japanese descent who, along with his Caucasian fiancée Mary Ann Jordan, was refused a marriage license by the Pima County Clerk. The county superior court agrees with the ACLU position that the law violates the Constitution's 14th Amendment, which prohibits government from treating people like second-class citizens.

ACLU of Arizona is founded by prominent civil libertarians who vow to defend individual rights in Arizona through litigation, legislation and public education.

Early 1950s (prior to ACLU AZ formation)
ACLU opposes efforts by Maricopa County Attorney Robert Caldwell to relocate paperbacks sold at commercial bookstores to areas where they're not easily viewed by children.