ACLU of Arizona: 1959 – Present

2018

A federal court blocked an Arizona law that requires state contractors to certify that they will not boycott Israel, finding that the law likely violates state contractors’ free speech rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

A local advocate for transgender youth and the ACLU of Arizona filed a lawsuit against Great Hearts, an Arizona public charter school group, because of its refusal to conduct open meetings and release public records.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona launched a new voter education tool, Vote Smart Justice, that elevated criminal justice reform issues during the midterm elections and armed voters with the information they needed to make informed decisions at the ballot box.

The ACLU of Arizona released a report that outlines how Arizona can cut the state’s jail and prison population in half by reforming its extreme sentencing laws, its harsh restrictions on release, and its overreliance on incarceration.

The ACLU of Arizona, renowned Los Angeles-based civil rights firm Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP, and civil rights attorney Dan Pochoda filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Phoenix, Chief of Phoenix Police Jeri Williams, and a number of Phoenix police officers for violating the rights of thousands of peaceful anti-Trump protesters who were gathered during and after a rally the president held on August 22, 2017, at the Phoenix Convention Center.

A federal judge held Arizona prison officials in contempt for repeatedly violating the terms of a 2014 settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, and the Prison Law Office. The agreement in Parsons v. Ryan required prison officials to provide adequate health care to the 34,000 people in Arizona state prisons. After numerous hearings showed that prisoners were still not receiving necessary medical care, the judge imposed fines totaling $1.5 million. The Arizona Department of Corrections subcontracted its medical services to the private corporation Corizon Health.

The ACLU of Arizona was one of four Arizona nonprofits to receive a 2018 Innovation Grant, a program led by Vitalyst Health Foundation. The ACLU of Arizona received the grant to advance the Demand to Learn campaign's work to transform school discipline policies and practices that disproportionately affect people of color.

2017

ACLU of Arizona investigation revealed hundreds of public charter schools across Arizona have enrollment policies that are unlawful or discriminatory.

A federal court found former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt for willfully violating a 2011 federal court order in an ACLU case that required his agency to stop detaining people based solely on suspected civil immigration violations.

A coalition of individuals who provide criminal defense counsel to the accused in Arizona filed a federal lawsuit to block the enforcement of a statute that restricts their constitutionally protected freedom of speech.

An investigation by voting rights groups revealed Arizona agencies are persistently violating the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which Congress enacted to increase opportunities to register to vote and simplify the registration process. The groups detailed their findings and demanded action in a formal notice letter sent to Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law HB 2477, legislation that aims to meaningfully reform civil asset forfeiture practices. Under the prior law, law enforcement in Arizona can seize property based on a mere suspicion that it is involved with criminal activity and the seizing agency may retain any proceeds from the sale of the seized property. This forfeiture process lacked transparency, accountability, and violated Arizonans’ due process rights.

2016

In 2016, our historic work to hold Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio accountable for his discriminatory policies reached a crucial turning point: Arpaio was voted out of office after he and other MSCO officials were found in civil contempt of court for violating orders in the ACLU’s racial profiling case. Our legal challenge to Arizona’s “show me your papers” law, SB 1070, came to an end—after six years—when the Arizona Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion that establishes strict guidelines for the law’s implementation. An unprecedented array of public interest groups came together as the Coalition for Arizona Forfeiture Reform to unravel Arizona’s unconstitutional civil forfeiture laws, which encourage law enforcement agencies to confiscate private property without due process.

Additionally, we emerged victorious in a federal court case that resulted in the repeal of an Arizona law restricting medication abortion and challenged an Arizona law designed to prevent low-income women from obtaining healthcare from their provider of choice, including Planned Parenthood. We also filed a groundbreaking lawsuit on behalf of a transgender nurse who works for Dignity Health in Chandler in response to the hospital chain’s denial of insurance coverage for medically necessary transition-related care.

An ACLU of Arizona lawsuit challenging the conditions of detention in Border Patrol facilities in southern Arizona is already resulting in improved treatment of immigrants. We stood up for the separation of church and state by demanding changes to governmental practices in Chino Valley and Prescott. The ACLU of Arizona also intervened on behalf of a number of students: to protect free speech rights and call for action on racial and religious discrimination.

2015:

This year, a federal court permanently ordered Arizona state prosecutors to halt enforcement of a 2014 law restricting the display of nude images.The order approved a joint final settlement between the Arizona attorney general and the coalition of Arizona booksellers, book and newspaper publishers, librarians, and photographers, who filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law. The order resolved all claims in the lawsuit, Antigone Books v. Brnovich. The law, Arizona Revised Statute 13-1425, was initially passed with the stated intent of combating “revenge porn,” a term popularly understood to describe a person’s malicious posting of an identifiable, private image online with the intent and effect of harming an ex-lover. But, as plaintiffs maintained in the lawsuit, the law wasn't limited to revenge and criminalized far more than offensive acts. It could have led to the conviction of someone posting a nude photo with no intent to harm the person depicted. This would include, for example, an artistic photographer who creates an anthology of his images of nudes — as well as the book’s publisher, seller, or librarian. Likewise, a person who shared a photograph could have been charged with a felony even if the person depicted had no expectation that the image would be kept private and suffered no harm, such as a photojournalist who posted images of victims of war or natural disaster. As a result, the law applied to any person displaying an image of nudity, no matter how newsworthy, artistic, educational, or historic.

2014:

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.

2013: 

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.

2012:

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.

2011:

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.

2010:

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.

2009:

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. 

2008:

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. 

2007:

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. 

2006:

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. 

2005:

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. 

2004:

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

2003:

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. 

2002:

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. 

2001:

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." 

1999:

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. 

1998:

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. 

1984:

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. 

1977:

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. 

1973:

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. 

1971:

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. 

1970:

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.

1967:

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. 

1966:

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. 

1965:

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. 

1964:

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. 

1962:

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. 

1960:

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. 

1959:

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.

Stay informed

ACLU of Arizona is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National